Interview with cinematographer Tomasz Januszewski

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

Observation skill is the most important quality that every cinematographer should have. The more you develop this skill, the better DP you become. You will look where others do not look. You will capture what others cannot. In my opinion, cinematographer sees the world a bit differently, is some kind of psychologist – analyzes this world, the characters in it, pays attention to details and at top of that reflects and presents all of that using a picture and a film language. Determination is also the key to perfection. The smallest detail or ill-considered decision can completely change the reception. There are no compromises in the film.    

  • In terms of cinematographers, who do you like?

Hoyte van Hoytema – not only for taking amazing shots but also for his interesting biography. The second person I value for having an unusual view of reality is Janusz Kamiński. 

  • What makes good cinematography?

Truth. The ability to capture and present the truth. If someone watches the film and gets involved in the story, it means it’s a work well done. The single frame or even the whole scene is often able to express more than words. And that’s what I would call a “good cinematography”. Obviously, the final result consists of plenty elements such as the cooperation of many people who create this picture.

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

The camera is just a tool and actually every movie can be recorded with the simplest camera. Whether a cinematography is good mainly depends on the camera operator skills, ideas and creativity. A good camera, in my opinion, should be characterized by faithful representation of the world that has arisen in your head. For example Arri produces great cameras for versatile use but personally – Ursa Mini Pro is my favorite among the cameras I’ve worked with so far. I feel like it’s not common enough yet.

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

I guess it hasn’t changed. I mean, of course the digital technology it’s a milestone in facilitating the physical work of the camera operator. But on the other hand, nothing has really changed in respect of telling a story through a picture. Not the form of recording, but the form of communication with the audience is the most important in the work of the cinematographer. I also believe that no digital camera has been produced yet that would match the quality of film reel.

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

A good cinematography will be just as good on the phone as it is on the computer so it doesn’t seem to matter that much. However, it depends on the type of production – if we are talking for example about an advertisement intended for Instagram, which requires specific framing, it’s worth to think about the look and the form of the movie in advance.

  • Which one is more important: light or shadow?

Light, because the light creates a shadow. (My scientist mind tells me that 😉)

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

The cinematographer should be involved in works at every stage of the film production: starts from creation of a vision of the world, preparing the right tools – selection of lenses, color palette, type of light, through implementation of assumptions at the production stage, until making final decisions at the editing or post-production stage. This is a difficult art, any mistake made at the beginning may have irreversible consequences in relation to the whole work.

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

I think DP’s involvement in the production budget is the second largest, right after the director’s.

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

Look where others do not look. Develop your observation skills, be patient. Watch and test a lot, look for solutions. Ask yourself questions like a Renaissance humanist 🙂