Creative Spark: Robert Yeoman

Creative Spark: Robert Yeoman


Yeoman: EACH PERSON HAS THEIR OWN UNIQUE VOICE, AND CREATIVITY, TO ME, IS BEING ABLE TO EXPRESS THAT VOICE. I WAS ALWAYS INSPIRED BY THE VISUAL LANGUAGE OF FILMS, EVEN MORE THAN THE WRITING AND EVERYTHING ELSE. JUST, IMAGES STUCK WITH ME, AND I WAS SO TAKEN BY THEM. SO I STARTED DOING CINEMATOGRAPHY IN FILM SCHOOL, AND I WAS GOOD AT IT. I HAD A NATURAL KIND OF TALENT FOR IT, SO I’VE NEVER LOOKED BACK. I LOVE WHAT I DO. A CINEMATOGRAPHER IS IN CHARGE OF THE CAMERAS AND THE LIGHTING, BASICALLY. AND I WORK WITH THE DIRECTOR AND THE PRODUCTION DESIGNER TO HELP DESIGN THE VISUAL LOOK OF A FILM. I THINK THAT THE CINEMATOGRAPHY, IT REALLY KIND OF SETS THE MOOD, IN MANY WAYS, AND IT GUIDES YOU AS A VIEWER TO HOW YOU SHOULD FEEL. IT IS A WAY OF TRANSLATING THE SCRIPT IN VISUAL TERMS, AND IDEALLY, YOU CAN WATCH A FILM WITHOUT ANY DIALOGUE AND KIND OF GET A FEELING FOR WHAT’S GOING ON. SCRIPT IS WHERE WE START, DEFINITELY. IF I’M READING A SCRIPT, AND I THINK IT’S REALLY BAD OR DUMB, I IMMEDIATELY PASS ON IT. I’D BE DOING MYSELF AND THE DIRECTOR A DISSERVICE. I THINK EVERYONE, WHEN YOU’RE WORKING ON A FILM, THEY WANT YOU TO BE EXCITED, AND IF I’M NOT FEELING THAT, I THINK I’D BE UNHAPPY AND SO WOULD THE DIRECTOR. FOR INSPIRATION, I LOOK AT BOOKS. I HAVE A LOT OF PHOTO BOOKS THAT I USE. I RAN ACROSS THIS BOOK SEVERAL YEARS AGO. IT’S CALLED “HAVANA,” BY ROBERT POLIDORI. I GOT THIS RIGHT BEFORE WE WERE DOING THE MOVIE “LIFE AQUATIC,” AND I SHOWED WES, AND HE WAS VERY MUCH TAKEN BY THE PALETTES. AND IT’S NOT LIKE WE’RE GONNA GO IN AND MAKE THE EXACT SAME PALETTE OR ANYTHING, BUT IT’S JUST — IT’S A STARTING-OFF POINT AND A WAY OF INSPIRING US, I THINK. THERE’S SOMETHING SPECIAL ABOUT THESE OLD BOOKS. I LOVE GOING TO MUSEUMS, AND I REFERENCE THOSE WHEN I CAN. IF I’M IN A PARTICULAR MUSEUM THAT HAS A BOOK OF THEIR COLLECTION I PARTICULARLY LIKE, I’LL PICK ONE UP AND KEEP IT AS A COPY FOR REFERENCE LATER. AND I THINK THAT THAT’S AN INTEGRAL PART OF THE PROCESS, DEFINITELY. I LIKE TO ACTUALLY GO TO THE ACTUAL LOCATIONS, PARTICULARLY WITH THE DIRECTOR, AND JUST BE IN THE SPACE AND TALK ABOUT THAT SPACE AND WHAT WE LIKE, WHAT WE DON’T LIKE. SO, I WILL GO HOME AFTER WE’VE BEEN AT A LOCATION, I’LL MAKE LITTLE DIAGRAMS OF WHERE I THINK THE CAMERA SHOULD GO AND LITTLE PICTURES. IT JUST GIVES US A STARTING-OFF POINT FROM WHERE WE CAN KIND OF TALK. AND I THINK IT’S IMPORTANT TO COME TO ANY SHOOT DAY WITH A GAME PLAN, AND WHETHER YOU USE THAT GAME PLAN OR NOT, AT LEAST SHOW UP HAVING ONE. I GO, LIKE, WITH WES IN INDIA, WE TRAVELED AROUND BEFORE “THE DARJEELING LIMITED” AND JUST HUNG OUT IN INDIA AND GOT OURSELVES ACCUSTOMED TO JUST WHAT LIFE WAS LIKE THERE ‘CAUSE IT’S SO DIFFERENT THAN HERE IN THE UNITED STATES. AND IT REALLY HELPS ME TO COME TO UNDERSTAND WHAT THE MOVIE’S ABOUT WHEN YOU ACTUALLY CAN GO AND LIVE THERE AND IMMERSE YOURSELF IN THE EVERYDAY LIFE OF THE PEOPLE. WITH WES, WHAT WE OFTEN DO, ‘CAUSE WE’VE SHOT FILM, UP TILL NOW, ON ALL HIS FILMS. WE HAVE A FILM CAMERA THAT WE BRING WITH US, AND MANY TIMES, WE WILL JUST SET IT UP, AND IF WE HAVE THE A.D.s THERE, THE PRODUCERS, ASSISTANTS, WE BLOCK IT OUT. WE ACTUALLY SHOOT IT ON FILM WITHOUT LIGHTING JUST TO SEE HOW IT FEELS. AND SO IT’S A LOT OF FUN. THAT GIVES US AN OPPORTUNITY TO PLAY AND NOT HAVE THE PRESSURE OF A LOT OF ACTORS THERE. Man: AND ACTION. Yeoman: BUT THERE’S NOTHING LIKE SHOOTING WITH THE ACTOR. Man: WELL, THAT WAS KIND OF COOL. Yeoman: WITH WES ANDERSON, PRETTY MUCH 95% OF THE SHOTS ARE PLANNED BEFOREHAND. OTHER DIRECTORS, IT’S OFTEN MUCH MORE SHOOT BY THE HIP. I’VE ALWAYS OPERATED — I CAME UP DOING LOW-BUDGET INDEPENDENT FILMS, AND THEY DIDN’T HAVE MONEY FOR OPERATORS. I ALWAYS LOVED OPERATING, AND I ALWAYS FELT, YOU KNOW, I’D SET A SHOT UP, AND THEN YOU LET SOMEONE ELSE HAVE ALL THE FUN. AND BACK WHEN WE SHOT FILM, THROUGH THE LENS, YOU SAW THE BEST IMAGE OF ANYBODY, AND THERE’S A CONNECTION THERE WITH THE SCENE, AND IT WAS QUITE A THRILL AND AN HONOR FOR ANY OPERATOR TO BE THERE AND SEE SOME OF THESE AMAZING PERFORMANCES. ALSO, I CONSIDER MYSELF A GOOD OPERATOR. NOTHING DRIVES ME MORE INSANE THAN BAD OPERATION. SO I JUST PREFER BEING THERE. AND PARTICULARLY WITH LIGHTING WHEN WE SHOT FILM, YOU COULD DEFINITELY TELL THE DIFFERENCE LOOKING THROUGH THE LENS MUCH MORE. I ENJOY THE CHALLENGE EVERY DAY. IT’S JUST LIKE AN ADRENALINE RUSH ALL DAY, AND THEN AT THE END OF THE DAY, IT’S JUST A “WHEW!” I REMEMBER A QUOTE FROM CONRAD HALL. HE’S A FAMOUS CINEMATOGRAPHER. AND EVEN TOWARD THE END, HE SAID HE WAS ALWAYS NERVOUS WHEN HE SHOWED UP. AND HE SAID THE DAY THAT HE WASN’T NERVOUS, HE KNEW IT WAS TIME TO QUIT THE BUSINESS, AND I AGREE WITH THAT.

9 thoughts on “Creative Spark: Robert Yeoman

  1. Finally!!!!!!!! I LOVE your vids 😀

  2. I love this creative spark series!!!!

  3. Very cool!

  4. Thank you for sharing the perspective of such an interesting creator. Also, could someone be kind enough to explain how cinematographers/DPs work with directors? I am just a casual and not schooled fan of film, so I am curious about the two roles relationship. Is it a partnership that has the director with final say? Do they have equal opportunity to add interpretation of the story during the storyboarding period of pre-production?

  5. Love these videos. They're so inspiring. I get so excited when I get a notification you've uploaded a video. Please keep them coming.

  6. Kodak pen! 🙂

  7. Thank you for this, I've often watched a film just because Mr. Yeoman shot it.

  8. make more episodes please

  9. wow. very inspiring. Thank you for the opportunity to see how Robert Yeoman works and thinks and what inspires him… love the Mary Ellen Mark book there.. shows how much good photography can inspire the filmmakers.

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