Some Australasian Cinematographers


A number of Australian and NZ cinematographers have been remarkably successful, both locally and on the world scene (ie Hollywood). It has often been asked why Aussie DoPs have been so disproportionately successful.

One person who has made suggestions is Michael Bodey, 'High achievers give lens-eye view', The Australian, 29 May 2008, page 31:

Even in an Australian industry that outperforms globally, our cinematographers are the high achievers of our film sector. Whether it is due to our unnatural light or our film technicians' ability to adapt to extraordinary locations and low budgets, Australian cinematographers have become as sought after by Hollywood as our actors.

A more comprehensive answer is provided by one of the most successful of Australian DOPs, John Seale.

What technicians learn in Australia is to work fast and be quite adept at using what they have at their disposal to achieve desire result, rather than constantly relying on some technical facility to do it for them - in fact, to keep shooting when others might give up. It's a great asset, and I firmly and fully believe that the training one gets in Australia holds you in such good stead in the American situation, where you are actually paid - and paid well - to keep the shoot going. You are not paid to stop. (Raffaele Caputo & Geoff Burton eds 1999, Second Take: Australian Film-makers Talk, Allen & Unwin, Sydney: 44)

One way to draw attention to this phenomenon is provide these links to the IMDB entries for the following. Note the listings of their awards: the first five, for example, have won an Oscar, among many other glittering prizes.

John Seale, born 1942, won the Oscar for 1997 for The English Patient (Anthony Minghella, 1996)

Dean Semler, born 1943, won the Oscar for 1991 for Dances with Wolves (Kevin Costner, 1990)

Russell Boyd, born 1944, won the Oscar for 2004 for Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World (Peter Weir, 2003)

Andrew Lesnie, born 1956, won the Oscar for 2002 for The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (Peter Jackson, 2001)

Dion Beebe, born 1968, won the Oscar for 2006 for Memoirs of a Geisha (Rob Marshall, 2005)

Don McAlpine, born 1934, nominated for the Oscar for 2001 for Moulin Rouge! See also Cathy Henkel's doco, Show Me the Magic

Peter James, born 1947, won the AFI for 1991 for Black Robe; shot Driving Miss Daisy (1989)

Mandy Walker, born 1963, nominated for the AFI for 1997 for The Well; shot Australia (2008)

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