If the director is the most important crew member on set, in most cases the cinematographer is the second-most important.
A skilled director of photography can turn a mediocre movie suddenly into a critical darling or a good movie into an Oscar contender. But unlike directors, who can have a breakout indie and suddenly get snatched up to do the next Hollywood blockbuster, cinematographers are in it for the long game.
Many have to work a decade or two on independent films, shorts, TV shows, and commercials before scoring a studio feature. And even at that point you still have to compete for work with the legends in the field like Emmanuel Lubezi, Robert Richardson, and Roger Deakins to land a job.
Here are 11 cinematographers who are beginning to make their mark in Hollywood — including the visionaries behind "Moonlight" and "The Last Jedi."
Mike Gioulakis (“It Follows,” “Split”)
Gioulakis has found success in the thriller genre with the indie darling “It Follows” and M. Night Shyamalan’s latest hit, “Split,” being the standouts. For both, Gioulakis’ use of natural light and shadows to amp up the spookiness is a very useful tool.
James Laxton (“Moonlight”)
Jumping around from low-budget indies to a few Kevin Smith movies (“Tusk” and “Yoga Hosers”), Laxton reteamed with Barry Jenkins (he shot Jenkins’ debut feature “Medicine for Melancholy”) to make “Moonlight” — and the rest his history. The beautiful exterior shots of Miami are one of the reasons the movie went on to win an Oscar.
Jody Lee Lipes (“Manchester by the Sea,” “Martha Marcy May Marlene”)
In the early 2000s, Lipes was the guy at NYU everyone wanted to shoot their short films, and since he’s been in high demand on the professional level. From shooting episodes of “Girls” to lensing “Trainwreck,” he’s worked on every budget level. His standouts, though, have been his beautiful shooting of tough stories like Sean Durkin’s “Martha Marcy May Marlene” in 2011 and Kenneth Lonergan’s 2016 Oscar-winning movie, “Manchester by the Sea.”
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