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DoP’s ‘defining moment of a generation’

by Pip Bulbeck

Greig Fraser, director of photography

LAST FIVE INTERNATIONAL CREDITS: Rogue One: A Star Wars Story; Lion; Foxcatcher; The Gambler; Zero Dark Thirty.

DESCRIBE YOUR JOB: I’m a man with a camera who tries to find the careful balance between the technical and the creative. The camera is the conduit for film and there are so many variables to getting the actors’ performance on the screen. I need to run the gamut of being up-to-date technically, know about all the latest cameras, lighting, accessories and equipment as well as understanding the drama and story of the film. That drama and story trumps all other things. I have to put together the most considered balance of all those elements.

TELL US ABOUT SOME OF THE MORE MEMORABLE PROJECTS YOU’VE BEEN INVOLVED IN: There’s no real one memorable project or moment. I’ve been very fortunate to work with some of the finest creatives in the business and having that opportunity is highlight number one. Highlight number two is the travel. Coming from an island we want to explore and conquer; what humans have wanted to do for millennia.

Being able to do that for a job is incredible. Another highlight is getting to work with the people I’ve worked with and some of the prep on Zero Dark Thirty. Being able to tap into the influential people close to that was walking through a defining moment of a generation. While prepping Rogue One, I got to go through the Star Wars archives and play with the props that I saw in the movies when I was five.

MOST CHALLENGING REQUEST ON AN INTERNATIONAL FILM SHOOT: Every day you get thrown a curve ball. That’s the challenge. With cinematography no one day is the same as the next. Sure you get some similar elements; like how to get exposure in very little light or using a night vision system. Films like Foxcatcher have their own peculiarities: a three-month shoot that encompasses five years and changes of seasons. Sometimes you find the challenge is locking into the director’s vision.

CRAZIEST MOMENT ON SET: Non-disclosure agreements preclude me from revealing… but there have been [many]!

FAVOURITE ACTIVITY IN AUSTRALIA: Visiting family as I’ve lived in Los Angeles for six years now.

FAVOURITE PART OF AUSTRALIA: I worked as second unit director of photography for Mandy Walker on Australia. Kununurra (north Western Australia) and the landscape around there is the most spectacular place on earth. I love the outback. I love (hometown) Melbourne. I loved shooting there for Lion and seeing my old crews and people I’ve known for 20 years. Living and working in Fitzroy was fantastic. And I love the beaches of Sydney, so Bondi, and Fitzroy would be my picks.

WHEN I’M NOT WORKING I… What I have developed is an appreciation for family. I love playing dad. And I support my wife in her rug-exporting business. I’m trying to give back to her as much as I can.


I’D LOVE TO HAVE WORKED WITH… Stanley Kubrik and to have witnessed the inner workings of his brain. And I’m a huge fan of 70s filmmaking; it was so pure. I’m very lucky in that I had the chance to work with a lot of my film heroes: Wim Wenders emailed me to ask to work with him on a commercial; Jane Campion is an amazing director I worked with on Bright Star. What DoP wouldn’t jump at the chance to work with directors like that?

I KNEW I WANTED TO WORK IN FILM AND TELEVISION WHEN… I trained as a stills photographer and started working at production company, Exit Films, in Melbourne; I saw the collaborative nature of film and how the film team riffed ideas off each other. I thought, “What could be better?” It was a natural progression for me as photography was too insular and individual.

WHAT IS YOUR WORK MOTTO OR PHILOSOPHY? I have no real “motto,” it’s more of a holistic thing: approach every project with its own voice and don’t repeat yourself. Mix it up to keep it interesting.

Article originally published as part of Ausfilm’s Wizards of Oz campaign. Read it here.