11 Cinematographers Who Became Great Directors


The examples of actors who have gone on to direct films are presumably rather widely known. You have your Afflecks, your Eastwoods, your Jolies and numerous others. Screenwriters may be somewhat less famous when they try their hands at directing their own features, but there are many of these too, such as Charlie Kaufman, Shane Black, and Paul Schrader, to name but a few.

Cinematographers seem less likely to make the jump from shooting a film to directing one, and I won’t even hazard a guess as to why this may be. Actors-turned-directors are commonplace by now, and screenwriters are always presumed to be wannabe directors in some way or another, but it seems as though cinematographers are perceived as talented eyes with little aptitude for complete storytelling. This is surely false when you think about it for a moment—the visual identity of a film is as intrinsic to the quality of the story as any other aspect, and the best cinematographers will attest to the importance of doing their jobs in service to the story they’re trying to collaboratively tell.

It ought not be all that surprising then—though it does feel like a somewhat rare instance of such—that one of the most recognized cinematographers in the industry is making his directorial debut this year. Wally Pfister has been Christopher Nolan’s right hand man for every film he’s done since Memento, until this year, when the two diverged from their usual partnership. Nolan directed Interstellar, coming out in November, and Pfister is releasing Transcendence, starring Johnny Depp and executive produced by Nolan, this coming month.

In honor of Pfister’s debut as a director, here are 10 other cinematographers who moved into the director’s chair at some point in their illustrious careers.

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