Interview with Director of Photography & GCI Co-Founder Yuri Neyman, ASC (Instructor: Foundations of Lighting and Composition)


Foundations of Lighting and Composition

This course will cover the basics of visual aesthetics and topics such as framing, quality of light and how visual elements help to create an expressive image. The course will include elements of History of Cinematography and Photography by looking at films and images by some of the masters of the art.

Instructor: Yuri Neyman, ASC

Guest Instructors Include: Zhenya Gershman


At Global Cinematography Institute, our instructors are innovators in their respective fields. Few individuals are more qualified to discuss the artistic, technical and industry considerations of the art of cinematography, photographic composition and visual aesthetics, than GCI Co-Founder and "Foundation of Lighting and Composition" instructor Yuri Neyman, ASC.


Yuri graduated from Moscow's VGIK. He is best known as Director of Photography for the cult classic film Liquid Sky, and modern film noir D.O.A., and also for the patented invention of Gamma and Density's Co. 3cP System, creating the first ever on-set color correction workflow.


Global Cinematography Institute: Can you explain the idea behind the creation of GCI and the concept of Expanded Cinematography?


Yuri Neyman, ASC: Well cinematography is an activity, a profession, it is a very wide term and there are different kinds of cinematography existing in the world, feature film cinematography, documentary cinematography, special FX cinematography, etc. We basically start to teach so called Expanded Cinematography® which expands borders, lines of cinematography. It expands because its very inclusive, including not only traditional methods of photographing subjects, but also non-traditional computer based virtual cinematography. Expanded Cinematography is just a synthesis of many kinds of cinematography into one big subject. It is very necessary for today’s stage of development of cinema and cinematography because in many cases cinematography requires a lot of new technology and knowledge which has belonged to programmers, computer designers, but for modern cinematography - cinematographers in order to express himself or herself visually, more effectively, needs to know a lot of new disciplines when you combine them into one subject, we called it Expanded Cinematography.


What effect do you think the phenomena of the same film winning "Best Cinematography" and "Best Visual Effects" for the past five years has had on the cinematography industry?


Yuri Neyman, ASC: The last five years, at least on the level of American Academy, Oscars, just happened that films which been nominated for Best Cinematography also received Best VFX because it was a very heavily loaded VFX movie, VFX, virtual cinematography effects, virtual graphics effects, so images in those movies have been so intertwined between traditional cinematography, virtual cinematography, its just very difficult to say what part of image belongs to who. Most likely it belongs to everybody. It is not like your grandfather or father's traditional cinematography when only one person was in charge, but it's also not pure special FX because traditional cinematography elements are also involved in this, and I do believe now that people are confused and have decided to give awards to DP in category of Best Cinematography and Best Visual Effects because there is a lot of discussion in the academic community, in the cinematographers community, in the ASC about how to, if possible, to split what belongs to virtual cinematography, what belongs to traditional cinematography, how it all breaks down and the industry is becoming very complicated. So probably it’ll happen one or more times and hopefully we will find a solution to this phenomenon and how to split it.


How does cinematographers relate with the VFX or Special FX departments in general?


Yuri Neyman, ASC: Well, they relate very well, they have to work together and best case scenario, they are part of same team, but I say best case scenario because cinema is art, and artists and people have their egos and they have their positions, creative positions, technical positions. In ideal case it has to be almost everything the same and that's why we say "Expanded Cinematographer" will be a supervisor position. In most of the cases as far as I know everyone works altogether well, but again people are people, and they may have some issues, such as ego, creativity, creative activity, artistic activity and when people are involved in artistic activity sometimes conflicts are unavoidable, so with a good director who can run everything, then everything goes smooth, but so far everybody work altogether as far as I know.


Do you think Special FX and Color Grading brings new aesthetic possibilities to the Cinematographer?


Yuri Neyman, ASC: Well certainly special FX creates new kinds of images, but by definition, images create new aesthetics such as how aesthetics of traditional cinematography changed in 1977 from Star Wars. That film was probably the first major picture when aesthetics of special FX overpowered traditional aesthetics, so it was the beginning of the trend which we observing now and again with special FX. Now if traditional cinematography has inspiration - very often in traditional cinema, in classical photography, in painting, people with special FX have more of a tendency to be inspired more by video games, by pop art, graphics, it depends, but again nature of cinema is changing when film required it – big question very often, but yes special FX create new aesthetics and important part is just the aesthetics of traditional cinematography and special FX work together for one purpose, how to visualize script.


Interview conducted by recent GCI Alumnus Clara Bianchi, as part of her on-going thesis examination of the changing role of the cinematographer.