Although Wally Pfister’s journey as a cinematographer was thrilling (he was part of films such as The Italian Job (2003), Inception (2010), Moneyball (2011) and the Batman trilogy), he yearned for a greater challenge — film direction — especially after he bagged an Academy Award for Inception. Here, Pfister draws parallels between his children and director Christopher Nolan, shares how chasing success does not really help, and more.
From being a news channel’s cameraman to becoming an Academy Award-winning cinematographer, and eventually turning a film director, you have tried your hand at various things. Was every step of your career planned?
Yes, sort of. Basically, I found that I had done everything I wanted to do as a cinematographer, and was looking to reach new goals. I had developed a passion for story-telling and wanted to try something new. So my decision to move to something new was planned over the past few years.
You prefer cameras that use film stocks over digital cameras. And Transcendence (2014) also questions the preference for technology beyond a point. Is this why you chose it for your directorial debut?
Yes, I got attracted to the script, as it was a cautionary tale about technology. I think it was important to say technology is only as good as the people controlling it.
Reportedly, you prefer being a director. What makes it more interesting?
After spending many years on the visual side, direction helped me portray the human side of things. I find watching and guiding actors through their words and actions, and creating something, interesting. It was a greater personal challenge and something fresh.
Now that you’ve become a director, will you team up with Christopher Nolan as a cinematographer?
Probably not… we have chosen our separate ways. He has a fantastic cinematographer, who is working with him. I have stopped shooting films for directors, and I’m working on my own projects. I will probably not go back.
You’ve also worked with stalwarts like Morgan Freeman (actor-director) and Johnny Depp (actor) in Transcendence, which makes its Indian television premiere on Sunday (July 26) on Sony PIX.
I was fortunate to have actors of that calibre in my first directorial project; they were incredibly supportive and collaborative. I was lucky to find a good story, and then find the ideas and involvement of such people.
Do you miss the times when you and Nolan worked together?
I’m always nostalgic about those days. It’s been an enormous part of my career. But once something occurs in your life and you move on, then you don’t look back. You just keep going; you appreciate it as part of your history and background. Once your kids grow up, there’s nothing you can do to make them little again (laughs).
After you bagged an Academy Award for Inception (2010), did things change for you?
The award definitely made a difference to my credentials. Such honours help create a level of respect for your body of work. Personally, you say to yourself, ‘Okay, what now? Where do you go from here?’ You continue to challenge yourself.