Celebrated English cinematographer Guy Pooles says, "It is the job of the cinematographer to tell the story visually. I collaborate with the director to devise and build a visual language that ties into their vision for the film, then I move forward and manage the Lighting, Grip and Camera departments to ensure that every creative and logistical choice made is in keeping with the execution of that vision. It is my job to hone each visual element, be it lighting, color or composition, to a place where it complements and elevates the drama of the narrative."
Pooles discovered his desire to work in film in his youth, but it wasn't until several years ago, while attending Royal Holloway, University of London, that he realized cinematography was his true calling. Though incredibly demanding, Pooles sees cinematography as an avenue for endless exploration into the way images transcend verbal language.
"In a way, the emotive power of cinematography is an infinite mystery. I’m not entirely sure why a certain lens on a certain camera in a certain place can make me feel safe and comforted, or why a particular quality of light raking across a wall can fill me with sadness, all I know is that they do. There’s a humanity encoded within imagery that transcends language or definition, and the exploration of this is forever surprising and enjoyable," he explains. "It is an unquenchable curiosity that draws me towards cinematography."
Pooles has fulfilled his dream of working internationally as a professional cinematographer, and he has been honored with numerous awards for his work, including the American Society of Cinematographers’ Linwood Dunn Heritage Award, which he received last year for his work as cinematographer on the film Dirty Laundry. Over the years, Pooles has amassed an a impressive repertoire of work as a cinematographer, including films like Wake, Happenstance, What Must Be Done, You're a Little Late, Martha, and a documentary entitled Best of The Pacific Northwest.
One of Pooles' most recent projects as a cinematographer is the film Open 24 Hours, a dark comedy directed by Henry Chaisson. According to Pooles, "Our goal for the film was to take an utterly mundane setting --a secluded, small town, gas station-- and construct a visual language for the film to suggest that a sinister and unusual energy existed beneath the surface of this seemingly-harmless world."
After testing several lens systems to achieve the aesthetic goal, Pooles and his team selected Cineovision Anamorphic Lenses from Old School Cameras, as well as a RED Epic Dragon camera body with a 6K sensor. Pooles explains, "For me, the joy of the Cineovision lenses was that they possessed all of the visual characteristics of an anamorphic lens that I enjoy -- softness, flaring and fogging, slight breathing/distortion -- but with a subtlety that allowed the lenses to still be easy to work with on set."
A testament to the film's powerful imagery and the quirky story it portrays, Open 24 Hours was recently chosen as an Official Selection of the 2015 Hollywood Reel Independent Film Festival where it will screen in February. Guy Pooles’s work has demonstrated that he has the kind of adaptable creative vision that can endure the test of time, and film is not his only area of expertise.
Last year Pooles was asked to work as both director and cinematographer for Bryarly Bishop’s music video for the song "In the Bright Daylight." The indie musician's budget for the video paled in comparison to Pooles' recent projects, but because he loves a good challenge, he brainstormed until he devised a concept that would fit both the song and the musician's budget. Pooles says, "The key to keeping the budget so low was the utilization of natural light."
Pooles turned to the Sony a7S using a native ISO of 3200 and a S-Log 2 curve, which he says possesses incredible latitude and very high sensitivity, making a large and expensive lighting package unnecessary. "I needed only to utilize the overcast ambient daylight coming through the window of the location as my key light, and then shape it to my desired look with plenty of negative fill," he explains. "For a low-budget music video such as this, the minimalist approach worked perfectly, allowing the shoot to be not just cheap, but also fast."
Looking to the future, Pooles is slated to travel to China later this year where he will work as the cinematographer on an upcoming film. He says, "My wish is to keep moving forward and to try new things. I think the mark of a good cinematographer is the ability to move from genre to genre and from medium to medium whilst leaving their own personal style at the door."