(written from a Production point of view)
Robert Christopher Elswit (born 22 April 1950; age 69) is an Academy Award-winning cinematographer who, very early in his career, was a visual effects photography on Star Trek: The Motion Picture as a member of Apogee, Inc..
He attended the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), the University of Southern California, and the American Film Institute, graduating from the latter in 1977. After Star Trek, Elswit left Apogee and joined Industrial Light & Magic as an effects camera operator. During his time at ILM, he photographed effects for Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Poltergeist, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial and Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi.
Elswit ultimately became a full-fledged cinematographer. Some of his early cinematography credits include Rob Reiner's The Sure Thing, Neil Israel's Moving Violations (featuring Sally Kellerman), and Donna Deitch's Desert Hearts (starring Denise Crosby) – all released in 1985. The following year, he received a Daytime Emmy Award for the CBS Schoolbreak Special entitled The War Between the Classes.
For director Curtis Hanson, Elswit photographed the 1986 TV movie The Children of Times Square (starring Joanna Cassidy) and the films Bad Influence, The Hand That Rocks the Cradle (starring Matt McCoy and John de Lancie) and The River Wild (featuring William Lucking and Glenn Morshower). In addition, he photographed three projects starring Virginia Madsen and directed by Martin Davidson: the 1987 TV movie Long Gone, the 1989 film Heart of Dixie (also featuring Barbara Babcock, Kurtwood Smith, and Tom Wright), and 1992's A Murderous Affair: The Carolyn Warmus Story (co-starring Chris Sarandon, Bruce Gray, Lenore Kasdorf, and Star Trek: Voyager's Robert Picardo).
In 1995, Elswit lensed the independent thriller Hard Eight (aka Sydney) for director Paul Thomas Anderson. Elswit's work in this film ultimately earned him a nomination from the Independent Spirit Awards for Best Cinematography. Elswit later worked with Anderson on several more films, including Boogie Nights, Magnolia and Punch-Drunk Love.
Elswit's other credits include: the eighteenth James Bond film, Tomorrow Never Dies (starring Teri Hatcher); the Joel Schumacher thriller 8MM; David Mamet's Heist; the infamous Gigli; and the 2003 drama Runaway Jury, which features the likes of Bruce Davison, Bruce McGill, and Leland Orser. He also photographed the acclaimed 2005 drama Syriana, whose cast includes Alexander Siddig, Christopher Plummer, and Robert Foxworth.
In 2005, Elswit reunited with Syriana star George Clooney to shoot the historical drama Good Night, and Good Luck., which Clooney also directed. Elswit's work on this film earned him numerous accolades, including an Academy Award nomination. He also won Best Cinematography prizes from the Independent Spirit Awards, the Boston Society of Film Critics, and the Los Angeles Film Critics Association.
Elswit again re-teamed with Clooney for 2007's Michael Clayton, while Elswit's cinematography on the film There Will Be Blood has earned him a second Academy Award nomination and his first win.More recent films include David Mamet's Redbelt and Tony Gilroy's Duplicity.