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October 2017
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Film 40, 2014 Back to Reports & survey Listing

The Top 10 Cinematographers

From Rush to Captain Phillips and Mr Turner to Godzilla, some of the best and biggest recent features had British DPs at the helm. David Wood reports on the top filmmakers who are benefitting from the UK film boom


Televisual’s list of the top DPs working in the UK film industry is compiled with the help of working cinematographers and grading artists, but the final list is Televisual’s alone. It’s a tough list to get onto, with DPs having to demonstrate a healthy roster of films either completed in the last 12 months, in production or preferably both.

One of the first names to make this year’s list is British-born but LA-based Roger Deakins, an easy choice because his CV is littered with outstanding films. His latest is Unbroken, the inspirational story of Olympic runner Louis Zamperini, who survived World War II despite spending much of it in a Japanese POW camp. It has A list credentials, written by Joel and Ethan Coen and directed by Angelina Jolie.

A frequent Coen brothers collaborator, Deakins attributes his success to being picky about the work he does. “Usually I’m drawn to scripts that are about characters, I don’t have a love of doing action movies,” says the man who shot Skyfall for Sam Mendes but turned dowen a second bite at Bond.

Deakins’ 11 Oscar nominations (including Skyfall, True Grit, No Country for Old Men, O Brother, Where Art Thou? Fargo and The Shawshank Redemption) speak for themselves,” says Rushes colourist Simone Grattarola. “Roger Deakins’ work has been consistently outstanding and beautiful – how he has never actually won an Oscar is almost as astounding as his films.”

Other outstanding British DPs on this year’s list include Ireland’s Seamus McGarvey – a DP on most directors A-List. Oscar-nominated for Atonement, his latest projects include high profile features Fifty Shades of Grey, Godzilla – plus he was first choice on Warner Brothers Pan.

Barry Ackroyd, known for collaborating with directing talent such as Ken Loach and Kathryn Bigelow, makes the list for lensing Paul Greengrass’ thriller Captain Phillips. 

Prolific cinematographer Ben Davis’ star is certainly rising. He has begun carving out a superhero niche, following Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy with Univeral’s Avengers: Age of Ultron, currently shooting at Shepperton.

Work has been fast and furious with British mystery thriller Before I Go To Sleep also slated for release this year, joining a roster of Credits:  including Kick-Ass and The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.

Rob Hardy also stands out for The Invisible Woman, a feature which typifies his “beautiful and eye-catching” cinematography. Veteran Dick Pope, the DP behind the award-winiing The Illusionist, who recently shot Mike Leigh’s latest Mr Turner joins out list this year along with Texan-born Oscar winner Sean Francis Bobbitt BSC (12 Years A Slave, Kill The Messenger and Oldboy). DPs who just missed the cut this year include German-born Alwin Kuchler BSC (Divergent), and Danny Cohen who is shooting London Road and X Plus Y. There’s no room in the list for talented DPs who do most of their work in TV drama.
Names such as Ole Birkeland, Lol Crawley, Matt Gray, George Steel and John Conroy have all stood out on the small screen in the last year but have not shot enough features.

The list also illustrates that cinematography is a tough world for women to break into. Women in Film and Television’s chief Kate Kinninmont comments: “Why, in the 21st century, do we still have no women on the list? Short answer: because no women have been working as cinematographers on major feature films in the UK in the last 12 months.

When I was a producer at BBC Scotland in the 1980s, film crews were all male. Why? Typical answers were ‘women were unable to carry the equipment, they lacked the necessary authority, didn’t understand technical stuff, and would find the hours too long and too disruptive to their home lives’. Few people would voice these opinions today, but changing a culture takes time. The good news is that there are lots of excellent young camerawomen moving up the ranks, gaining expertise, experience and awards/nominations along the way.”

Top 10 Cinematographers

Roger Deakins

Credits:  Unbroken, The Village, Prisoners, Skyfall, True Grit, No Country for Old Men, The Assassination of Jesse James

Barry Ackroyd
Credits:  Dark Places, Captain Phillips, Parkland, Contraband, The Hurt Locker, Green Zone, United 93, The Wind That Shakes The Barley

Sean Bobbitt
Credits:  Kill The Messenger, Oldboy, 12 Years A Slave, Byzantium, The Place Beyond The Pines, Shame, Everyday, Hysteria

Robbie Ryan
Credits:  Slow West, Philomena, Catch Me Daddy, Last Days on Mars, The Karman Line, Tell Me About Yourself, Ginger & Rosa

Ben Davis
Credits:  Avengers: Age of Ultron, Guardians of the Galaxy, Before I Go To Sleep, Kick-Ass, I Give It A Year, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

Seamus Mcgarvey
Credits:  Fifty Shades of Grey, Godzilla, Anna Karenina, We Need To Talk About Kevin, Atonement, The Avengers, Nowhere Boy, The Soloist

Dick Pope
Credits:  Mr Turner, Angelica, Cuban Fury, The Illusionist, Bernie, Thin Ice, Another Year, Happy Go Lucky, It’s A Wonderful Afterlife, Vera Drake

Anthony Dod Mantle

Credits:  Heart of the Sea, Rush, Trance, Dredd, The Eagle, 127 Hours, Antichrist, Wallander, Slumdog Millionaire, Country Wedding

Rob Hardy

Credits:  Ex Machina, Tracks, Physics, Every Secret Thing, The Invisible Woman, Testament of Youth, Broken, Shadow Dancer

John Mathieson
Credits: : Pan, The Man From U.N.C.L.E., 47 Ronin, Great Expectations, X-Men: First Class, Brighton Rock, Robin Hood, Gladiator


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