New Society member PJ Dillon, ASC, ISC was born in the small town of Listowel, located in Ireland’s South West region. With plans to pursue a career in television journalism, Dillon attended the Dublin Institute of Technology and earned a degree in communications. His plans changed, however, when he took a film studies course.
“While I had always loved watching films, I had no family or connections in the industry, so the idea that I might ever be in a position to pursue filmmaking as a career had not even occurred to me,” he says. “The day we first loaded a roll of reversal film into a CP-16 magazine, I was hooked. I found the process of exposing, processing and then projecting a roll of film to be magical. The process of creating and viewing images — even if they are digital and viewed on a monitor rather than a screen — remains magical to me.”
After he graduated, Dillon landed his first industry job, as a trainee clapper loader for the second unit of The Field, photographed by Jack Conroy. In the decade that followed, he worked his way through the camera department as a clapper loader and focus puller on commercial and television projects. “As a technician, I was lucky to be able to observe some great cinematographers at work, including Mikael Salomon, ASC, DFF; Adrian Biddle, BSC; Philippe Rousselot, ASC, AFC; Peter Biziou, BSC; Dietrich Lohmann, BVK; Vilmos Zsigmond, ASC, HSC; Michael Seresin, BSC; and Oliver Bokelberg, ASC, BVK,” Dillon says.
Throughout this time, the cinematographer adds, he was shooting “no-budget” short films and music videos. “I think the combination of observing great DPs at work, while also shooting projects — and learning from my mistakes — was invaluable in my development as a cinematographer,” he says.
In 2000, Dillon photographed his first feature, Something Sweet, and spent a few years shooting commercials. When he shot his next feature, Timbuktu, he decided to focus on dramatic projects, and then photographed a number of features in Ireland. Dillon won the Irish Film & Television Academy (IFTA) Award for Best Cinematography for his work in 32A, and earned another nomination for his camerawork in Kings.
In 2012, Dillon photographed an episode of the HBO fantasy drama Game of Thrones, for which he received another IFTA nomination and began his prolific career in television. He earned another IFTA Award for his work in the BBC mystery series Ripper Street and a BSC Award for his camerawork in the Showtime period horror drama Penny Dreadful.
For his work in the Hulu drama Vikings and Starz miniseries The Rook, Dillon was nominated for ASC Awards. His camerawork in the TNT period drama The Alienist earned him an Emmy nomination.
His other credits include the AMC series Into the Badlands, the Netflix cyberpunk series Altered Carbon, and the feature Strangerland.
Dillon is a founding member of the Irish Society of Cinematographers. His upcoming credits include the Disney Plus miniseries The Falcon and the Winter Soldier.