Stepping Up to Film

I count myself fortunate to have one of Germany's top cinematographers, Charly Steinberger, as a friend. He's served as director of photography on scores of movies and TV shows. His films have won numerous prestigious awards, including German Film Award ? Best Cinematographer, Venice Film Festival ? Best Film, and the New York Critics Award ? Best Film.

Charly Steinberger, cinematographer.


Steinberger has worked with some of Europe's most famous actors: David Niven, Roger Moore, Kim Novak, Gina Lollobrigida, Sophia Loren and, topping his personal list, Marlene Dietrich. Few readers of this book will have the opportunity to work at this top end of the film production scale, but I think everyone can take Steinberger's advice to the bank.

Charly Steinberger's Tips For Prospective Filmmakers

Steinberger's guidance comes from the perspective of a filmmaker who has seen absolutely everything. He has a pragmatic view. Here are his filmmaking tips:

  • The most important component of a film is a good script. Unfortunately that happens only rarely.

  • Next in importance is a solid budget.

  • A good production team can make or break a film. Topping the list is the director and the cinematographer, followed by the set designer, costume designer, makeup artist, lighting specialist, grip, and editor. Overseeing it all should be a producer with a reputation for spending money wisely. Too many producers try to cut corners and save money by hiring less experienced (that is, cheaper) crewmembers.

  • The photographer's primary responsibility is to use the camera to tell the story well. Too many cinematographers get lost attempting to create brilliant and grand images.

  • A point that often gets neglected is the critical search for and selection of locations?be they cafes, apartments, or offices?to help give characters their correct motivation. The right settings bring life and depth to your characters.

  • In the post-production world there is no longer any difference between film and video. Both now use nonlinear digital editors.

  • I still work with film instead of video because film has higher resolution, truer colors, more accurate reproduction, more brilliance, and solid contrasts. That said, it won't be long before video will equal film in quality.

    Part II: Enhancing Your Video