Bending The Light (2014) Movie Script

(peaceful music)
- [Voiceover] My job is to make the lens.
It's the heart of the camera.
- [Voiceover] Do you take photographs?
- [Voiceover] Well, I have a child,
so I take lots of photographs of her.
- [Voiceover] Are there
any old pictures of you
that mean a lot?
- Yes.
I think it was probably taken
when I was in kindergarten.
I was in front of the gate
pole at my neighbor's house
that looks like a fence.
My feet got stuck between the fence
and I have a troubled expression.
This photo capture that moment very well.
- [Voiceover] Why are photos important?
- When I look at them later
on, I begin to reminisce.
I think that's very
important for individuals
and a society as well.
(background chatter)
- [Voiceover] Photography is
something that I do because
I'm looking for something
to understand about myself.
In Egypt, that very much is there.
- [Voiceover] Politics
seems to be at the heart
of your work.
- My grandfather was an
avid newspaper reader.
So I grew up kind of around
that and around my family
discussing politics on a
daily basis and you know,
their dreams and their
ambitions for the country.
I wanna understand my country.
I wanna understand where
I fall in that country.
Egyptians have always been
really really sentimental people.
They always love to talk about the past.
(exotic rhythmic music)
This is the essence of an idea
that I'm trying to do now.
It's a story about how
an entire population of
more than 85-million people
have always been struggling
to do something with their lives.
You know, really simple things
like have dignity and respect
and I think this is what has
always been lacking in Egypt
and this is why the revolution happened.
- [Voiceover] Is it just politics?
- [Laura] It's a social story
and it's a very human story
in its essence.
This is where the overlap of
politics and just an interest
in that comes from.
- [Voiceover] You seem
to spend a lot of time
away from the action, shooting faces.
- I want people in Egypt
to see the people of Egypt.
This is very important for me.
This is what I really care about.
(camera clicks)
(camera clicks)
(camera clicks)
(camera clicks)
(camera clicks)
(camera clicks)
My equipment is in that bag.
It's modest but it gets the job done.
So this is my living and working space.
So we're pretty much, you
know, I cook here and then
I work here and this is my magnetic wall
where I do my editing.
What I wanna say is something about
alienation and solitude
and feelings of people
trying to belong and feelings
of people that are abandoned
by a government or a
system and broken dreams
after the revolution.
It's about families who lost
somebody that was killed
or shot by police.
This is Reda when he was about 17.
He's been completely
blinded because he was shot
by police just off of Tahrir Square.
All he remembers is that
he looked up and he saw
a police officer and suddenly
he was thrust backwards.
He hasn't seen anything since.
He's 19 and pretty young but
he was engaged to be married
and his life has completely changed now.
She lost her son during
the revolution and she was
one of the people who were protesting
outside the trial for Mubarak
hoping that she would see
justice for her son's killers.
- [Voiceover] How did
you get into photography?
- I worked in America for
about 3-and-a-half years
as a newspaper photographer
doing everything that you do.
I was doing things that
were not very newspapery.
I didn't know I was pushing it
but my photo editor would say
"Laura, the readers are not
gonna understand your pictures.
"People don't get this, this
is not what the work is about."
So I eventually quit because
I felt like I wanted to just
explore what else I could do visually
and I didn't really like
being told what to do
and how to do it.
- [Voiceover] What do you
look for in a picture?
- Really, with my work, I think emotion is
very very important.
Where I'm looking for things that move me
and hopefully when people look at them
they can be moved by it as well.
I started doing a project
when I came to London
that was basically just street photography
and it was really sort of therapy for me.
When I come to London, I can
completely just disappear,
and I really like that, I like
the fact that you can be free
and yeah, it really
totally keeps me balanced.
- [Voiceover] What's your
relationship with your camera?
- My relationship with my
camera, this is a good question
because I don't really
think about it much but,
I think my camera's my companion in a way.
My camera allows me, it gives
me the excuse to go to places
that I may not go to if
I didn't have my camera.
So it's a really intimate,
important relationship for me.
I even sometimes protect it more than
maybe I protect myself.
- [Voiceover] Do you plan out your work?
- [Laura] I spend a lot of
time on individual situations.
Like I might find a
street corner or you know,
a particular situation
where I stay for an hour,
two hours, three hours,
however it develops.
(peaceful atmospheric music)
- [Voiceover] Can it get dangerous?
- [Laura] Sometimes it can
be dangerous on many levels.
I think I have become incredibly paranoid
about being a photographer
and also about being a
woman photographer because I
usually go out and work alone.
I mean, I'm on my own taking pictures,
so I feel kind of vulnerable sometimes.
- [Voiceover] Does your family
approve of what you're doing?
- They didn't, because this
idea of a girl walking around
with a camera through the streets of Egypt
was kind of a bit weird.
So there was that pressure of,
"Why don't you just do a normal job,
"have some money, have
that peace of mind?"
I've had some bad times
but I don't think as bad
as many other people have had.
- [Voiceover] What's the future for you?
- To continue doing work
that is important for me
because of the subject matter.
But I don't think I'll ever be rich.
It's important to have people around me
that really believe in what I'm doing,
and recently my parents have been that
and it's made really
tremendous difference for me.
When they see pictures and they're like,
"Laura, we're really proud of you."
I mean, this is really,
for me this is really good
to have the support of my family.
- [Voiceover] Do you
ever think of the people
who make your lenses?
- Completely honestly, no I never do.
- [Voiceover] You just
take it for granted?
- I absolutely do.
It's like the farmer and the apple.
You don't think about the farmer
when you're eating the apple,
it's exactly the same thing.
I'm not thinking about the person that
made this when I'm using it.
(atmospheric music)
- Japan was formative for me.
When I came here as a 23-year-old,
I didn't know much of anything.
Coming back 30 years later,
realizing the year-and-a-half
that I spent here
and how important that was,
it was what created who I am today.
The sense of ritual and
then going out into the
town where it's completely chaotic,
and those contradictions again are what
really really excited me about being here.
What is special for me
is this is one of the few
rock gardens, a Suiseki garden
which means a dry garden,
in this part of Japan.
These eight rocks in this
garden represent eight gods.
It's a paradise garden.
Shakkei translates as "borrowing scenery."
So at one time, the scenery
that was being borrowed here
was probably that
hillside, that cliffside.
Here we have a prefab school
that's been built right outside
of the grounds of this
very contemplative space.
Contemporary, the ancient,
they all work together
and I'm interested in that.
I'm interested in juxtaposition,
I'm interested in artifice,
and that's carried through
with my work for 30 years.
The Japanese sense of architecture,
the Japanese sense of space,
is something that's always interested me.
That's the reason I came here.
I have a recollection when I was a kid
going into the chaos of my room
and going into my older brother's
room and he was obsessive,
he was a mathematician,
and everything in that room
was arranged on the desk.
It was perfectly arranged,
and I felt so at peace
in that space.
My interest in Japan is not
only in historical buildings
but also in the artifice of nature.
This tree has been
manipulated and contorted
to such a point that it frames
the pavilion down below.
It's a wonderful example
of how the Japanese use
nature in a very artificial way.
My dioramas are very similar in terms of
working with the animals
when they're in deep storage.
I had access to the Smithsonian archives,
and they have all of
these taxidermy animals
in these crates.
It's the whole idea of
going out into nature,
killing these animals, bring
them back into this human realm
and for display purposes,
reanimating them.
And that is a very interesting idea.
It's perverse, but it's
wonderful in its perversity.
I'm interested in the
history of optics especially,
and who but the Japanese and the Germans
have perfected it to such a level.
What is it about that
compulsiveness, that obsessiveness,
between both cultures
that allows them to create
these fine finely, finely-crafted objects?
The idea in Buddhism is that
nothing can be perfected,
and yet, I think the
Japanese in terms of the way
that they approach lens-making for example
are attempting to achieve perfection.
- [Mitsuharu] I look at
the lens very closely,
and try to understand its feeling.
- [Voiceover] Is there
anything that you dream about
that you'd like to take pictures of?
- I'd really love to photograph secret,
and maybe even dangerous places.
I read about something that
happened at the remote base
at the South Pole.
There were two buildings
and one had a bathroom.
On a short journey from one to the other,
someone disappeared and was never found.
The challenge of taking a
photo to capture the mystery
of that place, of that
brutal, freezing environment,
a place I would never
normally be allowed to go,
really interests me.
- The one that's most
well-known is probably
the Unabomber's cabin.
I photographed the cabin in sichew
after it had been
discovered, put on a truck
and shipped out to California.
That was a secret place,
nobody else had access to that,
and I decided because of
that access that I wanted
to make it something else.
It was this very simple, iconic shape.
A cabin in the woods, and that to me,
its banality was interesting to me.
I photographed all four
sides of the cabin,
thinking about it as mugshots,
and the whole idea of
architecture being put on trial,
this was the major piece
of evidence in the trial,
but I decided to complete
it and I found the site,
and what the FBI had done is
they put a chain-link fence
around where the cabin used
to be with signs saying,
"No Trespassing, Danger" in
the middle of the forest.
So you have this bucolic setting,
with this chain-link
fence describing nothing.
(peaceful ambient music)
- [Voiceover] Is there
anything else you'd like
to have a go at?
- If I had the chance, I
wouldn't mind being an actor.
- [Voiceover] And who
would you like to play?
- (laughing) Ultraman.
I haven't grown up yet.
- [Voiceover] That way,
that way, that way.
- I don't take snapshots.
I take pictures of my family
sometimes, but the whole idea
of the history and memory,
I'm interested in history.
I like to be surprised.
And this current project that
I'm doing on the Civil War
has really engaged me and
I'm using the technology
of the time and that to me
is a very exciting thing.
(peaceful atmospheric music)
A lot of my work starts
out in a documentary place,
but then it goes someplace else.
And when that works, when a
viewer comes to it and thinks,
"this is something I don't understand,"
and spends time with it
to try and understand it,
that image for me is working.
- [Voiceover] Are you
proud of your lenses?
- Yes, very much so.
There is a big baseball
stadium called the Tokyo Dome.
It has a camera that shoots
down from the high position
called the bird's eye.
This camera uses my lens.
- [Voiceover] Do you have a secret dream?
- My dream?
My dream is to become a
professional baseball star,
of course.
- [Voiceover] Aren't
you a bit old for that?
(Mitsuharu laughs)
- After all, age cannot
stop your dreaming.
(audience cheering)
- When I first started,
and it was obviously the desire
to go to all the big events,
so I've done the big events.
World Cup soccer, which
is probably my favorite.
The Olympics, winter and summer.
And it just goes downhill from there.
So now it's more the photography.
The photography is very, it's a driving
aspect for me now.
I mean, it is luck, there's
a lot of luck involved.
It's just a question
of, are you prepared to
take that chance when it comes to you.
I've done more than one
World Cup final and been
sitting there picking my nose
'cause it's all been happening
down the other end, so,
you know, I tend to think
what goes around comes around.
It was a rainy day and Cambridge
University were playing
a Japanese university.
No one wanted to do it.
You know, I went, shot the game
and then I kind of left
early, which is a cardinal sin
for a sports photographer,
leaving before the end of the game.
And on the way to the car,
I just bashed out a couple
of frames, jumped in the car,
and I saw that frame and I thought,
"That's a pretty good frame."
When you're photographing
something that's gonna happen
for a fraction of a second,
there's no luxury to redo it.
I think skiing is a particular
challenge because you end up
having to ski the course which
is designed for the athletes.
You ski it because you can
get to see all the positions.
You can look at where you
think the action photograph
will come from.
It's all about preparation.
If you're not prepared then
you're gonna get caught out
or you're gonna make a mistake
because you didn't have
the right lens with you.
- I've been working for over 34 years.
I am an advanced design lens manager,
and I oversee a group of people
designing the latest lenses.
I like most sport but I like soccer best.
I started playing when I was quite small.
The game is about balancing
individual skills with the team
and that's fun to do.
It's a lot like the way we work.
In optic research and design,
we try to support the work of individual
with a team effort.
- When Canon came out with auto-focus,
it basically levelled the
playing field between the guys
who were extremely good at follow-focusing
and the guys who couldn't follow-focus
but loved photographing sports.
Basically a 600-mil and a 428.
That would be something
that you would work with.
- For professional use,
the big long lenses
should be both as lightweight
and durable as possible.
They need constant updating.
- You know, these lenses,
it's good actually.
Very shortly I'll just be
able to do this, you know?
I don't have to go to the
gym anymore, you know?
- It's tricky because reducing weight
and making it stronger are opposite.
How to resolve this is a big deal,
but it's a challenge I enjoy.
- You know, now I could just
ponce around with this little baby
which gives me another 10 years,
or it gives my spine another 10 years.
This for me is kind of a new toy to use
and adapt to the way I'm shooting.
You know, it's a zoom lens.
That means I have an incredible range.
I can go from a 200-millimeter lens
to an almost 600-millimeter lens.
It makes coffee, and
the latte's not so good
so maybe those lens mysters can sort out
a latte function on this
thing but it does a lot.
- I did fine-tuning on auto-focus
and the image stabilizing system
used in sports like football, baseball
and motorsports.
I like pictures that have good focus,
but also can catch both the
movement of the athletes
and the facial expressions.
That's the best.
When people started using digital cameras,
there was no cost limit to how
many pictures you could take.
You could take as many as you like.
- That gives me the
freedom to go with an idea,
and just try and work it 'till
I thought I got it exact.
- [Voiceover] How many frames
did you shoot to get this one?
- You know, I shot a lot of images.
Oh man, I don't know.
1,200-2,000 images.
You know, the beauty of
working for someone like
Sports Illustrated, they're
looking for great photographs.
They're not necessarily looking for
man-crossing-line every time.
I've always tried to push forward
and find different angles.
The one thing that's happening with sport,
particularly large events,
is that you become controlled.
So you're only allowed to go to one pen,
and you wanna go up high,
it's a bit of a cat and mouse game.
Wanting to sneak behind the
security guards and go upstairs.
Instead of being down on the
field shooting the same thing
that 300 other photographers
were gonna shoot,
I wanted to do something
which was different.
- The reason why I
started taking photographs
was because I was deeply
inspired by the famous
Japanese photographer Ken Domon.
He approaches his subjects quickly
without letting them know.
Just like a thief.
Even the blurry or out of focus picture
was better if it captured
the emotion on the face.
- When you're doing a
portrait of somebody,
you're in complete control of
the scene and how you're
gonna photograph them.
It's a very different dynamic.
And then you obviously have
to interact with the subject.
Michael Phelps I had a
reasonable relationship with,
and I was always explaining
to him what I wanted to do
and he was very up for the
ideas that I had in mind.
I don't get up at four in the morning
and swim for three hours
and then sleep for the rest of the day.
I read the newspaper, I walk the dog.
These guys aren't doing any of that.
They're just focused 100%
on trying to be the best.
- Sport is all about winning and losing.
So one of the most important
thing a sports photographer
does is get the sense of that in the face
and the body language of the athletes.
- Winning is what everybody wants to see.
But I mean, losing I think is probably a
bigger life lesson.
And in sport it's black and white.
Dealing with losing is a very
interesting subject, I think.
- Sport also bonds generations.
I can talk to my young workers about it.
It helps stimulate conversation
and makes for better communication.
- [Voiceover] Is there a
future in still photography?
- People still ride horses.
They just don't use them
to get down I95 now.
So there will be a space for photography.
The industry changes, it's changed rapidly
in the short time that I've
been around and involved in it.
Experience is something that I
now use heavily (chuckles)
to persuade people to employ me.
All the new toys help you.
They don't take the
photograph for you yet,
but they definitely help
you capture an image.
- I never stop learning.
Especially when we were
working on the new project.
Sometimes experience isn't enough,
so I have to find a new way of thinking.
The young are quick to embrace new ideas,
so I have to work to keep up with them.
- [Voiceover] Do you
train the young workers?
- [Mitsuharu] Yes, I
teach them what I know
and to work as hard as I do.
- [Voiceover] And what's
the most important thing?
- [Mitsuharu] Love.
When I shout or yell at
them, it's with love.
If they can understand that,
then they will work better and harder.
- [Voiceover] When I first started,
I was an operator in manufacturing.
Learning the basics of the camera.
Now, I'm an assistant leader of the team.
I specialize in lenses
for television cameras.
- [Mitsuharu] To learn communication
skills with co-workers,
that was the most important
thing that I ever learned.
When things get difficult,
always remember that
other people as well as you
are trying to do their best.
Technical skills are one thing,
but the emotional support is
important in work and in life.
(peaceful piano music)
- I don't exactly know why,
but I feel relaxed when
I photograph temples.
I think taking photos of the temple
helps sustain my motivation.
Our family had four brothers,
and my father used to take
pictures of all of us growing up.
Before my father took me to Samyo Temple,
I wasn't really interested in cameras,
but because of it, I became
very curious about photography
and so my father taught me
and he was rather strict.
He was really specific in
the use of light and shadows,
but you can't appreciate
those sort of things
when you are small.
My father would look at my photos and say,
"That's not it."
These are pictures of a
three-tier temple that I love.
This is an example of the photo contests
that my father and I used to have.
My father took this one,
and the long shot of
the greenery was mine.
Mine has a two-dimensional effect,
but my father's has a 3D feel
and has much more depth.
- [Voiceover] So who's
the better photographer?
- (laughs) To tell the truth,
my father wins.
(ominous music)
(people shouting)
- [Voiceover] Why are
photographs important?
- On 3/11, when we had
this devastating tsunami,
the images in papers and on television
brought the reality of
it all into my mind.
My grandmother lives in Miyagi Prefecture
which is near the epicenter.
I couldn't get in touch
with her for a week,
and we didn't know whether
she was still alive
but the photos gave us
a lot of information
until we found her safe.
The images were very important.
Not just for us who lived through it,
but for future generations.
I feel it's important
that these photos exist
as a testament.
(background chatter)
- Looked like semaphore for a minute.
Okay, thank you.
Or I just open it up slightly.
I was working when I was like, 17, 18,
and I got some jobs at Chaton Studios
as a special stills photographer.
I just liked the family feeling on set
and I went to film school.
At film school there were a couple of
fellow students who
went on to make movies,
and I came in on their coattails.
My real break was this sort of
anthropological documentary in Peru
which was so dangerous the
director was hospitalized.
He nearly died, and I nearly died
during the making of this documentary.
Just awful.
And I decided on horseback
that I'm not gonna do this,
I'm gonna do commercials.
I met Brian Gibson who's
an old colleague of yours.
- [Voiceover] Yeah.
- And Brian and I did a bunch
of commercials together,
and then he got a feature.
And then Tony Scott got his
first feature, The Hunger.
And then I got lucky and
then I got a phone call
and I picked up the phone and said,
"Are you available to
speak to Francis Coppola?"
I thought it was someone
of the crew just...
- [Voiceover] So that was a big break.
- It was a big break.
- [Voiceover] Were there
a lot of surprises?
- Well yes, I mean, I went
to calministori studios
and it was supposed to
start shooting in six weeks.
So I knew that it should
be busy at this point.
There were no sets built,
there were just two,
two chippies, two carpenters
idly banging nails
into a piece of old timber.
And I thought, "This doesn't
look like a real film at all."
And I met Francis and we
got on like a house on fire,
and he looked me in the eye and says,
"This film is going to happen."
And I said, "Absolutely, I'm your man."
But in fact, it was a scam.
And all the people involved in the film
had written their own contracts
that they'd be paid off
for enormous sums of money
if the film didn't go.
Francis was the one who had to shoot
and he insisted we shot and he did.
And so on the first day,
when one of the actors
didn't turn up because
he had script approval
and there was no script, Francis said,
"Well we'll shoot everything
from his point of view.
"And then when we get him
we'll do the reverse."
So that's how we started.
- [Voiceover] Did you
think that was the norm?
- I knew it wasn't the norm,
but I thought it was a
good way to get going.
So I just went with it, I thought,
well, let's shoot it that way.
I mean, this guy's much
better than I am, Mr. Coppola.
So he liked that attitude.
- [Voiceover] So you
really learned the business
by the seat of your pants.
- Totally.
(background chatter)
They come, they will see this.
- [Voiceover] What are you looking for
when you choose material?
- Well I mean, I've done
those big films where
it's actually complete rubbish
and you're only doing it for the money
and it made me very unhappy indeed.
But I'm trying to do something which
excites me on a dramatic level.
I'm far more interested
in how I respond to
the script as a story.
The best thing is when you go on location,
sometimes I'll volunteer with a designer.
We'll go there and we'll
walk around with the script
in our back pockets or in our heads but,
and we'll see what we can find
and for me that's the
best way to look at things
is though a lens.
It's a shortcut to my subconscious.
When I'm taking the photograph,
I feel something directly.
On Get Up Up, this film I
just finished last week,
I did over 40,000 which
is not that difficult
with motor drive and stuff.
Tate Taylor who directed it, he wanted
to have some time-lapse,
and I found these scientific
time-lapse cameras
that use, actually Canon Rebel
still cameras inside them
but they're powered by a solar panel.
So I could put it in
the Mississippi jungle
and set it and it will take
a picture every five minutes
and switch off when it gets dark.
That's serious business,
to trust your equipment
and trust your lenses.
And so then I saw that
Canon was going into my game
and I was interested to see what's up.
This film I've just finished,
the first day shooting
was in a helicopter.
It used a purpose-built ALEXA M
in the nose of the helicopter.
I said, "What lens is on this thing?"
And they said it's a 10-to-1 Canon.
30 to 300.
And I said, "Oh all right,
that's interesting."
And then I saw it projected,
it was just beautiful, just gorgeous.
- [Setsuko] My name is Setsuko Sotome,
and I'm making lenses for movie cameras.
- [Voiceover] Do you enjoy your work?
Is it fun?
- Well, it is very challenging
because a lens is very delicate.
So it needs a lot of concentration.
I enjoy the work but I
wouldn't describe it as fun.
A cinema lens weighs over 5 kilograms,
so it needs a lot of strength.
It's hard work.
I've been working for about 30 years.
- [Voiceover] Have you
ever chipped a lens?
- [Setsuko] Yes, but it
happened when I first started.
I've only had one lens
rejected this past year.
- [Voiceover] Are you a perfectionist?
- [Setsuko] Not with everything.
I collect coffee cups.
I've got 30 of them.
Well, china heals me.
Unlike lenses, they're
all different shapes
and that attracts me.
- [Voiceover] Would you
like to make some yourself?
- Maybe, when I'm retired someday.
I assemble every part of the lens
from top to bottom on my own.
I'm the only person in my
department who does this alone.
There are many women who assemble
some units from the lenses
but I don't think there's any one woman
who can assemble from
the beginning to the end.
- Two different lenses have
different characteristics.
The character of flare, for example.
Sometimes, try as you might,
with some modern lenses you
can't get them to flare.
Whatever you do.
Billy Bids had described
how he invented backlight.
He was just testing some new lenses
and everyone had broken for a picnic lunch
and he turned the camera on Mary Pickford
and the was backlit by
the California winter sun.
At that point, no one had ever
photographed in backlight.
Everyone went, "Wow, that's great!"
And it was a lens test
that introduced him to
beautiful backlight
through Pickford's curls.
- [Voiceover] One of your
most famous pieces of work
was Angels in America.
What were the big challenges there?
- Well, the script was
sort of white heart.
The documentary journey of
a young man or young men
dying of AIDs,
to Roy Cohn talking about paradise,
and then to do a sequence
in which a poor young man
at death's door is visited by an angel.
I realized the problem we had
was that on stage there's limitless space.
An angel couldn't drop into the same set,
and there's no problem with her wings.
I mean she has a six,
eight-foot wing-span.
That's no problem, it's
just a stage, there's a bed,
there's a guy in it and
she can hover over him
and do whatever but on
film she can't drop into
the room which has got a
ceiling and four walls.
And my brain wave is we
would had to have two sets.
We had to have the normal set,
and then whenever she flew in
we had to have a set that was 400% bigger.
And of course, the producers
were ready to kill me but
it was the way to do it, that
suddenly the bed was bigger,
the furniture was bigger,
the room is enormous
because it was another world.
It was how I visualized it.
I find that if I take
pictures as I'm working,
it sparks something off
when I look at how I might
change something, how the lights working,
how the color might be.
For technical reasons,
I was always horrified
by the lack of communication between
the cinematographer and the lab.
You know, some poor bastard at 3AM
being given reel after reel of negative
and making quick color
and lighting adjustments
which could make or destroy your career.
And I said to HBO and bless
them, they paid for it.
They bought me an enormous
professional printer
with color calibration
and I made 70 prints.
The end result being that
you can get what I want
as a cinematographer.
At least I have that satisfaction.
(background chatter)
- [Voiceover] Was it a
major decision to start
shooting digitally?
- In a way I couldn't wait.
The last chemical film I did was The Help
and I couldn't get dailies
for two or three days
and we were shooting under pressure
and we were photographically
very difficult
situations for me, like Viola Davis
with a blonde little baby girl in her arms
and how was I gonna keep
that contrast range?
Was I keeping the keeping
the contrast range?
I couldn't tell.
I thought I was but there
was no immediate feedback.
So it doesn't matter how much
you've shot.
I'm always nervous
and I need feedback
and I saw that digital,
if it could only get good enough,
would be that immediate feedback.
(background chatter)
- [Voiceover] Does it make
you braver as a cameraman?
- Yes, insane.
I mean, just little light bulb braver.
- [Voiceover] What makes,
for you, a great photograph?
- Well it's gotta be something
to do with the content,
I think.
Even if it's a photograph in
which you don't understand
the context.
There's something about
the human face or body
that can be so beautiful or so striking
or so mysterious, or the light.
It's something that just captures you.
- [Voiceover] What have
been your inspirations
in your working life?
- Truffaut.
That's the sort of film that I had to
just see again and again.
Photographer after photographer.
People who make extraordinary
from the very ordinary.
And you see such beauty, not
because it's manufactured
but because somehow they
see it, nobody else does.
- [Voiceover] So did you
bring any photos that have
good memories for you?
- Well, not so much for the memory
but I brought photos of my cats.
I like this one very much.
It was taken right after he was groomed
and had his hair cut.
My father used to like animals very much.
Especially cats.
- [Voiceover] Is your father still alive?
- [Setsuko] No, my father
died of cancer 15 years ago.
I don't have any picture
of him in his later years.
So yes, it hurts me
that we didn't get to go
to more places and take
more pictures together.
As a reminder, I keep his hat
and give a glass of water to it every day,
and my cats drink from them.
I think my father's spirit
is giving water to the cats.
- [Voiceover] Is that why you
take pictures of your cats?
- [Setsuko] Yes, I think so.
- [Voiceover] You told me
you've never seen the lenses
you've assembled being used,
so what does it feel like?
- I've assembled over 100 of these.
So I thought maybe I'll
be tired of seeing them,
but when I see as a
finished product in use,
I think it's very cool.
I'm thrilled to see the
product I put together.
I think it looks great.
(crashing waves)
(camera clicking)
- Now we're doing better,
come back a little bit more.
There you go.
(camera clicks)
Now let's just, let me see here.
My handsome assistant as you put it,
angle the head, there you go.
Yes, straight.
Well the most important
thing is communication
in my photography and so
I try to basically involve
the talent in my vision
and share every moment.
Now let's just, let me see here.
Chin up for me just a little bit.
Angle the head a little bit more.
You can never make them feel
or have any sort of sense
that you are not in control and
don't know what you're doing
'cause they'll eat you alive.
Let's bring the front end of this out.
Let me get my camera.
Yeah, I don't know what I'm doing yet,
I'm just making it up as we go along.
Bring that forward to me.
I always loved white shirts on...
We did that the last time
with Diahann Carroll actually.
We did a dark shirt, but a
man's shirt which looked great.
- [Model] Yeah, I love it.
- Yeah, I think this will look good.
But I try to keep a happy medium
with me still being in charge
and that's how I really get my portraits.
(camera clicking)
That's beautiful right there.
(camera clicking)
Just a little bit...
- [Model] Yeah.
- That's always where the
tension shows up first,
is in the jaw 'cause the jaw is like...
- Also, I have a humongous jaw.
- No no, see I think
you've got a great jaw.
Actually, your face is perfect.
It's the kind of jaw that's
an easy jaw to light.
For a DP or somebody, it's perfect.
It can be a big jaw but it's
an easy one to just cut.
(blowing wind)
Number six.
This is the real secret of the arts.
Always be a beginner.
Number five, sleep, it's overrated.
You can sleep when you get home.
Well you know, I've shot for so many years
in the movie business,
shooting motion picture
campaigns and personalities,
and I've been teaching for the
better part believe it or not
of almost 30 years and being
able to share my vision
with those that are passionate
and are starting to get
involved and engaged in photography
has been a big thing for me.
The bottom line is,
I'm not interested at all in
what you know, I'm interested
in what you don't know to
push you to that next level.
(background chatter)
You can't teach people how to have an eye.
There have been these great
cases and that's really
the reward for a teacher.
When you can actually
turn that light switch on.
To bring that talent
forward is so exciting
and so rewarding at the end of the day
and you see that you've
actually changed someone's life.
That's great.
(camera clicking)
You still look great.
Wet your lips for me.
Now real strong, right down
the barrel of the lens here.
(camera clicking)
(atmospheric music)
Yeah that's better.
Chin up just a tiny bit.
In 1968, growing up in Kansas City,
I borrowed a friend's camera and I said,
I have third row seats to
Jimi Hendrix in concert
and I wanna take some pictures.
And I shot two rolls of film back then
and the following morning
processed the film
in his basement-turned-darkroom
and when I saw this image
come up magically on this
white piece of paper,
I was totally hooked.
In the early days,
all my pictures were
pretty interchangeable.
The lights were like
right over the camera.
They all looked like
postage stamps, so to say.
It really wasn't until I
started moving the light
off the center of camera.
My early shoot with Tom Waits for example.
And when I started creating
a relationship between my
harder, harsh shadows
and my strong highlights,
I started seeing something
that I found interesting
and I started thinking, "Well
you know I'm gonna try that
"on my next shoot" and
started to pursue that,
and then all of a sudden it
became part of my repertoire.
For me it was about having
irreverent disregard
for detail shadow, I was
never about the Codec moment.
I was really about
shaping and forming a face
with light and shadow,
and that's how I kinda developed my style.
- [Voiceover] Not bad
for a 48-year-old, right?
- He's gonna bring the gloves up.
We're gonna go mainly
just real dramatic light.
This is still the executioner.
Before The Alien. (laughs)
- [Bernard] This is history.
- [Greg] It is history.
- [Bernard] Before The Alien.
- [Greg] I know.
- Really, the executioner has retired.
- Yeah, well he's now The Alien.
So give me a kick in the
dark eye there, Brian.
Really good, right down the lens.
Angle the head just a little bit this way.
(camera clicking)
We live in an exciting time
and the overall picture
of photography has changed so
greatly from the early days.
Better, yeah, stronger.
After switching to digital,
I pretty much know when
I've got the picture
and that frees me up as an
artist to maybe get out of my
staid style and push myself
a little bit further.
There was a kid, there
was a doorman at the hotel
where I was staying that
was a model with one of the
agencies and he knew who I was
and he was getting off work
at four o'clock and I said,
"You wanna run uptown?
"I've got a camera to play
with for a couple of hours."
And I went up and I shot some
pictures with just natural
window light and a reflector
and I just couldn't believe
how well digital sees
light in low-luminance
and it made me realize that this is
obviously where everything is going.
Film never was capable
of making those captures.
(camera clicking)
Oh those are great.
That's fantastic.
- Do the stare down?
- Do the stare down right now.
(crew laughing)
Better, yeah.
- No wonder I've been beating these guys.
I've been scaring 'em!
- This will be pretty cool and
we'll get this all oiled up
and then sprayed.
- [Voiceover] Does he bullshit you?
- Sometimes, yeah, he bullshits you.
You gotta bullshit you
to sort of kind you over
to get you to the next level.
"You're doing well, you're doing well."
But he's still trying to
get the best, you know?
So he gets you to think that
you're almost there,
so that's the bullshit.
He's a big bullshitter, and that's good.
(camera clicking)
- Really piercing eyes
right through the lens.
One of the great things about
working with personalities
is the opportunity to realize
their vision sometimes.
One of the last times Michael
called me and he said,
"You know, Greg, I have
these pet tarantulas
"and they have just shed their skin."
He said "I think they
might be great for a shot.
"I don't know what we'll do
but can I bring the bodies?"
Because they're just like a shell,
like snake when it sheds it skin.
Then we actually ended up gaffer
taping them to his forehead
and this became one of his
iconic images later on in life.
The stories and the memories
that I have, the memoirs
of all the years are extraordinary.
I have such fond memories
like of Betty Davis
and the times that we spent
together editing pictures
sitting in her living room
and the stories that went
back and forth.
I share them with friends
and all when we're together,
funny little quips and stories
but it's something that
I think is really between
the talent and myself.
The styles today have changed so greatly.
They're much looser.
They're much more of a casual nature
which was never what I did.
See now let's open that
shoulder up to me, there you go.
And now bring your face
up, and now three-quarters
come out this way just a
little bit there, that's good.
Now come into her.
All the way, there you go.
And you don't need to look at me,
you can look off right here, there you go.
Open your chest up to me
even more, there you go.
I think my work is very
staged, very calculated.
Extremely orchestrated, it's
really about fine-tuning,
more like a painting, like a sculpture
and that's really the
style that I developed
and that's what I became
kind of known for.
We'll get a chill down
here, let's just go outside
for five minutes and freshen
up, we'll come back in,
we'll look at some videos.
I see more emotions from
my teaching these days.
Thank you all very much.
On Friday night which is the
last day of my workshops,
I put together a slideshow
of 10 to 12 of each of the students' work.
Seeing that on the big
screen for the first time
and looking at their work,
then I get really emotional.
(blowing wind)
One of the things I always
talk to my students about
is that never think you've
taken that successful picture.
I know that every time I look
at my work I find something
that could be improved, could be changed,
could be challenged.
And I think that's what keeps driving me.
Once you're so confident
that it's all gonna be
a perfect show and a home
run, that's when you fail.
(moody atmospheric music)
- The lens I most recently designed
was a correctional system
of the Subaru Telescope
located in Mauna Kea in Hawaii.
The primary mirror is eight-meters-wide,
and my lens corrects the
light that the mirror absorbs.
It's a very high-accuracy lens.
One of the biggest in the world.
And it took two years to make it.
- [Voiceover] What got you
interested in this line of work?
- I liked watching movies and TV very much
and was interested in
creating those visuals.
- [Voiceover] What movies did you like?
- I like science-fiction movies a lot.
I love the Star Wars series,
the Star Trek series,
and I really love 2001: A Space Odyssey.
- [Voiceover] How far can a telescope see?
- I'm not an astronomer, so I
don't know all of the details
but it could reach the galaxies
that are close to the beginning of space,
billions of light-years away.
- [Voiceover] If you could
take a photograph from anywhere
about anything, what would it be?
- [Toru] I'd like to
take photos of the Earth.
I'd like to look down from a space station
or a satellite.
I think that'd be very beautiful.
- [Voiceover] Do you think
there's life out there?
- [Toru] I think so.
- [Voiceover] What kind of
life do you think it is?
- [Toru] Well, it's hard to imagine,
but it could well look like us.
- [Voiceover] Why do you say that?
- Because there's no
evidence that says Earth is
the only special planet with life.
- [Voiceover] So how
do you feel about that?
- Both excited and scared.
Because it's hard enough
or people on Earth
to understand each other.
I can't imagine what it would be like if
we met people from a
completely different world.
- [Voiceover] Looking back, is
there anything in your career
that you would have done differently?
- I don't know, I would
have had more theory.
I wouldn't maybe have
detoured so much into the
photo-journalistic world and
maybe stayed in the art world.
But I'm very thankful for
how things have worked out.
I mean, it's been a fantastic journey.
- [Voiceover] We live in
a world where everybody's
a photographer.
Does that change the way you see your job?
- No, I think it's great that
everybody's a photographer
because it means that, I
actually know how to photograph
so my photograph should stand out.
You know, you've gotta use
all the tricks of the trade
and then of course, you
do need to have the latest
and greatest lenses if you're
going to capture, you know,
a guy flying through the air.
It is down to the photographer, 100%.
- [Voiceover] Is your craft hard work?
- At the end of the day, I'm beat.
I just want to go home and lay down.
It aches everywhere.
Legs, back, knees, head.
- [Voiceover] Do you think
you're getting too old for it?
(Mitsuharu chuckles)
- Maybe.
I feel a lot older than I really am.
- [Voiceover] What area
of photography have you
not worked in that you wish you had?
- Believe it not, wildlife
and landscape probably
'cause I've always made a
joke that I've never been able
or successful at shooting anything
that couldn't talk back to me.
- I tell myself I don't like you,
and I'm gonna rip your head
off and it gives me that
natural look without me trying to fake it.
- Yeah, yeah.
- [Voiceover] Are your children
interested in photography?
- Yes, my oldest son is in
Africa on a photo safari.
He has more expensive equipment than I do.
- [Voiceover] Are the pictures any good?
- No, not really.
But he seems pleased.
- [Voiceover] Can you imagine
a life without a camera?
- No.
(moody atmospheric music)
(peaceful music)