The Cinematographer

28 Mar 2013

Author: Heather Jacobs

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The Oscar-winning Australian cinematographer Dion Beebe loves the variety of life experiences that comes with feature films. He’s currently in London shooting the science fiction film All You Need is Kill starring Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt, and before that was in Los Angeles working on the 1940s gangster movie, Gangster Squad starring Sean Penn, Emily Stone and Ryan Gosling.
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“Filmmaking is an amazing collaboration, you are working with some great talent and to see it evolve live in front of me is remarkable – it’s a gift,” he says.

Beebe, now 44, was born in Brisbane and grew up in South Africa after his family moved there when he was five.

His mother was a make-up artist and his father a keen amateur photographer so he and his four brothers grew up surrounded by movies and art.

Setting out to become a stills photographer, he switched to cinematography and returned to Australia in 1987 to study at the Australian Film Television and Radio School.

Here he met his wife, Unjoo Moon, who also produces and directs.

On graduation Beebe worked on shorts, feature films and documentaries including Crush, Praise and What I Have Written. He was then DOP on Jane Campion’s Holy Smoke and Beebe considers Campion instrumental to his success.

In 1999 Beebe and Moon moved to Los Angeles to try their luck in Hollywood.

His big break in the US market came with Chicago, directed by Rob Marshall. The musical, starring Renee Zellweger, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Richard Gere, won six Academy Awards in 2003 including Best Picture and Beebe got his first Oscar nomination for Cinematography.

“That very much changed things for me in the US,” he says.

Marshall also directed Memoirs of a Geisha, which won three Academy Awards in 2006 – including Best Cinematography, giving Beebe Hollywood’s official stamp of approval.

Beebe also won a 2004 BAFTA for Cinematography on Collateral, directed by Michael Mann.

He says Hollywood is very welcoming of Australian talent.  

“We’ve had run of great Australian cinematographers – Don McAlpine, Dean Semler, John Seale and Greig Fraser – not to mention the broad range of actors and directors,” he says. “There’s an attitude in America that Australians are going to get the job done and get it done with a good attitude.”