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Watch: THR's First Ever Cinematographers Round Table, with DPs from 'Inside Llewyn Davis,' '12 Years a Slave,' 'Nebraska' and More

Photo of Beth Hanna By Beth Hanna | Thompson on Hollywood November 19, 2013 at 11:58AM

The Hollywood Reporter's round table series continues with their first-ever Cinematographers panel. Included are Barry Ackroyd ("Captain Phillips"), Sean Bobbitt ("12 Years a Slave"), Bruno Delbonnel ("Inside Llewyn Davis"), Stuart Dryburgh ("The Secret Life of Walter Mitty") and Phedon Papamichael ("Nebraska").
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THR Cinematographers round table
Austin Hargrave/THR

The Hollywood Reporter's round table series continues with their first-ever Cinematographers panel. Included are Barry Ackroyd ("Captain Phillips"), Sean Bobbitt ("12 Years a Slave"), Bruno Delbonnel ("Inside Llewyn Davis"), Stuart Dryburgh ("The Secret Life of Walter Mitty") and Phedon Papamichael ("Nebraska"). Quote highlights and full video, below.

On what would surprise people the most about the reality of being a director of photography:

BRUNO DELBONNEL: We don't have a clue what we're doing. (Laughter.)

SEAN BOBBITT: Most people really have very little idea of what we do, so they would be surprised by the breadth of requirements [inherent] to being a cinematographer. It's not just cameras, or film or lenses; it's the technical side and nontechnical stuff. You're running a crew, you know? The interpersonal relationships that you have to develop with the director, designers, hair, makeup, costumes. The filming is actually the easiest part.

BARRY ACKROYD: It's also the thing you can't put your finger on, but the thing that's most interesting. That moment when you switch on the camera.

STUART DRYBURGH: It's the pen you're using to write the story.

Delbonnel on his first time working with the Coens on "Inside Llewyn Davis":

DELBONNEL: It was great. They do their own shot list, and it's then "suggested" to me as they do with [DP] Roger Deakins. It's a bit harder working with Tim Burton. I did two movies with Tim, and you never really knew what he wanted. We'd block the scene with the actors, and we have to be very fast to react because an hour later you're supposed to shoot. You have to be a bit more flexible. I don't really try to understand the director. (Laughter.)

Have directors ever been intimidated by them?

BOBBITT: That's not unknown, particularly with a first-time director. But I think part of the job is to not intimidate them; reinforce the fact that you're there for them, but it's their film.

PAPAMICHAEL: And for every movie to look like it's their movie.

Are monitors on set a good thing?

PAPAMICHAEL: It depends. If you're working with a director who's in sync with you, it's a good tool. It becomes more complicated when actors, hair and makeup, wardrobe, production designers are getting involved. My directors restrict other people from using it. With Alexander Payne, we didn't have a typical video village; we had an onboard monitor and that's it.

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Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.