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15 Cinematographers Turned Directors

15 Cinematographers Turned Directors

This weekend, the Johnny Depp-starring “Transcendence” opens in all its technophobic glory, across the nation, and while the reviews, ours included, so far, have ranged from mildly poisonous to all-out toxic, the proof will as ever be in the box office pudding. But not only is it a litmus test for whether or not Depp’s star power can carry a film outside the Disney/Tim Burton blockbuster ghetto he’s painted himself into, the film is also the testing ground for the tricky horse-change pulled by its director, longtime Christopher Nolan Director of Photography (DP) Wally Pfister.

Pfister is immensely respected in his previous role, and is indelibly associated with the noirish grit of the Nolan Batman movies, as well as the slick effects-driven sheen of “Inception,” which have become something of the styles du jour for big Hollywood movies — the gold standards that others must try to emulate. But even the most lauded cinematographers are not immune to the siren call of the director’s chair, and this was Pfister’s time to strike, to step out from the cold of Nolan’s shadow and feel the sunlight on his face…

Whatever the results are for him, it’s a path well travelled. But even with the advantage of a wealth of on-set experience and basic filmmaking competence that a cinematography career will no doubt instill, there is no guarantee that overall storytelling chops come with that package, and, rather like screenwriters who direct or actors who direct, it’s a gamble as to whether the attempts will hit or miss. So we thought we’d take a look through a few case studies, that may comfort or chasten Pfister by example; other men (yes afraid they’re all men, women being even more underrepresented here than in other filmmaking professions) who’ve tried the same maneuver, and how they fared first time at bat (not counting documentaries, TV outings or shorts). So here are 15 people who’ve well, we can’t say stepped behind the camera, for once, but instead have stepped out from behind the camera and slightly to one side — cinematographers turned first-time directors.

Nicolas Roeg
Highlights as Cinematographer: Roeg rose from lowly camera operator to 2nd unit head on “Lawrence of Arabia” and received a partial credit for “Dr. Zhivago” and “Casino Royale” while serving as main cinematographer on atmospheric B movies “The Caretaker” and Roger Corman’s “The Masque of the Red Death.” Then came DP duties on Truffaut’s “Fahrenheit 451,” the wacky “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum” and two films with Julie Christie, “Far From the Madding Crowd” and “Petulia.”

Directorial Debut: “Performance” (1970)
Co-directed by Donald Cammell (who also scripted), it’s impossible to sum up “Performance” in 100 words, but you’ll either find it nauseating chaos or a work of unbridled genius, and we’re dues-paying members of the latter group. The startling tale of a petty gangster (James Fox, amazing) whose identity conflates with a creatively blocked rock star (Mick Jagger), it’s a delirious whirl of imagery so provocative it feels like it’s poking you in the eye. Woozy, decadent, violent, sexy, absurdly cool: it may induce a sense of drunkenness about the elasticity of narrative and the sheer possibility of cinema.

Subsequent Career: Roeg is one DP we can state was always a director-in-waiting, as he followed this stellar debut with the equally incredible solo outing “Walkabout” (done in a more austere, but no less experimental register) and went on to classic mindfucks like “Don’t Look Now,” “The Man Who Fell To Earth” “Insignificance,” “Bad Timing” and later even delivering the rather terrific adaptation of “The Witches.”

Jan de Bont
Highlights as Cinematographer: De Bont came stateside after establishing himself in his native Netherlands, working with (among others) Paul Verhoeven there, for whom he’d shoot “Flesh and Blood” and “Basic Instinct,” in Hollywood. He also shot ex-DP Michael Chapman’s debut “All the Right Moves” (see below), but it was films with John McTiernan, (“Die Hard,” “The Hunt for Red October”) as well as “Flatliners” for Joel Schumacher and “Black Rain” for Ridley Scott that consolidated his slick action credentials.

Directorial Debut: “Speed” (1994)
De Bont delivered an action movie for the ages in his debut, a terrifically engaging thrill ride, which takes the central of three action set pieces — the wired-up bus is actually sandwiched between rather good elevator and subway sequences — and spins it into an entire movie. De Bont delivers the tension and the action in spades, but it only works as well as it does because we care for the characters especially Keanu Reeves, suddenly a viable action star, and Sandra Bullock for whom megastardom beckoned.

Subsequent Career: De Bont never quite attained those heights again as director (and didn’t return to DP duties as others did) but he came closest with follow-up “Twister” a satisfying riff on the disaster movie that again is anchored by some winning performances. Sadly, his feel for character abandoned him for the dire “Speed 2: Cruise Control,” remake “The Haunting,” and “Tomb Raider 2: Cradle of Life,” and he’s struggled to get anything going for over a decade now. Fun fact: the chain continued, as De Bont’s “Speed” DP, Andrzej Bartkowiak, made his directorial debut in 2000 with “Romeo Must Die.”

Haskell Wexler
Highlights as Cinematographer: Wexler, one of the most influential cinematographers of all time, boasts the stunning work on Elia Kazan’s “America America” as his breakthrough as a DP and went on to shoot “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” for which he won the first of two Oscars, “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” and “In the Heat of the Night, among many others. He also famously replaced friend and eventual Oscar-winner Nestor Almendros on Terrence Malick’sDays of Heaven.”

Directorial Debut: “Medium Cool” (1969)
A curious documentary/narrative hybrid, Haskell’s directorial debut is defiantly of its time, experimental and overtly political (the climax takes place during the riots in Chicago during the ‘68 Democratic National Convention). It’s also often preachy, a little unfocused and unpolished in style from the creaky acting (Robert Forster, so young and so … big) and perplexing editing, to the shooting style, which ranges from shaky verité to psychedelic indulgence, often drenched in music. Watch it for the passion and dynamism of its kinetic style, rather than the threadbare narrative or undeveloped intellectualism.

Subsequent Career: Wexler never stopped DPing, and won his second Cinematography Oscar for 1976’s “Bound for Glory,” though the 90s and 00s saw him involved less frequently in high-profile narrative pictures, the likes of “Mulholland Falls” and his ongoing collaboration with John Sayles notwithstanding. As director too he subsequently concentrated primarily on social documentaries, also making a film version of the labor-rights movement play “From Wharf Rats to Lords of the Docks” in 2007.

Barry Sonnenfeld
Highlights as Cinematographer: Coming to prominence as DP for the Coen Brothers (on “Blood Simple,” “Raising Arizona” and “Miller’s Crossing”) Sonnenfeld’s talents were otherwise often put in service of comedies: rehabilitated teen “classic” “Three O’Clock High,” “Throw Momma From The Train,” “Big” and “When Harry Met Sally,” with his last DP credit being for 1990’s “Misery.

Directorial Debut: “The Addams Family” (1991)
Those studio comedies were a useful testing ground for this film recreation of Charles Addams’ cartoon, which also served as inspiration for several TV shows and movies. The film is well shot, and probably better than it should be, especially when it came to casting (Anjelica Huston, Raul Julia, Christina Ricci, Christopher Lloyd) but there’s painfully little substance, so it lurches, if stylishly, from one gag to another, all premised on some pretty, well, cartoony characterization. It also suffers by comparison with the surprisingly superior sequel, which Sonnenfeld returned for two years later.

Subsequent Career: Outside of that creepy, kooky, mysterious, spooky family, Sonnenfeld, who never went back to being DP, has one major claim to fame: the “Men in Black” franchise. ‘II’ was a step back, while 2012’s ‘Men In Black III’ was a partial return to the silly fun of the first, but outside those, Sonnenfeld’s biggest film was “Get Shorty.” More recently he’s migrated to TV: “Pushing Daisies” (which he also exec produced), “Notes from the Underbelly,” and last year’s not-picked-up “Beverly Hills Cop.” Next up: the pilot for comedy “Dead Boss” is in the pipeline.

Ernest R. Dickerson
Highlights as Cinematographer: Dickerson’s second credit as DP was on the seminal John Sayles film “Brother from Another Planet,” but it was his collaborations with firebrand Spike Lee that really established him as a talent: “She’s Gotta Have It,” “School Daze” the epochal “Do the Right Thing” “Mo Better Blues,” “Jungle Fever” and “Malcolm X” — when you think of Lee’s films, most likely you think of Dickerson’s photography.

Directorial Debut: “Juice” (1992)
Having contributed, as DP with Lee, to the establishment of a new black cinema, Dickerson made a pretty convincing bid for its vanguard, releasing “Juice” the year after “Boyz n the Hood” hit. Since then, the film has been reclaimed as an artifact of the quasi-Messianic Tupac cult (and Shakur is very good, as is Omar Epps), but it does stand up on its own merits. The story of four friends growing up in Harlem and responding to growing pains, family issues and police harrassment in different ways is not the most original, nor does it go in any very surprising directions, but it’s heartfelt and authentic-feeling, and even more interesting if you consider it, as does Dickerson himself, as a hip-hop film noir.

Subsequent Career: After less distinguished genre fare like Adam Sandler’s “Bulletproof” and DMX’s “Never Die Alone” Dickerson moved into prestige TV, and has delivered one or two episodes on almost every big show for the last decade or so, becoming a series regular director for “The Wire,” “Treme,” “Dexter” and “The Walking Dead” among others.

Janusz Kaminski
Highlights As Cinematographer: The Polish-born Kaminski emigrated to the U.S. at the age of 21, attending Columbia before working his way up the lighting department on films like, uh, 1989’s “Stripped To Kill II: Live Girls.” Kaminski broke through to features in the unlikely shape of Vanilla Ice vehicle “Cool As Ice,” before his work on TV movie “Wildflower” brought him to the attention of Steven Spielberg, who selected him to shoot “Schindler’s List.” Kaminski has shot every one of the director’s films since, winning two Oscars in the process.

Directorial Debut: “Lost Souls” (2000)
One of a string of religion-themed horrors at the turn of the millennium (see “Stigmata,” “End Of Days” et al), “Lost Souls” sees Winona Ryder attempt to convince Ben Chaplin that he’s been chosen to serve as a vessel for Satan. The film looks handsome enough (Kaminski used “Avatar” DP Mauro Fiore for the project) in Kaminski’s trademark bleach-bypass manner of the time, but the script is dim-witted and highly derivative, and the execution at no point scary. It probably didn’t help matters that it was released on the same day as the re-release of “The Exorcist.”

Subsequent Career: The reception of “Lost Souls” seems to have mostly convinced Kaminski to stick to the day job: he’s continued to work with Spielberg, as well as shooting “The Diving People And The Butterfly” and “Funny People.” He did return to directing though, with the Polish-language, never-released-in-the-U.S. “Hania” in 2007, an episode of short-lived TV series “The Event,” and an uncompleted indie called “American Dreams” starring Nick Stahl.

Zhang Yimou
Highlights as Cinematographer: Zhang only has four cinematographer credits prior to turning director, notably “The Old Well” for Wu Tianming, a successful director of the Chinese “fourth generation” who nurtured Zhang as well as fellow “fifth generation” pioneer Chen Kaige, and “Yellow Earth” and “The Big Parade” for Kaige himself.

Directorial Debut: “Red Sorghum” (1987)
Zhang established himself instantaneously, and arguably overtook contemporary Chen Kaige, with this tremendous debut, in which his astonishing eye for a sumptuous, almost lustfully sensuous image more than compensates for the somewhat hesitant storytelling. The tale of a young woman who inherits her husband’s rural distillery and makes it a success prior to the Japanese invasion of the area, the film also broke out its lead star Gong Li, and was the first of six consecutive films they’d make together. Her timeless beauty, and the lush grace of Zhang’s shotmaking haven’t aged this film a day: it remains as bewitching to watch as ever.

Subsequent Career: Simply put, Zhang’s subsequent films defined Chinese cinema especially internationally, for the next decade: “Ju Dou” “Raise the Red Lantern” “The Story of Qiu Ju” and “To Live” in particular, while later efforts like “Hero” and “The House of Flying Daggers” starring new muse Zhang Ziyi were further international arthouse blockbusters. Whether Zhang really had gone off the boil recently or whether his romanced, lyrical style had fallen out of fashion, “Flowers of War” was a disappointment but we’re anticipating his reunion with Gong Li, the aptly-titled “Coming Home” which will play in Cannes.

Michael Chapman
Highlights as Cinematographer: Indelibly associated with early Scorsese, Chapman shot “Taxi Driver,” “Raging Bull” “The Last Waltz” and Michael Jackson’s “Bad” video for him, but he also shot ’70s classics “The Last Detail” “Fingers,” “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” and Paul Schrader’s “Hardcore” before getting a little fuzzier and funnier in the ’80s flicks “Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid” and “The Man with Two Brains.”

Directorial Debut: “All the Right Moves” (1983)
While his gritty, hard-edged visual style might have come about in the 70s independent scene, Chapman’s first film as director was teen sports drama “All The Right Moves,” the number two in the 1983 one-two punch (with “Risky Business”) that made Tom Cruise a star. And honestly, there’s not a whole lot to say about this one, it’s a totally formulaic, perfectly respectable film that only really suffers from its surprisingly uninspired camerawork and the fact that it’s plot feels like the crystalline distillation of every other ’80s teen drama as a promising football player struggles to escape his dead-end home town.

Subsequent Career: Chapman’s next directorial outings were even less auspicious (the bizarre revisionist neander-romp “The Clan of the Cave Bear” and 1995’s honkingly dull “The Viking Sagas”) but he remained primarily a DP, often on rather soggy comedies like “Ghostbusters II,” “Doc Hollywood” “Evolution” and “Kindergarten Cop” as well as thrillers ”The Lost Boys,” “Rising Sun” “The Fugitive,” and “Primal Fear” most recently shooting traumatic kids movie “Bridge to Terabithia” in 2007.

Chris Menges
Highlights as Cinematographer: Menges had an early highlight as DP on Ken Loach’s “Kes” before shooting the 1971 “Black Beauty” and then mostly working in TV for a spell, frequently as DP to Stephen Frears. In the ’80s he grew in stature, shooting Neil Jordan’s “Angel,” and “Local Hero,” before coming to “The Killing Fields” in 1984 and “The Mission” two years later, both of which won him Cinematography Oscars, cementing his status.

Directorial Debut: “A World Apart” (1988)
Coming just a year after the higher-profile similarly themed “Cry Freedom,” Menges’ persuasive and compelling apartheid film is in many ways superior to Richard Attenborough’s broader, more self-consciously grandiose movie, though both are stories of the struggle for black equality told through the eyes of white protagonists. But Menges’ film, aside from being richly shot and marked with excellent performances from Barbara Hershey and Jodhi May, finds strength in the specificity of its story, and largely avoids dodgy representational issues by never laying claim to being a definitive statement on Apartheid, just a story told within its orbit. Intelligent, passionate and sadly underseen.

Subsequent Career: Menges has three more films to his name as director, but none are as well-realized as his first, and after a hiatus between ‘87 and ’96, he resumed more regular work as a DP, returning with “Michael Collins” for which he was Oscar nominated (with Roger Deakins) and since then lensing “The Boxer,” “The Pledge,” “Dirty Pretty Things” “Notes on a Scandal,” “The Reader” and “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close” among others.

Jack Cardiff
Highlights As A Cinematographer: A man whose life spans almost the entire history of the medium, Cardiff’s second unit work on “The Life And Death Of Colonel Blimp” won the admiration of Powell & Pressburger, for whom he then shot “A Matter Of Life And Death,” “Black Narcissus” and “The Red Shoes.” He went on to work with Alfred Hitchcock on “Under Capricorn” and John Huston on “The African Queen.”

Directorial Debut: “Intent To Kill” (1958)
After an aborted attempt at directing with “The Story Of William Tell” in 1953 (Errol Flynn was producing and starring, but ran out of money), Cardiff finally got to call the shots with British thriller “Intent To Kill.” Based on Brian Moore’s novel, it follows a British surgeon in Montreal embroiled in an attempt to assassinate a South American leader. It’s fairly unmemorable, but a lot of fun in an unpretentious B-movie way, with Cardiff showing an immediate aptitude for handling tension.

Subsequent Career: Excluding 1961’s “Fanny,” Cardiff focused for the next decade or so entirely on directing. Among his most memorable efforts were 1960’s “Scent Of Mystery,” the first film to use ‘Smell-O-Vision’ (scuppered when the technology didn’t work), and the same year’s D.H. Lawrence adaptation “Sons & Lovers,” which received six Oscar nominations, including Best Picture and Best Director. Cardiff also helmed Marianne Faithfull-starring cult classic “The Girl On The Motorcycle,” but returned to cinematography at the end of the 1970s, with credits including “Conan The Destroyer” and “Rambo: First Blood Part II.” He passed away in 2009, and was commemorated in 2010 documentary “Cameraman.”

Tom DiCillo
Highlights As A Cinematographer: North Carolina native DiCillo went to film school at NYU at the same time as Spike Lee and Jim Jarmusch, and got his start as a cinematographer for Jarmusch, helming his feature debut “Permanent Vacation,” the famous 1986 original “Coffee & Cigarettes” short, and “Stranger Than Paradise.”

Directorial Debut: “Johnny Suede” (1991)
DiCillo’s first film landed at Sundance in 1991, launching the career of its leading man, one William Bradley Pitt. The future megastar plays the title character, an aspiring rock star with a truly impressive haircut and a nifty pair of shoes. Catherine Keener and Nick Cave are also among the cast for the film, which became something of a cult classic. It’s still perhaps a little too in thrall to DiCillo’s friend and mentor, but there’s a lot to like here nevertheless, not least the rockabilly soundtrack.

Subsequent Career: DiCillo’s next film suggested that he was heading for even bigger and better things: 1995’s “Living In Oblivion,” inspired partly by the production of ‘Suede,’ is a sharp satire about the production of a low-budget movie starring Steve Buscemi as the DiCillo surrogate and in his debut role, the great Peter Dinklage. DiCillo didn’t capitalize on its acclaim though: none of follow-ups “Box Of Moonlight,” “The Real Blonde,” “Double Whammy” or “Delirious” found audiences, or many fans. Better notices arrived for 2009’s Doors documentary “When You’re Strange,” but since then, DiCillo has stuck to TV, with credits including “The Good Wife,” “Law & Order” and “Chicago Fire.”

Ronald Neame
Highlights as Cinematographer: It’s rare that a cinematographer also gets a credit as a screenwriter, yet Neame does that double duty on 1945’s “Blithe Spirit” his last film as DP before switching horses to direction. Prior to that, the British filmmaker had nearly 50 credits, but didn’t really gain influence as a DP until the 40s, when he shot “Major Barbara,” “One of Our Aircraft is Missing” and “In Which We Serve.”

Directorial Debut: “Take My Life” (1947)
Based on the novel by Winston Graham, who also wrote “Marnie,” and shot by Guy Green who would also go on to direct, Neame’s debut feels indebted to British Hitchcock films, particularly “The 39 Steps” and “The Lady Vanishes.” But if it’s a little B-level in cast (momentary sex symbol Greta Gynt and Hugh Williams), it makes up for it elsehwere especially in British-accented dialogue so clipped it sounds like the characters are spitting shards of glass at each other. A twisty cat-and-mouse game in which an opera singer’s husband is accused of murder so she goes on the hunt for the real killer, it’s a fun, if disposable thriller, marked by noirish b/w photography.

Subsequent Career: Neame delivered 26 features as director, but had a moment in the late 60s/70s when, after “Gambit” and the excellent “The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie” he made the musical “Scrooge,” followed by disaster epics “The Poseidon Adventure” and “Meteor” followed by “The Odessa File.”

Mario Bava
Highlights As A Cinematographer: The son of a sculptor from Liguria who also worked in Italy’s silent film industry, Bava went into the business in the late 1930s, his first two credits as cinematographer coming on early shorts from Roberto Rossellini,Lively Teresa” and “The Bullying Turkey.” He soon became a fixture in the industry, working with directors like Mario Costa, Aldo Fabrizi and Pietro Francisci.

Directorial Debut: “Black Sunday” (1960)
Having done uncredited directorial work on a number of B-movies (including taking over “The Giant Of Marathon” from Jacques Tourneur), Bava finally got to make his solo debut with “Black Sunday” in 1960. The film that essentially birthed the giallo genre, it stars scream queen Barbara Steele as a witch put to death, only to be resurrected 200 years later as a vampire. The blood-soaked result, influenced by classic Universal horror has undoubted flair and lashings of atmosphere, and looks absolutely gorgeous. It went on to influence films from helmers like Francis Ford Coppola and Tim Burton, who consciously pay tribute to Bava in “Bram Stoker’s Dracula” and “Sleepy Hollow” respectively.

Subsequent Career: Bava’s first film arguably remains his finest, (along with 1966’s “Kill, Baby Kill,” beloved of Martin Scorsese) but there was other strong stuff to come: he developed giallo further with “The Girl Who Knew Too Much” and “Blood and Black Lace,” and helmed cult comic-book classic “Danger: Diabolik” (a favorite of Quentin Tarantino and Edgar Wright, among others). His films started to run into distribution difficulties in the 1970s, and the work dried up: he eventually passed away of a heart attack soon after completing final film “Shock.”

Gordon Willis
Highlights as Cinematographer: Prior to his directorial debut, Willis has almost too many to stellar entries in his cinematography CV to mention: “Klute,” “The Godfather,” “The Godfather Part II,” “All the President’s Men,” ”Bad Company” ”The Parallax View,” ”The Drowning Pool” “Annie Hall,” “Interiors” and “Manhattan” among others.

Directorial Debut: “Windows” (1980)
“Huh, why does Willis, DP on such an amazing array of classic films, only have one directorial credit to his name?” might ask someone who had never seen “Windows.” It really is that dire, despite being couched in the beautifully textured photography of a much better movie. The problem is absolutely everything else, from the reek of homophobia, to the ludicrous plotting, to the total absence of tension, to the somnambulist performance by star Talia Shire striking up zero sparks with her (heterosexual) love interest. It’s a film that starts with a rape and gets less tasteful from there, as we discover it was perpetrated by an obsessive lesbian who gets off on hearing the victim’s recorded moans, and it’s remarkable maybe only for including some of the heaviest heavy breathing we’ve ever heard. Or maybe that was us snoring.

Subsequent Career: Thankfully, Willis never took up those reins again, instead returning to his role as DP to deliver, among many others: 5 more Woody Allens (“Stardust Memories,” “A Midsummer Night’s Sex Comedy” “Zelig,” “Broadway Danny Rose” and “The Purple Rose of Cairo”) as well as “Pennies From Heaven,” “Perfect,” “Presumed Innocent” before reuniting with Coppola for diminished return “The Godfather Part III.

Jack N. Green
Highlights as Cinematographer: Green will always be most known for his collaboration with Clint Eastwood: 1986’s “Heartbreak Ridge” “Bird,” “The Dead Pool” (which Eastwood didn’t direct but starred in) “Pink Cadillac” (ditto) “White Hunter Black Heart” “The Rookie” and “Unforgiven,” for which Green was Oscar-nominated. “A Perfect World”Absolute Power” “The Bridges of Madison County” and “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil” followed, while he also lensed “The Net,” plus “Twister” and “Speed 2” for ex-DP Jan de Bont, prior to directing for himself.

Directorial Debut: “Traveller” (1997)
A curious feature to make at all, let alone for your debut, “Traveller” is quite an enjoyable con man movie, with the twist being that these are no slick noir grifters but a group of Irish-descent travellers in the rural South for whom conning is a way of life. Green brings the same unobtrusive style that he does to Eastwood’s contemporary features and there are some good, underplayed performances by Bill Paxton and Mark Wahlberg as the bottom-rung antiheroes. It screws up its third act, and the female parts are underdrawn, but overall it didn’t deserve to disappear quite so tracelessly.

Subsequent Career: Green has one other directorial credit for the terrible would-be erotic thriller “Seduced: Pretty When You Cry,” but his real job as DP has kept him busier in the years since, with him lensing “Space Cowboys” “50 First Dates” “The 40 Year-Old Virgin” “Serenity” and “Hot Tub Time Machine” among others, with 5 further features currently listed as forthcoming on his IMDB page.

Pitchforks down, people, we know there are some big omissions. Sven Nykvist, longtime Ingmar Berman DP has directed a few features but up to and including “One and One” (1978) they are very hard to come by. We can say, however that “The Ox,” from 1991 is well worth seeking out, especially for Bergman fans — it’s an austere and somber morality play starring Stellan Skarsgard, Liv Ullmann and Max von Sydow that boasts a similar kind of deep-cut tragic arc. Similarly, Australian DP and Wong Kar-Wai collaborator Christopher Doyle‘s autism-themed first feature “Away With Words” is also a bit of a rarity, though you can find a directorial piece by him on the “Paris Je T’Aime” compilation, and his latest “Beautiful” premiered a couple of weeks ago at the Hong Kong Film Festival.

Some others we simply had no space for: Godard’s frequent DP Raoul Coutard (“Breathless,” “Pierrot le Fou,” “Week End”) made his debut with “Hoa-Binh” (1970) a native’s-eye view of the Vietnam war that was nominated for a Foreign language Oscar; as mentioned above Andrzej Bartkowiak of “Speed” fame made overlown Jet Li vehicle “Romeo Must Die” in 2000; William A Fraker, who served as cinematographer on “Rosemary’s Baby” and “Bullitt” made “Monte Walsh” in 1970, a rather good western with Lee Marvin, Jack Palance and Jeanne Moreau.

I am Cuba” DP Sergey Urusevsky made two features as director, neither of which we could track down in time; the great James Wong Howe made his directorial start with otherwise so-so Sidney Poitier/Harlem Globetrotters tale “Go Man Go“; prolific DP and Alexander Payne collaborator Phedon Papamichael Jr made the slightly hilarious (unintentionally) “Dark Side of Genius” and three other B-movies in between his high-profile Hollywood outings; while “The Innocents” and “The Elephant Man” DP Freddie Francis made his debut with the disposably breezy “Two and Two Make Six” (1960). There are plenty more, so if we’ve missed someone you feel is crucial, light your torch and lay siege to the comments section below.

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Comments

HB

Im shocked that Ellen Kuras didn’t get a mention. She is a very talented and innovative DP with success as a director. It is a largely male dominated field however despite that she is still one of the greats despite gender.
I think it would be quite worrisome to employ a DP or Editor who didn’t understand storytelling. I think you would find a lot of the esteemed DPs would take offence to the idea that there isn’t a strong emphasis on storytelling in each frame they compose.

alex

haven't seen "The Diving People And The Butterfly" yet… sounds like it could be a good life-affirming comedy about a paraplegic comedian dying of cancer

The Great and Powerful Chas

DPs tend to make lousy directors, as they're used to composing in space rather than time – in other words, they can make a pretty picture but they don't know how to tell a story.

Major Kalas

…what about Peter Hyams? Is he a better director or DP?

Glass

I think Nic Roeg is the greatest DP-turned-director, and to be honest, his best films and MEDIUM COOL are the only great films to be directed by a former DP. It's funny how that works – conventional logic tells us they'd be a shoo-in for becoming great directors but it just isn't the case.

Dan S

Mikael Salomon turned to directing in the early '90s, but mostly sticks to TV now.

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