9.25.2010

By Feel


I glanced over this quote at first, and then came back to think about it some more, and pondered over what it actually means. Do you agree? Disagree?  Is that "feel" or intuition more or less important than technical knowledge? Can either do well without the other? (I think both are pretty reliant on the other.)

I am definitely a "by feel" person. When I'm storyboarding, lighting or operating, I tend to just go with what feels best. Most of my choices about coverage or movement is dictated by this innate sense of what feels like the most natural course of action to take in that moment of the film. Maybe "instinct" is the right word for this. I remember many friendly debates over shot choices in pre-production with my friend Director J, and he often had to deal with me saying, "but it feels better to me if we go to a close up here!"

There is also that large portion of cinematography that relies on discovery. Each set, each crew, and each film feels different. Each shooting day may feel different. You can come in with all your lighting diagrammed and planned out, lenses picked, movements mapped out, coverage decided... and then, your actor suddenly does something brilliant that inspires you. You hold still instead of panning away, you turn off those extra lights that you spent precious time setting up. Maybe a lighting problem turns into an entire new way to shoot a scene. Always let yourself be susceptible to the moment. Maybe that's what going "by feel" also means.

Does anyone else experience cinematography in this way? How do you interpret this quote?

1 comment :

Jon Currie said...

Yes and no. In the first few years, it's a combination of the basic visual talent (unteachable), technical learning, developing an esthetic style and a good number of happy accidents. Only once the photographer has a strong skill set and a depth of experience to draw from do things work by 'feel'. It's not that they got through their career from the start by feeling. It's that they now have command of all the small details and technical factors which frustrate us at first that the entire experience becomes more about the big picture and one begins to feel that a certain composition is right or wrong.

Intuition is a much better word to define this idea. To simply call it feeling oversimplifies the years of experimentation, disasters, triumphs and, at times, sheer luck required to reach that point.