There is a common misconception of what Cinematography is about and who a Cinematographer is. Happenings had a chat with Daniel Alfred Nwachukwu, an Imo state born graduate from the National Film Institute, Jos, who helped define the job of a cinematographer, what it entails and what he loves about the job.
Happenings: Who is a Cinematographer?
Daniel: A Cinematographer is that person, man or woman, behind the aesthetics of principled photography in any form of film or TV works. He or she is basically saddled with the responsibility of making sure the camera is manipulated to tell the story as interpreted by the director with the use of light, which explains the reason cinematography is defined as painting with light. In order words he/she is that person who tells a story with the use of camera and light, either artificial or real.
Happenings: What personality or character traits are necessary to excel in being a cinematographer?
Daniel: Nothing spectacular, just interest. Anybody, either male or female can actually be a cinematographer as long as the interest is there. Asides interest you must have a good study habit. Cinematography is a highly intellectual work and it requires high level of intelligence and creativity.
Happenings: What do you enjoy about being a cinematographer?
Daniel: The creative technique behind the use of camera movements in telling stories. Cinematography for me is an art and also a life-style. The crazy twicking of the camera, the balancing of temperature, especially day light and the creativity put in on the job, gives me great joy. In fact in fewer words, I will simply say, I love cinematography.
Happenings: What is a common misconception people have about what you do?
Daniel: A lot of people, including practitioners in the industry, have a wrong notion about cinematography because they do not understand what that role means in film making, how then do you think such person can discharge his duties well. Many always think it’s about picking a camera and hitting the record button. Cinematography is an art which requires high level of creativity and intelligence. It’s not a roadside thing. It’s a very creative and mental work.
Most times people don’t get to understand the art behind the job, but I love to let people know the benefits of being in my profession. Without cinematography there is no film-making. So, cinematography is a serious matter and it needs to be accorded some respect. (laughs)
Happenings: Do Cinematographers in a professional sense work with any sort of software? Like Special Camera software that I might need to learn or something.
Daniel: No. No software is used by cinematographers and there are no special cameras, only that some cameras come in different calliberation because of the company that made them and some differ in functions due to development. They have same shutter, iris with little variables and the new generation camera with higher dynamic range can do wonders. The only software is that invented by the company who built the camera to enable operators upgrade when necessary and they are known as firmware. But this only gives you features that will require you go an extra mile in your picture quality. I always say it that it is not about the camera you film with, it is about the man behind the camera. A novice can work with a RED camera and chunk out rubbish while a trained cinematographer can use an MD10000 old Panasonic camera and yet come out with great pictures and well composed frame to get a better picture.
Happenings: Do you feel cinematographers get the recognition they deserve in Nigeria?
Daniel: Not really, and that is basically because recognition comes to what people understand. How can anyone want to recognize a cinematographer when they do not even know what the functions of a cinematographer is? But basically, they are beginning to get little recognition but not as strong as that of actors and the directors. It’s lack of understanding that actors are placed first in our awards and festivals before looking in the direction of the crew. The likes of Oscar, Golden globe, Cannes awards all pay more attention to filmmakers and not talent. Well I will basically agree to the fact that Nollywood is really changing and there has been a new dimension in the filmmaking industry lately but the cinematographers/Directors of photography in Nigeria are not doing anything to change that. No proper body or guild is regulating the interest of cinematographers. Most good ones in the business are all running down to TV because of job security. None wants to be caught making film alone, else hunger is the case. However, the crew is important and also need equal endorsement opportunities just like those before the camera.
Happenings: What is most challenging about what you do?
Daniel: Sometimes for me it’s working with directors that lack the knowledge of the relationship between a director and a cinematographer as well as other members of the crew. But most of all, lack of preparation. Every unplanned work in pre-production has a way of telling back on the cinematographer and other members of the crew. Most times unavailability of the right equipment, especially for lighting. Sometimes, I run out of creativity to light a scene because there is little or no equipment to make the job move on. It affects my efforts and put me through some difficult times. But most of all it is delving into something entirely new. Challenges make me stronger and better and it is the bedrock of man’s survival or success. Because it is said that the bigger your challenge the bigger your success.