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Working with the script/writer (3 replies and 1 comment)

1 month ago
appeers 1 month ago

Hi Roger,

Similarly to everyone else on here, I love your work and it has definitely taught me a lot about the filmmaking process.

I was wondering how much involvement do you have with the script? As someone who works primarily with visuals, do you have a lot of input on the script once it has been written or do you leave it as it is? Similarly with the writer, do you have a lot of correspondence or do you end up working completely separate from each other?

Many thanks in advance,


Harry Lime
1 month ago
Harry Lime 1 month ago

cinematographers have no say, when it comes to a screenplay. Except, if the director is his/her own DoP like Reed Morano (Meadowland).

likewise, screenwriters never write about light, except for (day, night/ ext or int) in the slugline, and they are also not allowed to write camera instructions or angles.  Unless, if the writer is the director, then there is much more freedom. 

there are rules and heiarchy, and you’ll find that a cinematographer has very little to no power when it comes to script changes. I’d imagine a cinematographer and writer would hardly ever cross paths, unless they mistake the writer for an assistant and mistakenly ask him to bring him a cup of coffee? 

The Byre
1 month ago

Things aren't quite that strict!  Esp. today when many directors are also writers or co-writers.  

But scripts are sometimes set in stone by contract and changes have to be OK'ed by those higher up and not on set.

Having just battled my way through my first script, I discovered that it is a great discipline to NOT write in any directions vis-a-vis camera, set design, lighting or anything other than action and dialogue.  Even if you are going to be the cameraman, set designer, director or whatever, I found it to be very beneficial and far more creative to keep the various roles totally separate.

Even if you are a one-man-band short filmmaker and the images are all in your head already, it really helps to stick to the infamous 'Hollywood-Standard' script format as if there is terse, bad-tempered script editor with her glasses on a string around her neck who will suck air between her teeth if she reads "The camera follows Jack into the hallway." and cross it out with a satisfied smile.

Roger Deakins
1 month ago
Roger Deakins 1 month ago

When you are translating a script to the screen it is often the case that what you do as a cinematographer affects the script. It is not always the case that I will go through a script with a director and we will make changes to it but it does happen, just as it can happen that the director and, maybe, others have suggestions regarding lighting. It just depends on the director's way of working and what kind of shape the script is in at the time the film goes into pre production. If you don't have the schedule to accommodate a long or complicated script then it is often the case that the cinematographer will be involved in any discussion about how to deal with that reality. It is wrong to think that a cinematographer just puts up a few lights and takes a reading. If they are to be any good at their job they must know the script as intimately as any director and be able to offer visual solutions to all sorts of issues which are driven, first and foremost, by that script.

Harry Lime
3 weeks ago
Harry Lime 3 weeks ago

The initial question was about the cinematographer collaborating with the SCREENWRITER. Some screenwriters are brought on set, and sometimes they are not. Screenwriters never think about lighting, they mainly conduct rewrites that affect the story structurally, and most of the time they talk to actors- if they feel their dialogue isn’t right.

It’s obvious, a cinematographer and director sit down and visualize the script together, but I’ve never heard of a cinematographer that has made structural changes to a screenplay. Maybe Roger is an exception, considering his prestige and knowledge. Some directors like Quentin Tarantino never deviate from what is written, and he doesn’t let anyone meddle with his work at all. 

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