Analyzing Stylistic Patterning in Film to Establish the Cinematographer as a Coauthor: A Case Study of Gregg Toland

in Projections
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Abstract

Can the authorial contribution of the individual cinematographer to classical, narrative-based film be identified and attributed? This article addresses this specific question, but the specific case of the cinematographer must acknowledge the wider debates about film authorship. The article examines contemporary attitudes to coauthorship in film, highlighting the fact that, in terms of cinematography, most commentators still defer to directors when discussing the creation of meaning within images. While examining the works of Gregg Toland and William Wyler, the article evaluates authorial attribution by means of a comparison between the films they made together and the films they made separately. In order to do this, the article defines a method for establishing authorship within the film image. Toland is a prime historical example of a cinematographer whose authorial contribution has been severely underestimated in the pursuit of glorifying the directors he worked with (Orson Welles, John Ford, and William Wyler).

Contributor Notes

Philip Cowan, PhD, teaches filmmaking at the University of South Wales and is a freelance cinematographer. He has shot more than fifty productions, including drama, documentary, dance/performance, and animation projects, working for the BBC and other UK broadcasters, as well as numerous independent companies. The films he has shot have collected twenty international Best Short Film awards at festivals worldwide, including two BAFTA Cymru awards. He has also taught filmmaking at various institutions in Europe, India, and Africa

Projections

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