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Janusz Kamiński, Wally Pfister and Phedon Papamichael: Collaboration

The principals discuss the ins and outs of collaboration with directors, productions designers, assistant directors and other filmmaking pros. What is Janusz Kaminski’s procedure with Steven Spielberg, and how does that differ from  that of a low budget independent shoot? Why is early involvement with set design and narrative important? When should a filmmaker stand his or her ground, and when should he or she compromise?

0:00 – What is collaboration? Why is it important? How does it begin?


1:04 – It’s a director’s medium; our job is to visually interpret the material


2:05 – Recognizing a potential collaborator; challenge each other


2:59 – Personal chemistry compared to talent and track record


5:00 – Working with the art department – lessons for aspiring filmmakers


7:35 – Kaminski: I usually avoid deep conversations with the director about style


9:10 – Ideal collaborations, and how it worked on The Diving Bell & the Butterfly


10:28 – Pfister: How it works with Christopher Nolan


11:06 – Directors with an extremely specific visual plan will be disappointed – let it evolve


13:02 – The importance of taking advantage of what you see at the moment


13:33 – Get involved early in the blocking


14:40 – Understanding the narrative helps you effectively influence the director


16:58 – When to stand your ground; insecurities in your collaborators


17:12 – Working independently versus bringing the director along


17:54 – When the collaboration is not working


21:10 – Personal style and its impact on collaboration


24:10 – Beautiful pictures versus being a storyteller (Phedon’s audio returns.)


25:15 – Communicating to the director in the right moment; being ahead of the game and preventing panic


27:19 – Working with the first AD on planning; avoiding conflict


28:37 – The connection between logistics and creative freedom


31:30 – Collaboration and caring


32:09 – Early involvement in set design; working with the production designer