Jack [Nicholson] really knows about the camera. He's one of the directors who likes to play with the camera. He'll change things around, play with lighting, things like that. He'll even spend hours on the set-up for an insert shot. He's an interested person who gets involved in all the aspects of the films he is making.
It's all about special effects and explosions now. It leaves me just cold when I walk out of the theater. There's no heart; there's no soul. Movies used to be about people. It's as though we don't tell stories any more. The studios have to make money, and if you want to make $20 million, you have to spend $200 million.
If you need to strap a camera to you or get in a small space, then it makes sense to use digital.I do think it is possible to use a digital camera artistically, but it can only be good if you are using film technique. Film has grain, and digital has pixels, and there is not that much of a difference, but digital does not replace the need to create a scene and light it properly and spend time considering the shot.
I encourage film students who are interested in cinematography to study sculpture, paintings, music, writing and other arts. Filmmaking consists of all the arts combined. Students are always asking me for advice, and I tell them that they have to be enthusiastic, because it's hard work. The only way to enjoy it is to be totally immersed. If you don't get involved on that level, it could be a very miserable job. I only have one regret about my career: I'm sorry that we are not making silent movies any more. That is the purest art form I can imagine.
Using film was so much easier than the digital technology of today. But digital is still at the beginning of what it can be and they'll be fixing all those problems. It's just too complicated - negatives, tinting, flashing - it's a whole new system that takes a lot of time. Of course, it's not as physical. Even the editing. You used to feed a piece of celluloid into an editor. [Digital] is not expensive and that is an advantage, but I must say that I don't love it.
I love the Dutch impressionists - Vermeer, Rembrandt. What they were able to do with light was astonishing. As for photographers, I think mostly of the Hungarians: Robert Capa, Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, Jozsef Pesci. In fact, I have one of his photographs hanging in my house.
We used hand-held cameras 50 years ago. It wasn't something new. Sometimes we used a tripod, or we'd have a tracking shot, and sometimes - like when a character was being chased - we used a hand-held camera because it was right for the scene. In those cases, it helped the mood; it created immediacy and a feeling for the viewer that they were in the scene and in the moment.
I think all cinematographers, at least most of them, would love to do everything on location because you cannot cheat on location. It's there, it's part of the story usually. You have to deal with the elements. You have the sunshine, you have rain, you have fog - it really makes you work harder to try to match things during the day to make it look like it was shot within five minutes, movie time.