Interview with cinematographer Thomas Tsiftelis

SHORT BIO OF THE CINEMATOGRAPHER: Thomas studied Αudiovisual Αrts. His obsession for narrative driven imagery steered him into specialising as a cinematographer. In 2014, his work for short film Ilena was awarded with Best Cinematography by the Greek Society of Cinematographers at the 37th International Short film festival in Drama, Greece. The 2021 short film Horsepower received several awards among which the Honorary Distinction for Cinematography at the 44th DISFF, the GSC Visual Storytelling Award at the 44th DISFF, and the Golden Athena Award (Best Short) at the 27th Athens International Film Festival. In 2022, the feature creative documentary Dogwatch premiered at Visions Du Réel and was nominated for best cinematography in several International festivals such as the 30th Raindance Film Festival. He participated at the 2022 Sarajevo Talents program and he was selected as one of the Berlinale Talents 2023. Thomas is based in Athens, and his work also includes commercials for prominent advertising companies, documentaries, music videos and art projects.

  • What personality or character traits are necessary to excel in being a cinematographer/DP?

    Patience and good communication skills are highly valued qualities, while being able to support a collaborative approach on set is necessary for cinematographers/DPs.

    • In terms of cinematographers, who do you like?

    I always admired cinematographers like Caroline Champetier, Christopher Doyle, Diego García, Robbie Ryan and the list goes on.

    • What makes good cinematography?

    Cinematography is at its best when all the elements of the visual language serve and enhance the story.

    • What makes a good camera? And what has been your favorite camera to use?

    A good camera is determined by the project’s nature and needs.

    • Do you think that cinematographer’s work has changed when movies went from film to digital?

    Absolutely not, it is just about a different mindset.

    • Now that people watch films on TV, computers and even their phones, do you think about that end experience when you are shooting?

    As a cinematographer I am always attached to the idea of the big screen in the dark room.

    • Which one is more important: light or shadow?

    We can thing about light and shadow as complementary forces that interact to form a dynamic visual storytelling.

    • What is the cinematographer’s involvement in pre-production, production and post production?

    The involvement of the cinematographer is constant through all stages of filmmaking, suggesting solutions balancing artistic approaches/intentions and technical puzzles.

    • What involvement in the production budget does the cinematographer/DP have?

    I am afraid that is a question best answered by production teams.

    • What is your most valuable advice for being a Cinematographer/DP?

    Never rely on what you have achieved and your style characteristics. Every time try learn more and keep pushing the visuals on the limits of the story frame you are working on.