#43 Tips From A Director of Cinematography

04 May 2021 - 11:57 BY Louw
Tips From A Director of Cinematography 


I have observed many cinematographers go about their craft. Each one is more specialised in one aspect of their craft than the other. You can see them thrive when they are about to shoot a long take, a loose handheld, a long tracking shot or to have to light an intensely emotional scene perfectly. 


The importance of the crew members is most undervalued. The actors and directors tend to get the most attention, but nothing will be possible without any other departments. Like building a house, you need many pieces to be put together before seeing the end product, a solid house. 


You need an architect to draw up the blueprint; the genesis, the beginning, the thing that you will have nothing without it. A screenwriter to provide a script. That is your blueprint. Then you need the funds. Get a producer. Then the core team members; plumber, builder, electrician etc. The director, the art director, the sound operator, the make-up and wardrobe departments. Then you brainstorm the process and each one discusses their part and vision. Then it would be best if you had the building materials; actors, extras, props, costumes etc. Yes, I just compared you to a brick, but without it, all those other cool cats won’t be able to do their job anyway, so you can still feel quite important ;) Then when everything is prepared and ready and the date is confirmed – you start building this beautiful house. 


Every single person involved is important. Especially if you are going to build a house with a very clear and specific blueprint to follow. In film, the DOP (director of cinematography) is the person who needs to capture each process at work, almost like the cement, keeping everything in its exact place so that you can have a clear and beautiful house to look at when it’s done. 


There is a cinematographer I have worked with who is specialised in almost every single aspect of his craft. I’m playing it safe to say “in almost”, but I’m pretty sure he is specialised in all the aspects of his craft. The cinematographer I’m talking about is, Jorrie van der Walt. He has been DOP for projects like, Klein Karoo, Born To Win, Mooirivier, Bypass, Waterfront (TV series), Die Boekklub (TV series), Fynskrif (TV series), Dwaalster (TV series), Die Spreeus (TV series), Ekstra Medium (TV series) and more. 


I asked Jorrie, if he could share any advice with any young up and coming cinematographer, what would that advice be? This is what he said: 


Tool to try


Always be on time, at least 30min before the call. This will give you time to greet everyone and settle into the day.
You do not need to apologise if you feel your performance was bad. Your performance is between you and the director. The rest of the crew focus on their responsibilities and will mostly not be moved by your performance.
Trust the experts around you. Everyone is appointed for a reason and has a direct impact on the production.

Responsibility and reliability, confidence and trust. If you know Jorrie, he preaches what he lives. He lives a professional life like this and he’s one of the most talented DOP’s out there. 


If you know anyone interested in cinematography, share this piece of advice with them. Someday they might be Jorrie’s focus puller on a film and share the impact his advice had on their career. 


The biggest challenge of any cinematographer is making the imagery fit together of a piece: that the whole film has a unity to it, and actually, that a shot doesn’t stand out.

Roger Deakins 



How did you find the technique/tool/advice? Did it work for you? What was different this time? Share with the tribe and let’s keep on creating beautiful, honest and memorable performances. Let’s execute our best selves! 

Kind regards 
Edwin van der Walt 

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