“I like the camera to be moving. I’ve gone to work on a couple of shows part time, and they get a little surprised when you say, ‘let’s lay down some track’… ‘Well, we don’t usually do that.’ ‘Well, let’s lay some track today.’”
Click here to access John Bartley’s newly posted Archive of American Television Interview.
On his approach to The X-Files, John Bartley says: “They thought it was crazy to go that dark, to get things down that far. Sometimes it’s a little nail-biting and you’ve got to make sure that it’s actually there— or something’s there. Directors would look at me and say, you okay with that? They still do that today too.” John Bartley won an Emmy Award for his influential cinematography of The X-Files and also served as the DP on such series as Roswell and Lost. In his Archive interview, Bartley talks about breaking into TV in Australia and his move to Canada and the US, where he became a gaffer in TV and films. He discusses his transition from gaffer to Director of Photography, initially with the feature film Beyond the Stars, a film that he later says was among his hardest projects to light. He then speaks about his work in series television, starting with the police drama The Commish, and then The X-Files. For The X-Files, he recalls how he came to be hired, discusses the dark look to the series and his efforts to add color as it continued, and recalls working with the series leads. He recounts being hired on Lost and describes the challenges posed by the series’ location work in Hawaii; he also notes the significant use of camera movement on Lost, and speaks about the show’s production team. Other TV projects Bartley touches on include: fantasy/adventure series Early Edition, sci-fi series Roswell, and the television movie Odd Girl Out. Throughout the interview, he comments on being concerned with matching the lighting throughout a project, shooting in the 16 x 9 format but being aware of “TV safe,” and how the introduction of HD effects his work. John Bartley was interviewed in North Hollywood, CA on May 8, 2009; Stephen J. Abramson conducted the two-and-a-half hour interview.