Film Talk

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Instinct and Intuition (6 replies and 1 comment)

joscha
3 weeks ago
joscha 3 weeks ago

Hi Roger, I hope you don’t mind if I ask a more philosophical question. (Not sure where to post this, I noticed the forum doesn’t have a philosophy topic yet 🙂 ) 

Something that stands out to me in your answers to our questions is that you often say you did things on intuition or instinct. I find these answers funny because in many cases I think we came up with some well thought out motivation for why you did something in a masterful way, but you just say, ‘nah, that’s just the way that seemed best to me’.

I wonder how you regard this intuition. Does it change over time, or do you think that your instincts were basically the same when you started out? Is it something you actively try to grow or strengthen? Do you ever have trouble with following or finding your intuition? And lastly, do you feel that all artists have this intuition or is that something that differs per person? (For instance do the directors you like to work with also have a similar instinct, or did you enjoy working with directors who had a more analytical approach?) 

Thanks! 

Roger Deakins
3 weeks ago
Roger Deakins 3 weeks ago

People vary. Vittorio Storaro seems to have a very analytical approach to cinematography and that, obviously, works very well for him. I am analytical when it comes to working out how to create an image that I have in my head but the image itself comes intuitively. It is imagined rather than considered, if that makes sense. Where that imagination comes from I don't know. Life experiences probably. Plenty of dreams! I don't really have trouble finding 'my intuition' but I do sometimes have trouble following it up. The combination of imagination and technical know how is what can make cinematography so satisfying.

joscha
3 weeks ago
joscha 3 weeks ago

Thank you! 

I recently read Mindhunter (the book the Netflix show was based on) and FBI profiler John Douglas distinguishes 'modus operandi' and 'signature', when investigating crime scenes. He states that, contrary to popular believe, serial killers adapt and develop their MO but the signature, which is their psychological motivation for their crimes, will always remain the same. 

This made me think of how artists are always developing their skills and experience but how the ‘voice’ of an artist often remains recognizable. (The association is less outlandish than it might seem, since Douglas himself compares his research to art studies) It makes me wonder, does intuition change over time or is it more of a constant? 

That’s why, if you don’t mind one more question, I wonder if you feel your intuition has changed since you began working? Obviously your technical approach has changed over time but if you’d read the script for, say, Sid and Nancy today (without knowing it), do you think your instinctive reaction, the images you see in your head, would be the same? 

Roger Deakins
3 weeks ago
Roger Deakins 3 weeks ago

Thanks for the comparison with the mind of a serial killer. I guess that might seem apt to some people who hate the film industry!

I don't think the way I 'see' has changed over the years. Technically I am sure I have developed, so the execution might be better, but would 'Sid and Nancy' actually 'look' better if I shot it today? I really couldn't say as the film was such a product of its time. I would love the chance to shoot it again that's for sure!

joscha
2 weeks ago
joscha 2 weeks ago

Ha, ha, I do apologize for the comparison. I know the film business can be described as cut-throat but I never meant it in a literal way!

I just find it very interesting that Douglas regards the crimes of these serial offenders as an oeuvre and that analyzing their work in that way can help identify and capture them. It really made me think about how this view applies to artists. (Where it is usually the other way around, one is interested in a certain artist and tries to analyze their work starting with the creator)

As I said it is primarily a philosophical /psychological question. Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions! 

Roger Deakins
2 weeks ago
Roger Deakins 2 weeks ago

I think you make an interesting point! Conrad Hall was a friend and the greatest cinematographer of the last 50 years or more. I could always tell when a film (or an episode of 'Outer Limits') was shot by him although the work he did was so varied both in content and in execution.

Vanniyan
2 weeks ago

Which episode conrad hall shot? Can anybody tell season 1 or season 2?

joscha
2 weeks ago
joscha 2 weeks ago

I am a draftsman, and there are many artists whose drawings or paintings I can recognize instantly because of their style. But of course that is easier because these styles are abstractions. 

I only remember recognizing a cinematographer from seeing a film once, and that happend to be one of yours. It was In the Valley of Elah, and weirdly enough I thought you must have shot it when I saw a shot where the camera is mounted on a moving car, shooting the driver from outside. I say weirdly, because I don’t think this is a typical shot for you at all, I can’t recall any other film where you did that. Might have been a lucky guess on my end...

Somewhere else on this forum you said ‘a camera is there to record how you see’ and I think that is a really interesting way to look at the creative process /visual storytelling. That how being your intuition, the way you see the world. 

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