Tenacious D

Meet the New Wave / Damian Daniel

Tenacious D

Meet the New Wave / Damian Daniel

Filmography (so far):

Deadmeat (2007), The Shouting Men (2010) 2nd Unit DP, Pierrepoint (2005) 2nd Unit DP


When did you discover you wanted to be a cinematographer?

Wanting to be a cinematographer was a natural progression from working in the camera department. I don’t have a photographic or film background but developed a passion for cameras after spending time as a runner. I then went through the grades of camera trainee, clapper loader and focus puller. The desire to shoot and light became very strong so I took the leap and stopped focus pulling altogether.

Where did you train?

Entirely on-set, hands-on and learning from some very good people. I went to Panavision and ARRI (big thanks Mick Joiner and Andy Subrati), picked up film magazines and learnt how to load. I also helped crews when they came in to test cameras for features. I paid my bills by working as a chef at the same time. I traineed for a year followed by clapper loading for four years and then focus pulling for a further five.

What are your favourite films?

La Haine (1995, DP Pierre Aïm): this film absolutely blew me away when I first saw it. Dynamic cinematography, thumping soundtrack and colossal acting. Memorable scenes are the Paris balcony contra zoom, and the helicam shot from the apartment window that flies over the estate set to an Edith Piaf ‘mash up’.

Do The Right Thing (1989, DP Ernest R Dickerson): the simmering heat and tension of BedStuy, NYC was beautifully photographed by Ernest R Dickerson, and was helped along by a brilliant score.

United 93 (2006, DP Barry Ackroyd BSC): I’m a big fan of Barry Ackroyd’s work, and I thought this film was really personal. I was in Boston on 9/11 and was due to fly to New York that morning, watching that film was an emotional experience.

Pulp Fiction (1994, DP Andrzei Sekula) – Sekula’s cinematography is beautiful in this film. There is a richness in every scene that adds expertly to the genius of the directing and acting.

What’s the best advice you were ever given?

I wasn’t given this advice personally, but a few years back John Mathieson’s advice to aspiring DPs was… to shoot everything, and take every opportunity to meet and work with as many directors as possible.

Who are your industry heroes?

Ernest R Dickerson – he’s an accomplished director now, but as a cinematographer he really made Spike Lee’s films sing.Barry Ackroyd BSC – I have always loved his style, from early documentaries with Nick Broomfield right up to The Hurt Locker. Remi Adefarasin BSC – On 90% of the sets that I work on, I am the only black face. What Remi has achieved in his career serves as an inspiration.Danny Cohen BSC – I completely admire the way Danny lights and composes frames.

What’s your proudest moment so far?

Being chosen by BAFTA as one of the 42 Brits To Watch.

Tell us your best and worst moments on set?

There have been many good moments on set, but one of them was shooting a night to day timelapse over Shanghai from the roof of a 60-storey hotel, it was one of those moments that makes you feel alive.

One of the worst moments on set came after convincing the director to shoot on the RED camera. We had shot a long football sequence and then the drive crashed and we lost all the footage.

"There have been many good moments on set, but one of them was shooting a night to day timelapse over Shanghai from the roof of a 60-storey hotel, it was one of those moments that makes you feel alive."

- Damien Daniel 

Tell us your most hilarious faux pas?

I was a operating on a TV drama a few years ago, and the first scene after lunch was in a small office. It was just a two hander, but with four pages of dialogue. I had made the mistake of having bread and butter pudding for dessert. With the cosy atmosphere and the heat from the lights, I started to nod off during one of the takes. Luckily it was only the 1st AD who noticed and prodded me awake. The lesson? Avoid the bread and butter pudding!

Away from work, what are your greatest passions?

I’m a footie nut (I still turn out on a Saturday for my local team, unbeaten so far this season). I also love cooking, any excuse to get friends over for a good Sunday feed-up, and, of course, my wife and daughter.

What one piece of kit could you not live without?

My eyes.

What’s weirdest place you’ve ever shot in?

From the bucket of a crane, 200ft over Tower Bridge. That morning we experienced sunshine, snow, rain and hail stones all in the space of an hour and a half, but it was totally exhilarating.

What’s the hardest shot/thing you’ve had to light/frame?

A black tyre against a black background on the Phantom HD at 800fps

Tell us your hidden talent/party trick?

I make a mean cake.

In the entire history of filmmaking, which film would you love to have shot?

It’s A Wonderful Life (1946) – it has a completely timeless quality, and I would be proud to have shot a film that is still talked about after 65 years.

What’s your greatest extravagance?

My wife.

Give us three adjectives that best describe you and your approach to cinematography?

Open-minded. Tenacious. Humble

If you weren’t a DP, what job would you be doing now?

I would probably be a chef or baker.