” “The cinematographer’s role in the creative process is to find ways to express visual ideas beyond the ordinary and everyday; to create timeless beauty and artistry with the tools and circumstances available; to listen as much as to observe, in order to interpret the story, the emotion and the vision of collaborators; and to create a working atmosphere where teamwork contributes to a common goal.” – Donald Duncan
Donald Duncan was born in New Zealand at a young age, and after an awesome year in Los Angeles, as a 17 year old AFS exchange student, decided a career in film-making would be just the ticket. Before the days of film-schools, jumping in at the deep-end was the only way to go, so at about 20 yrs old, Donny found himself shooting news film in the Prime Minister’s press conference and other exciting assignments. Following that was a series of independent documentaries including coverage of the Sarajevo Winter Olympics and an analysis of the Mt Erebus DC10 disaster. Then going backwards in order to eventually go further forwards, Donny jumped on the feature film boom of the early 80’s and became clapper loader and then 1st AC on a series of feature films. Along the way he was apprentice to some great Kiwi and Aussie DP’s and at same point he thought, “bugger this” – its time to call myself a DP and begin shooting short films and TVC’s.
After shooting a boat-load of shorts and docos, his chance to shoot his first features came along and then the mid 90’s became the “Xena years”, as originating DP. Five seasons, 77 episodes, and many early rises later, Donny decided that was enough time on one show, for one career, and it was back to the outside world. The feature film “Snakeskin” (and a few awards) followed, then a series of tele-movies for the Disney Channel, and lots of TV commercials and a few hand-picked docos along the way. Many adventures, lots of trips to faraway distant lands and the chance to work with some fabulous people. There’s also been two seasons of “Legend of the Seeker” for ABC/Disney, chasing around forests near his home in Auckland, and Splinter Unit work on the first “Chronicles of Narnia” feature and “Mister Pip”, and most recently, a gig on “Emperor” as 2nd Unit DP/Director.
I guess you couldn’t accuse Donny of specialising in any narrow field. He’s equally at home with three big trucks and a team of 20, as he is with lone camera and director on a interesting doco in some out of the way place. He’d be the first to agree, that all the genres provide skills that prove useful when making quick decisions on the spot in the pursuit of gathering excellent and extra-ordinary images.