"Work really hard and don’t be a dick" says 'Elvis' cinematographer

Elvis biopic
Mandy Walker won the Australian Academy's Best Cinematography Award for her work on 'Elvis' (Image credit: Warner Bros Pictures)

"Work really hard and don’t be a dick." That's the best advice that Mandy Walker, the renowned cinematographer known for her work on films like Mulan and Australia, has ever received. 

There was another piece of slightly more technical advice, too. But even for an award-winning director of photography – who made history by becoming the first woman ever to win the Best Cinematography Award from the Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts – at the end of the day it all comes down to work ethic and building relationships. 

Walker received the award for her work on the 2022 Elvis biopic, directed by Moulin Rouge maestro Baz Luhrmann. The picture was also recognized by the American Society of Cinematographers, which nominated her for a Theatrical Feature Film award nomination.

"I am very honored to receive these awards and nominations," she said in a recent conversation with Panavision . "Hopefully it opens the door for many other female cinematographers to follow."

Panavision not only provided lenses for the Elvis production, but also created a specially made T Series Elvis Anamorphic lens – which, unlike overly pristine modern lenses, produced the kind of vintage flare and aberration that was characteristic of lenses from the Seventies, to depict the second half of Elvis Presley's life. 

(Image credit: Panavision)

When asked about the best advice she had ever received, Walker cited words of wisdom from a pair of phenomenal cinematographers. "Two things: John Seale [Mad Max: Fury Road, The English Patient] said to me, 'Day exteriors are the hardest lighting situation,' and Russell Boyd [Master and Commander, Gallipoli] said, 'The best advice I can give you is to work really hard and don’t be a dick.'"

Make sure to check out the full conversation with Mandy Walker over at the Panavision website. Elvis is now streaming on HBO Max and is available to watch on Prime Video

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James Artaius

The editor of Digital Camera World, James has 21 years experience as a journalist and started working in the photographic industry in 2014 (as an assistant to Damian McGillicuddy, who succeeded David Bailey as Principal Photographer for Olympus). In this time he shot for clients like Aston Martin Racing, Elinchrom and L'Oréal, in addition to shooting campaigns and product testing for Olympus, and providing training for professionals. This has led him to being a go-to expert for camera and lens reviews, photo and lighting tutorials, as well as industry news, rumors and analysis for publications like Digital Camera MagazinePhotoPlus: The Canon MagazineN-Photo: The Nikon MagazineDigital Photographer and Professional Imagemaker, as well as hosting workshops and talks at The Photography Show. He also serves as a judge for the Red Bull Illume Photo Contest. An Olympus and Canon shooter, he has a wealth of knowledge on cameras of all makes – and a fondness for vintage lenses and instant cameras.