I am a cinematographer/director who's worked on movies ranging from Inception to The Dark Knight Rises. My latest film (which I directed) is Transcendence, which opens this upcoming Friday 4/18 in theaters. You can view the trailer here.

Ask me anything.


Gotta go, but thank you for your fantastic questions and for tuning in. Go out and see Transcendence this weekend, and I'll serve you all Hot Pockets and tacos!

Comments: 357 • Responses: 60  • Date: 

scotchsodabread43 karma

Is the P silent?

WallyPfister69 karma

Yes, the P is silent. THANK YOU FOR ASKING.

mgillan29 karma

What shot across your filmography are you most proud of?

WallyPfister50 karma

Well, I've shot many thousands of shots in many, many films, but I do really enjoy the wonderful field of lightbulbs that production designer Nathan Crowley created in The Prestige.

Sacco42528 karma

Mr. Pfister, What made you decide to not be your own cinematographer on Transcendence? Was it difficult giving someone else control over the DP duties? What made you decide to choose Jess Hall?

Also, when you and Mr. Nolan get offered to do a Bond film, please do it.

WallyPfister26 karma

A director has far too many responsibilities to be concerning himself with any specific technical duty. I found Jess Hall to have a wonderful visual aesthetic and grasp of the story. That's what led me to hiring him.

graycrawford24 karma

Hi Mr. Pfister:

When cinema was in its embryonic stages, films were more like glorified stage plays, with the camera merely filming the stage solely from one angle. It took a leap of imagination/technology/etc. to develop camera movement, which skyrocketed the narrative and aesthetic depth of film.

Where do you see the art of cinematography evolving from its current form? What do you think should be avoided?

WallyPfister32 karma

I think filmmakers will continue to find new ways to move the camera and new places to put it based on the narrative. I think we should try to avoid gimmicks in camera movement and composition that distract more than they serve the story.

Vic007tor16 karma

Where can I find the bucket of t stops?

WallyPfister18 karma

The bucket of t stops can be found on the camera truck... of course.

noonathon15 karma

Hi Wally, now that you've made your way into directing, will you be focusing more on directing or cinematography? Also can I come and visit some time next year when I go to Canada? -Nick's friend Ed :)

WallyPfister16 karma

Hi Ed, yes, you're welcome at our home any time. I'm going to shift my focus towards directing right now.

Kknowsbest14 karma

What is the best advice ever given to you?

WallyPfister40 karma

Treat the crew members around you with respect.

FoxHillMassacre11 karma

Hey Mr. Pfister,

Huge fan of your work, it would mean a lot if you'd take the time to answer my question... I recently signed on to direct my first feature film, which I will also be DOPing. This is how I've worked in the past and with my usual crew it is how I am most comfortable. Given that you've now done both jobs, what advice would you give to someone in my position?

Thanks a lot, looking forward to Transcendence.

WallyPfister16 karma

First of all, congratulations on your first film. It will be an exciting journey for you. Secondly, if you're certain you want to act as DOP on your own film, I highly recommend hiring a great gaffer, key grip, focus puller and ideally camera operator so that you can keep some focus on all the other responsibilities a director has.

gilberto67728111 karma

How did you feel about the film? What makes it special? Any special techniques or advice for directing? And what is your favorite food? And thanks for the movie. Gonna go see it asap. Take it easy!

WallyPfister16 karma

I think what makes Transcendence interesting is the timely subject matter of the material. Techniques or advice for directing? That's a longer conversation! I like seafood.

musictunesme10 karma

Dear Wally! I dared to compose my version of sound explication of emotions, shown last trailer #Transcendence, in spite of everything. I tried to make it as natural and this music does not contain special effects. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qtzAj7qCOIE

Thank U very much for listening!

And my question is: how to become a composer for your movie?

Eileen from Kiev, Ukraine - http://musictunes.me/cvalinarkazarian.pdf

WallyPfister6 karma

Wow, that's really beautiful. Well done.

drixenol889 karma

Why Johnny Depp?

WallyPfister14 karma

Johnny Depp is not only an extraordinary actor and artist, but he also happens to be a really genuine and kind human being, and those characteristics were essential in the creation of the character of Will Caster.

minimac939 karma

Hello Wally, I just wanted to say your work on Inception is truly entrancing. The hallway scene is amazing and the use of slow motion with the van, the bathtub, and other scenes is awe-inducing.

My question for you is this: I know you and Chris Nolan are big fans of IMAX and film as a whole. Do you feel that using film will become unfeasible at any point in the near future, or will stalwarts like yourselves keep the format alive?

WallyPfister12 karma

I will certainly try to keep shooting film as long as it's practical. But I have to admit that it's getting more and more difficult to do as labs are closing, and vendors are having a hard time profiting with film and film cameras.

Gren0s8 karma

What is some advice you would give to an aspiring cinematographer?

WallyPfister35 karma

Shoot AS MUCH as you can. Pick up a camera WHENEVER you can. Start to look at things through the eye of a camera AS MUCH as possible.

Such_A_Nice_Guy7 karma

Moneyball is one of my favorite movies of the past 5 years, and as a big baseball fan I’m happy you could bring some prestige to the baseball film genre. People don’t really discuss it but Moneyball has a real understated beauty to it. Was it challenging to work on a film with topics some might call commonplace or boring (sports and mathematics) and make it look as visually gorgeous as it did?

WallyPfister5 karma

I really enjoyed working on Moneyball and the vision that Bennett Miller had for the film. What was inspiring to me and kept the photography from being boring was the magic that was in the story and the surreal conclusion of the film.

JendoShabo7 karma

Hi Mr. Pfister,

Just wanted to say that you're one of the reasons I became a filmmaker. Your work has been a huge inspiration to me and I appreciate all the effort you put into your movies.

Is there a specific genre besides sci-fi that you'd like to direct a film for?

WallyPfister9 karma

Thank you very much, I'm flattered that you say this. I'd like to find a good detective story.

enzait5 karma

What kind of jobs did you have to do until you got your first job as an DP and how long did it take you?

WallyPfister16 karma

I worked as a busboy. I painted houses. I was a news cameraman. I was a documentary cameraman and then a feature film cameraman. You do the math!


Hello, Mr. Pfister! How do you approach movies from as a cinematographer and as a director? Do you take into consideration the movie score, or is it usually the other way around? What's your process/motivation?

WallyPfister9 karma

For the movie score, I hired the amazing composer, Mychael Danna, whose credits include Moneyball and his Oscar-winning work on Life of Pi. Mychael had a great understanding of the narrative and was able to translate that beautifully into his compositions.

TodayWeFeastAsKings5 karma

No question, but i'm a pal of Nick, he throws awesome parties, that's all!

WallyPfister12 karma


greengorilla15 karma


I have a few questions:

1 – Who's your favorite cinematographer after yourself?

2 – Favorite movie you've done?

3 – Favorite movie as a kid?

4 – Do you see yourself doing more directing or cinematography after Transcendence?

You're one of my favorites in the business, thanks for doing this!

WallyPfister10 karma

1 - Gordon Willis (and, by the way, before myself!) 2 - I'm going to say Inception 3 - 2001: A Space Odyssey 4 - I'm going to focus on directing

seismicor4 karma

Is science-fiction your favourite territory? Can we expect more sci-fi movies from you?

WallyPfister14 karma

I absolutely love science-fiction, but I'm interested in any story that grabs my attention no matter what the genre.

medialicious4 karma

What was it like working with Robert Altman on Tanner '88?

Looking forward to seeing Transcendence BTW.

WallyPfister7 karma

Robert Altman was a hero of mine long before I had the opportunity to work with him. He was an extraordinary man, a bold original director and a lot of fun to be around.

Strawbalicious4 karma


Would you rather fight 1 horse-sized duck or 100 duck-sized horses?

WallyPfister16 karma

I love ducks and I have a duck so I'd much rather feed a horse size duck and watch my daughter play with it. I'm a lover, not a fighter.

JeremyDylan4 karma

Can you please talk about your philosophy behind lens selection on a project? Am I right in thinking you didn't really go beyond a 50mm on the Batman pictures?

WallyPfister6 karma

The philosophy behind lens selection depends on SO MANY elements including what's in your frame line, how close to the action or character you want to be and how narrow you want your depth of field to be. Re: Batman, we did use longer lenses but we also shot quite a bit of both films in IMAX which are a whole different series of lenses.

I_Need_To_Go_To_Bed4 karma

If you could make one book into a movie, what would you make?

WallyPfister17 karma

That's a really good question. The Devil in the White City.

BenedictCumberpatch13 karma

Are you surprised at the current critic response on Rotten Tomatoes?

WallyPfister8 karma

Despite some of the critical reception I truly hope that people who enjoy this kind of storytelling will go out to see the film and make their own judgement.

Miss_lane3 karma

Hi mr pfister , a simple question from me , what do you love about what you do ?

WallyPfister3 karma

I have a great passion for the art of filmaking. I also love watching movies and it helps drive that passion.

jwcobb133 karma

Thanks for doing this AMA! It's great to get insight from professionals in the industry.

Once the script was done, how long was the planning process that you and your producers went through before starting shooting and what was that process like?

WallyPfister3 karma

The planning process was slow on this film and probably took us close to a year to get this off the ground. But once we did, things moved along rather quickly.

sillstaw3 karma

What would be the first thing you'd do if your mind was implanted in a computer?

WallyPfister25 karma

Defragment my hard drive.

SingYouASong3 karma

Your creative eye has given inspiration to budding filmmakers in my circle. I wanted to ask how you'd approach a film like, say, Transcendence with two cameras and a $1000 budget. Do you think there are stories that are just too big to be done at entry-level filmmaking?

WallyPfister5 karma

Interesting. I think any fascinating story is worth trying whatever the budget. It may be worth finding the compromises that make the story come to life even without some of the bells and whistles afforded in a larger budget.

DarylThomasGilbert2 karma


WallyPfister3 karma

  1. I've worked with so many talented actors I honestly wouldn't know where to begin. 2. I'd love to work with Jeff Bridges. 3. 2001: A Space Odyssey, The Godfather: Part II and Apocalypse Now.

shivan212 karma

I've already seen your film and I really liked it. I think it has strong emotional line as well as a philosohical one. While making this film, were you focusing on one of these levels especially, or did you try to balance them? Haven't you as also a cinematographer been tempted to focus on a visual level more?

WallyPfister6 karma

Good question. I did try to find a balance between the two, but the emotional content is what I found the most engaging. I tried not to focus on the visuals over the story.

newbornSIRE2 karma

Your favorite cinematography? Mine would have to be night watch!

WallyPfister8 karma

The Godfather: Part II. Easy.

Vic007tor2 karma

What was your favorite experience on set during the Italian Job?

WallyPfister3 karma

A favorite experience from that film were the days we shut down Hollywood Blvd and did the gold truck drop.

2th2 karma

What is the best joke you can tell us?

WallyPfister7 karma

I'll just repeat a joke my 9 year old just told me - "why did the toilet paper roll down the hill?"

To get to the bottom.

TranscendenceX2 karma

How would you describe "Transcendence" in 3 words (inspired by PandorBlackBox)

WallyPfister16 karma

Go. See. It. :)

markymarkfro2 karma

Hey Wally, I've got a question for you

after being the director of photography for many years, how does it feel to be in the directors chair for the first time?

WallyPfister3 karma

An enormous amount of responsibility but it felt great!

sillstaw2 karma

What are some of the best-shot and worst-shot movies you've seen lately?

WallyPfister16 karma

I thought Gravity looked stunning, and I was pleased it won the Oscar for Best Cinematography. I also loved the photography in a small indie called Upstream Color.

CutterOfCookies2 karma

Hi Mr. Pfister! :)

Just wanted to ask, who are your inspirations in life?

WallyPfister3 karma

My father provided great inspiration and support.

pmarlowe782 karma

Sir I used to run a Facebook fan page for you and John Toll a couple of years back. I'm curious to know if you knew about it? I love your style! And I look forward to seeing your film in IMAX tomorrow!

WallyPfister7 karma

I was aware of the FB fan page. Thank you so much. I am honored and flattered.

Orlando_Jones2 karma

Awesome guitar in your "proof of life" pic. How long have you been playing?

WallyPfister2 karma

Thank you. I've been playing on and off since I was 12.

pestilent_bronco2 karma

Hey Wally! I met you years ago at the Dallas Film Festival's 10th anniversary screening of Memento. You brought the Inception trailer with you. I don't have a question, but wanted to thank you for hanging out in the lobby with all us film nerds for a good hour after the Q&A chatting with us and giving advice. You're an inspiring artist and a swell guy. I can't wait to see Transcendence!

WallyPfister10 karma

I remember you guys! And I'm so happy to have been able to share my time with inspired filmmakers-to-be.

FletchDoesNotLive2 karma

How'd you get approached to be the DP for Moneyball? Any other directors that you're gonna work with in the future?

WallyPfister2 karma

I had met Bennett Miller before, and he called me in for an interview. And I got the job. :)

blacklisted_by_redit2 karma

Would you please make a movie out of my novel?

WallyPfister6 karma

If you just wrote The Grapes of Wrath the answer is yes.

crockett0092 karma

What films would you consider "must-see" in terms of studying cinematography?

WallyPfister14 karma

I would say The Godfather: Part II, Apocalypse Now and The Conformist.

I_Rike_Reddit2 karma

Hi Wally, thanks for the AmA! What's it like on a movie set? Just the general feeling. Is it fun? Does it feel fake?

On a side note, do you get many jokes about your last name?

WallyPfister3 karma

We don't get to chose our last names ;-)

And movie sets are MAGICAL places.

JesusChristo4202 karma

What shoe size are you?

WallyPfister9 karma

Shoe size is 10, but I'm afraid they're very smelly.

krp314892 karma

Hi Wally,

I'm from Chicago and everyone loves to talk about how The Dark Knight was filmed here, were very proud of it so I was wondering what your favorite thing about filming in Chicago was, for both Batman Begins and The Dark Knight.

Also, did you have any local haunts you enjoyed while in town filming the two movies?

WallyPfister5 karma

Chicago is a great, great city. And it's where my mom and dad first met. We had a fantastic time particularly filming The Dark Knight there, and my favorite haunts were all of the wonderful blues bars, especially Kingston Mines.

rookie-g2 karma

Hi Mr. Pfister! Wild Horses or Hey Jude for a campground finale?

WallyPfister2 karma

First of all, tough question. Great choices. Going to have to say... Wild Horses.

dukey422 karma

Did you consider an ending for the film where Earth becomes a Grey Goo?

WallyPfister3 karma

No, most of the grey goo is still inside of my head.

Galtrand2 karma

Any more superhero trilogies we should expect? Would you consider a Green Lantern trilogy or reboot?

WallyPfister3 karma

Never say never.

tacosforeveryjuan2 karma

Hi Mr. Pfister, I was wondering, what was your inspiration for your newest film, "Transcendence". It looks Mazing and I can't wait to see it! I enjoyed your previous films and I expect to enjoy this one as well!

WallyPfister6 karma

Thank you very much. The inspiration came from a fascinating screenplay that was written by Jack Paglen. I believe his inspiration came from all the conversations regarding a singularity as well as his own relationship with his wife.

Corabal2 karma

Do you really dislike the Avengers franchise or was that crap the media made up?

WallyPfister3 karma

Let's just say the media exaggerates things to a scary level.

theArnoldFans12 karma

There's a scary theme in this film. What do you think of the future of technology? Is it advancing to the point of Skynet and Terminators?

WallyPfister3 karma

I don't know... it's hard to say. Tell me what you think.

TwizzlesMcNasty2 karma

I cannot imagine anything harder than waiting for the reactions of viewers to your work. Are you sleeping good? Do you seek out reviews or try to avoid them?

WallyPfister5 karma

These days I'm not seeking out reviews - LOL.

I'm sleeping just fine but I am eager to hear what audiences have to say.

mdeluca98022 karma

Mr. Pfister:

  1. Could you please describe some of the challenges of shooting in the IMAX format?

  2. Alien or Aliens?

WallyPfister3 karma

  1. IMAX is a FANTASTIC format to shot in but the cameras are still a bit noisy which poses the greatest challenge when recording sound.

  2. Alien.

shivan211 karma

Do you watch Revolution? Was it partly an inspiration for your film?

WallyPfister5 karma

I haven't had the chance to see Revolution. The only TV I watch is The Daily Show and Colbert Report...and House of Cards.

emmababemma31 karma

How do you feel about the movie WALL-E?

WallyPfister3 karma

I really enjoyed WALL-E and its message.

fett1011 karma

Are you a RUSH fan? Just curious. You strike me as a RUSH fan.

WallyPfister2 karma

Yes. I thought Chris Hemsworth did a wonderful job in that film ;-)

lshic1 karma

why the title transcendence? hard to pronounce.

addume it will be hard for the movie on foreign markets

WallyPfister3 karma

BTW even harder to spell (there's an S in Transcendence too). I just thought the word Transcendence had a bit of a spiritual sound to it which I found interesting as well as describing the journey of the film.