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Christopher Doyle

Doyle1

About Christopher Doyle

Christopher Doyle is one of the most talented and successful cinematographers in the Asian cinema industry. He was born in 1952 in Australia but has lived most of his life in Asia. He has won over sixty awards and thirty nominations all over the world.

Despite not going to film school, or receiving any formal training, Doyle has created an inimitable visual style. His cinema makes remarkable use of visual blur and slow motion to create unique dream-like states. He answered the question about designing his own style: ‘Isn’t it weird? I don’t know why, because I never studied film. Why do you think that is? I can’t judge. Hopefully it’s integrity — again, without patting myself on the back. Hopefully it’s because it comes from the heart. I come from literature, actually. I love books. I read more often than I ever go to the cinema. So, I think that perhaps the idea of ideas, words transformed into images, the idea given light, the beauty of a woman reflected in the surface of water — all those things are ephemeral, but those moments are what cinema is about. It’s about moving images… Films should approach the status of a dream. It should take you into a space which is calm and tranquil and yet have associations that you’ve never had before…

It’s hard to shoot anything with any camera. For me, when I began, I noticed that the camera doesn’t see as the eye sees. So, what do you do to compensate for that? Most people learn how to use the camera. No. Why don’t we instead teach the camera to look how we dream? I think that is an even more beautiful challenge…

I work so often with younger people, and they treat the film like it’s a commercial. I don’t want to see a Big Mac in the middle of my screen. It’s weird. They are so obsessed with perfection. One: perfection doesn’t exist. Two: the imperfections of an image are what give it energy…

You look at a film like Lion, which should be a very emotional film, but there is a cut every two seconds. What have they done? Why? You know why, because they all come from commercial filmmaking. They all come from advertising. I want to see this person walk through this space, not 15 different shots of this person. First of all, it’s a waste of time, secondly it distracts my emotions, thirdly it’s just for the kids who have no more time for anything but Instagram. So, they are not going to watch the film anyway, don’t you realize?’

Christopher Doyle’s Methods on Cinematography

Initially, Christopher had challenges with insufficient funds and small spaces which could have affected his camera work. He was able to manage this problem by taking advantage of the little he had to give the best shots. He made use of neon lights and was able to separate some pockets of light to create mood lights for actors.

There was a time when he worked with Wong and they didn’t have a script. The only tools they had were the actors and locations. They had to work with what was on the director’s mind. Despite this, Christopher Doyle used this opportunity to create great shots.

After he became popular and had funds, he discovered that there were new methods of shooting which he was not familiar with and he had to change his usual style of shooting. This did not stop him as he was able to give good shots for the movies Psycho (the remake), Lady in the Water, etc.

While shooting movies, Christopher Doyle experiments to get different focus. He has tried using slow motions, moving a camera in rhythm, using his camera to create blurry images, using color filters, achieving close up images, creating blackouts, etc.

Christopher Doyle uses his camera lenses to achieve close-ups, tiny spaces, and different camera angles. He experiments in order to achieve unique effects when capturing images. He has made use of different types of filters to create highlights and smoother skin tones. It was said that in one of his movie shoots, he fastened a cushion to his abdomen to enable him to rest his elbows for stability and speed.

Christopher Doyle is known to be a direct and honest person when it comes to cinematography. He is unique in his own ways and incredibly talented. He changes his style all the time and keeps improving.

In recent interviews when asked to give other new cinematographers advice, all he said was “just do it, in today’s world, there is no excuse not to”.

Christopher Doyle works with his friends and he believes in keeping a lasting relationship just like he had with Wong Kar-wai. He has many other artists that he maintains contact with. According to him, it doesn’t make sense having to spend over six months or even years working on a movie with a person you do not share the same vision with.

Doyle described a movie making experience as one where people come together with a great idea that is written down but beyond their imagination. To him, it is an astonishing experience when the camera is able to capture the persons and space. Christopher Doyle sends a message to the audience by giving them a visual experience. He captures the moment and tells the story like it has never been heard before.

He has used green moonlights in many of his films, unlike many others who use blue moonlights. When asked he said that the blue moonlight is a thing of the past when people used oil-lamp floodlights. He described the moon as green because you cannot find a blue moon in Venice or in the Pacific. He believes in observing the visual effects of things and sharing it with the audience.

Christopher Doyle said that upcoming filmmakers may have not so good cameras with bad resolutions and little money but if they fail to deliver a good job because of these minor issues, they would miss out on the point of making a good movie. According to him, people should not be complaining about problems but instead finding solutions. He advised new cinematographers not to try and imitate people’s work but to be able to distinguish themselves. He admitted that he was not trained in any art school and he was just given a camera which he worked with and he assumed the role.

Christopher Doyle is definitely an inspiration to many new cinematographers. He is a pure artist and visualizes things through his lenses to give the best shots for any movie he is contracted to do. He never had any formal training in cinematography, but yet he is one of the best in the world today.

Vocabulary

  • blur – a blur is a shape or area which you cannot see clearly because it has no distinct outline or because it is moving very fast
  • distinguish – if you distinguish yourself, you do something that makes you famous or important
  • ephemeral – if you describe something as ephemeral, you mean that it lasts only for a very short time
  • imperfection – the state of being faulty or incomplete
  • inimitable – so good or unusual as to be impossible to copy; unique
  • tranquil – something that is tranquil is calm and peaceful

Cutting of Artworks

 

Sources of information was used for preparing this article:

  1. Filmmaker
  2. Indie Film Hustle

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