Anthony Dod Mantle is an award-winning British cinematographer. In 2009 he won an Oscar for best achievement in cinematography for Slumdog Millionaire. He won a Bafta for the same film and his other credits include Rush, 28 Days Later, 127 Hours and The Last King of Scotland.He has most recently been filming Our Kind of Traitor, staring Ewan McGregor and Damian Lewis, due out next year. Here are his top 10 tips for being a cinematographer:
1. Be patient and loyalA cinematographer is a person who stands behind a camera and is patient and loyal and understanding of actors, directors and producers. You're kind of a key person on the set. You deal with everything to do with the visual language of the film or television series or moving picture. Everything that travels through your eye and into the camera, it's up to you to bring together all the hard work of many, many people, to create a hopefully unanimous agreement of what makes a lovely vision. And that happens one in every 10 times.
2. Take your time
I grew up in England and was fortunate to have very understanding, tolerant parents. Mum was a painter and my dad worked in agriculture. I did my A-levels and then started to travel and they never hurried or hassled me.I was always very inquisitive growing up, but I couldn't just find my vocation and unlike some parents who push their kids, which I won't ever do with mine, they gave me the space to continue the search. I spent a year in India at the age of 24 to find out what my vocation would be. I took thousands of photographs and I learned for the first time that one image can mean a thousand and one different things to people. I found that fascinating and it was the start of something.
3. Move both yourself and the cameraWhether you are working in photography or film, it's about contrast, luminance, density, exposure all of these things are things you should know about it. I've become known for movement. Why and how you move the camera is an essential part of our job. It took me the first two years of my four years at film school to understand how to give up that control of the static image and maintain some other kind of variation of the word control of a moving image. Where you move both yourself and things move in the frame and the light changes, that's the big, difficult jump. Controlling the light, for the fraction of a second that the picture demands it is so important.
4. Have an understanding familyYou are away for long hours doing this job. I spend my life away and I wouldn't be able to do this and I wouldn't recommend this to anybody, unless they are really passionate about it. It's too hard a job, physically and mentally if you're not that involved. I am away from my loved ones, sometimes for nine months a year, I have a very understanding family. You have to make sure that it works for you while you are away from home. You also have to make sure that the crew around you behave and you have to trust people and hope they trust you too.
5. Give up your egoIt's very unhealthy mentally to go into this vocation without being aware of the potential frustration of not being credited or noticed or applauded. You have to sign an invisible agreement accepting you'll be comparatively invisible, compared with say actors and directors. The final personality of a film has a great deal to do with the cinematographer, but it has more to do with the alliance, trust and understanding between you, the director and the producers.
Once the machine starts to get going, the identity and ego that you give up as a cinematographer disappears in the equation of film-making. You have to give up your ego.The drive and the passion you invest in a film doesn't always pay back. There was a film recently that secretly, deep down, I really thought deserved some kind of public recognition and it didn't happen and that's how it goes. A good director will remember to applaud their colleagues and remember that they could do very little without them, but they're not all like that.