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Director of Photography

"Debbie's a choreographer. So she makes the camera do a lot of things that you don't expect a director to do."

The Director of Photography

Interview  |  Bio

The cinematographer, or director of photography (the DP) is the most important creative force on most movie sets, apart from the director and the actors. There are famous cases in which the visual dimension of a movie, the lighting and the framing and the camera movement, were created almost entirely by the DP, while the director concentrated on the actors and their performances. A great DP, like any creative photographer, is much more than a technician: He must certainly possess an exhaustive knowledge of cameras, lights, cranes, lenses, and other equipment. But he must also understand such intangibles as the psychological needs of actors, the subtleties of physiognomy, the nuances of a screenplay that may be affected by photographic choices, tricks of color and shadow, and the geometry of blocking. And because the best films have a consistent visual style that is carefully worked out in advance, the DP, like the production designer, is normally involved from the very earliest stages of pre-production.


"Debbie [Allen] approaches things with passion and intuition rather than an academic kind of approach. She says, 'Johnny I like the look of this, I like the way this feels.' In our pre-production she showed me a couple of pictures that she liked and images from various films, and we decided on a look for the picture."

Read more of the In-Depth Interview with The Old Settler director of photography, John Simmons here.


John Simmons' experience encompasses feature and television films, commercials, documentaries and music videos. His film credits include Attikka and The Ruby Bridges Story (both directed by Euzhan Palcy), Asunder and Once Upon a Time When We Were Colored (both directed by Tim Reid), and Selma Lord Selma (Charles Burnett).

Mr. Simmons' documentary projects include Emmy Award-winning I Remember Beal Street and The Day After Child Abuse, as well as History of Rock and Roll and History of African American Comedy. He has worked abroad on Jerry Lewis Boy in Paris, and on African-American Comedy for The Left Bank Show in London. His music video credits include Stevie Wonder, Ice Cube, Mark Anthony, L.L Cool J., Dr. Dre, Snoop Doggy Dog, Fishbone, and many more.

Mr. Simmons has DP'd for commercials such as Diet Coke with En Vogue (directed by Spike Lee), McDonald's McRibb, Dr. Pepper with Party of Five, NBA, NFL, and for promos & show opens for Party of Five and 90210. He has directed commercials for LeDet Perfume, the California State Lottery, and a spot for James Byrd Lynching-NAACP.

John Simmons
John Simmons

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The Gaffer

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