Imago "Inspiration !" Seminar

by Eric Guichard, AFC

par Agnès Godard, Bruno Delbonnel, Eric Guichard

[English] [français]

"Inspiration !", the seminar organized by Imago, the European Federation of directors of photography, was held in Copenhagen (Denmark) from October 31 to November 2, 2008.
First, let me express my warmest thanks to the Imago team, its chairman Nigel Walters, BSC, Jan Weincke, president of the DDF, Andreas Fischer-Hansen, DDF, Paul Rene Roestad, FNF and Tina Sorensen, head to the National Film School of Denmark, who welcomed all the participants. The team organized this seminar in a seamless and, above all, friendly fashion, with a theme, entitled "Inspiration", which was far from easy to develop.

From Bruno Delbonnel, AFC, to Agnes Godard, AFC, Brian Tufano, BSC, and Cesar Charlone, ABC, as well as Slawomir Idziak, PSC, (about whom unfortunately I cannot report as I could not stay for his presentation on the last day), each speaker strove to stay on the topic, not evading this particularly difficult exercise.
Each speaker was able to speak freely for two hours, aided by a series of brilliant moderators (Herman Verschuur for Bruno Delbonnel, Rolf Haan for Agnès Godard, Nigel Brian Walters for Tufan, Louis-Philippe Capelle for Cesar Charlone, Andreas Fischer-Hansen for Slawomir Idziak).

How does one conceptualize the work of inspiration ?
If this seminar was a success, it is due to the multiplicity of approaches that each of the directors of photography expressed on the stage.
From the philosophical approach of Bruno Delbonnel to the pragmatic approach of Brian Tufano, each person seeks in the film he will make, a desire to create a "photographic space", a "look", an Anglo-Saxon term that I don’t care for, but which seems to unify and summarize in a single word this photographic search which will give a film its identity.

And if Bruno Delbonnel explores and uses philosophy, his first love, it is to better identify the vibrations elicited by a painting by Bonnard or an observation by Titarenko about architecture, or reading a musical score. From these numerous references that cross his gaze, inspiration will arise, like a sculptor seeking out a beloved sculptural form in the heart of a tree trunk.

Agnès Godard does not lack inspiration, perhaps her mentors Henri Alekan and Sacha Vierny transmitted the "inspiration" virus to her, or perhaps it is due to having seen them both at work, trying to understand what their directors, from another generation, were trying to explain to them.
With Agnes, inspiration comes from words, from the script, or a set that one visits, wondering what one is doing there. A film is like a journey that one prepares to an unknown country, one seeks to know what one will discover there, and if the filmography of Agnès Godard is inseparable from the 14 films done in collaboration with Claire Denis, one discovers with The Golden Door, the fantastic journey of a cinematographer, an investigator of a world where flesh and bodies have a rare sensuality.
For Agnes, references are a sort of "food" drawn from here and there, such as the work of Watkins on Munch or the photographs of immigrants in the new world which Emanuele Crialese showed her. Using these references, Agnès propels herself as a character into the film, she blends in with the actors, to the point that they forget her presence, she has become an invisible character, but with whom the players share a space, and from this inspiration comes a refusal to illustrate, a desire to translate a feeling, an emotion.

Chance as an engine for inspiration. Cesar Charlone tells himself that City of God was a gift from heaven, so much did the film change his life. His approach varies between pragmatism and fundamental research. He knows he is lucky because he has his tools, like the Aaton A-Minima camera, like a production company or like his computer, whose accumulation of images enriches his inspiration every day. Cesar Charlone casts a huge net to draw in his "inspiration" food. He likes to manipulate images on a DV camera or a simple cell phone camera, he will draw a vision from these digital and photochemical manipulations, which will give him the key to the film he is preparing, as in Blindness where overexposure becomes a sense of blindness and a loss of references, such as the characters in the film.
Cesar Charlone tells himself that chance allows him to go further, like the scouting done quickly before a film in a real prison, which will perhaps become the location for the film. There, he and the scouting team voluntarily blind themselves (with light-tight blindfolds) and Cesar tries to sift through the stuff of displacement, of touch, of loss of reference, clues that will perhaps enable him to find the "look", the spirit of the film.

Brian Tufano, as discreet as he is humorous, agreed with evident pragmatism that his inspiration is born from the means given him and the time allotted him. Born in the vast reservoir of talent that the BBC has created, he knows that this inspiration was magnified by his masterful collaboration with Danny Boyle.
But under the guise of pragmatism, Brian Tufano delivers us images where the characters are stripped bare, passing from one style to another with an exemplary, modern cinematography, as reflected by the images of his latest film, Adulthood, which prove, if proof were still needed, that the generational cross-breeding between older directors of photography and young directors can bring an inspiration born of savoir faire and a resolve to seek out emotion, above all else.

Funded mainly by the Danish association DDF (reproduction rights) and a partnership (Nordisk Film Post Production), with an audience of 150 participants, the seminar, beyond its exemplary success, proves the need for the AFC to give itself the means to organize, in turn, this kind of event.
And if next year Imago organizes the seminar again, I hope that many of us will participate because, as both Agnès and Bruno remarked, these kind of exchanges are also themselves a source of beautiful inspiration.

translated by Benjamin B