Gordon Willis quotes:

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  • Grips and electricians have done more to help me shoot good movies than any other craft.

  • Good films are not made by accident, nor is good photography. You can have good things happen, on occasion, by accident that can be applied at that moment in a film, but your craft isn't structured around such things, except in beer commercials.

  • A cinematographer is a visual psychiatrist - moving an audience through a movie ... making them think the way you want them to think, painting pictures in the dark.

  • Zooms are lazy closeups. And too many people hang their hats on video assist; it's a way to avoid too much. Video assist helps people dissociate from the scene that they are directing. Pretty soon the director will be directing all the way from his apartment.

  • There are a lot of cameramen but not so many photographers. And a lot of cameramen attack from a technical approach without much imagination. They look, but they don't see.

  • Complexity is not good. People don't understand the elegance of simplicity.

  • Don't get simple mixed up with simplistic.

  • I'm a great believer in relativity when making movies. Relativity, in my mind, meaning "Light to dark, big to small, good to bad." You visually embrace these things to enhance transitions and instantly paint environments and moods.

  • I'm a minimalist. I see things in simple ways...It's human nature to define complexity as better. Well, it's not.

  • I don't believe in doing thousands of cuts, then giving it to the editor to make the movie. 'Dump-truck directing' is my reference to that style of moviemaking. You have to know how to cut before you can shoot well. The lack of definition in movies today is appalling. Very few people know how to mount a narrative anymore. If a scene works in one cut, you don't need 10. Or it might need 10. Let's not make it 20.

  • A huge problem in movies or with people who work on movies is that two people can look at the same thing but they don't necessarily see the same thing.

  • I don't really like directing. I've had a good relationship with actors, but I can do what I do and back off. I don't want that much romancing. I don't want them to call me up at two in the morning saying, 'I don't know who I am.

  • I hate when somebody says, "This may not work." You'll never get anywhere with that. I've pushed a lot of people out of my way - I don't mean physically - over them being afraid something isn't going to work.

  • I wasn't trying to be different; I just did what I liked. Don't misunderstand when I say I really had no particular DP I was aspiring to be. I really fell in love with the movies as I was growing up, and I must say, I was emulating things that I saw others doing, that's how you learn, but you soon have to push past that, and do things that you feel are right" or better.

  • If you take a sophisticated idea, reduce it to the simplest possible terms so that it's accessible to everybody, and don't get simple mixed up with simplistic, it's how you mount and present something that makes it engaging.

  • The lack of perfection, that's the hardest quality of all, because you're fighting your instincts. You're trained to want to do things perfectly.

  • The thing about film is that your eye is selective. Film isn't. You have to make film do what you want. Simply photographing something doesn't do it. You have to know how to apply light and know what it does on film.

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