Saturday, September 23, 2023 Sep 23, 2023
87° F Dallas, TX

Roger and James Deakins Show Dallas Filmmakers That Story Is Still King

Academy-award winning cinematographer Roger Deakins and his wife and collaborator, James, spent several days celebrating cinema in Dallas.
By Austin Zook |
Academy Award winner Roger Deakins with his wife and collaborator, James, during a June trip to the Texas Theatre. Zack Huggins

Roger Deakins, the Academy Award-winning cinematographer, and his wife and collaborator, James, spent four days earlier this month touring Dallas and speaking with local filmmakers and cinephiles about their filmography, their partnership, and the art of filmmaking.

Their visit was prompted by Andrew Vela, a project specialist with the Dallas Film Commission and a longtime fan of the Deakins’ work. He knew that the pair were attending book signings to promote Byways, a collection of Roger Deakins’s still photography, and thought it would be worthwhile to host them in Dallas.

Vela had the support of Tony Armer, Dallas’s new film commissioner, and the two coordinated planning with the Deakinses, the Texas Theatre, SMU, and Women in Film.

Team Deakins, as the pair refer to themselves, have worked alongside lauded directors throughout their careers, including Joel and Ethan Coen, Denis Villeneuve, and Sam Mendes. Roger Deakins has been nominated for the Academy Award for Best Cinematography 16 times and won twice, for Blade Runner 2049 and 1917.

While Roger is well known as the man behind the camera, his wife, James, is a key collaborator for him. “I sit with Roger and we go through what he wants to do and how he wants to shoot it…and then he likes to just focus on doing it,” says James. “I like to talk to people, so I’m the contact with…production, visual effects, the prop people…and then when we actually shoot I set up the digital workflow, how it’s going to the lab, and I look at the dailies, and I’m his eyes behind him.”

Roger and James began their Dallas visit with a book signing for Byways at the Texas Theatre on June 8. Afterwards, they introduced a screening of The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. They then returned to the theater on Sunday to introduce Blade Runner 2049 and participated in an extensive audience Q&A afterwards.

“Roger Deakins is…the gold standard of cinematography,” says the Texas Theatre’s Ashton Campbell. “It was…pretty surreal to host [somebody] who is [at the] top of the list of their craft.” Campbell curated the films that screened at the Texas to coincide with Team Deakins’ visit, which also included Sicario and No Country for Old Men.

Roger and James say they look forward to engaging with fans and audiences the way they were able to at the Texas Theatre and around Dallas.

“Roger and I both…feel that we’ve been very lucky in life and we both feel the desire to give back,” says James. “And that’s the way that we do it…we talk to people and we answer the questions and we try and convince them to hang in there, because it’s a tough business.”

The podcast and what we’ve done on the website over the years is slightly trying to demystify the business,” says Roger. “When I started out…a career in film was, like, ridiculous. Might as well say you were going to go to the moon or Mars… You want to open up the possibilities for people, and you want them to feel that…if you put your mind to it, you can do anything.”

That Friday, Team Deakins met with aspiring and practicing filmmakers in Dallas. First, the pair participated in a discussion at SMU. 

Afterward, they attended a luncheon with members of Women in Film Dallas. 

Gail Cronauer, Women in Film Dallas’ vice president, says that events like the Deakins’ visit “…not only introduce Dallas to the world, but the world to Dallas. There are hundreds of women working in the media production industries in North Texas, which is unknown to many. The Deakins’ request to meet with Women in Film Dallas was a much appreciated, a thrilling, acknowledgement of who we are and what we do.”

While Roger and James Deakins take pleasure in engaging with students, aspiring filmmakers, and groups like Women in Film Dallas between projects, the thing that draws them to a film hasn’t changed: telling a story.

“You want a script that’s…going to move you in some way, challenge you,” says Roger.

James adds, “It’s a long time period to be on a movie, so if you don’t care about what you’re trying to express…it’s going to be a really long movie.”

“[I] just love the process,” says Roger. “I just love the collaboration. And I love the challenge of visualizing a story. I mean, I just love it… I’m lucky that I can go out with my stills camera and…get satisfaction doing that, but yeah—filmmaking is something very special.”


Austin Zook

Austin Zook

Related Articles


COVID-19 Bulletin (12/02/21)

The omicron variant has arrived in the U.S. as Biden's COVID-19 vaccine mandate for healthcare workers is blocked by a federal judge.

What I’m Watching: Dallas Mavericks Basketball

Plus: FC Dallas in the playoffs and Dak Prescott's long-awaited return.

What I’m Watching: Dallas Cowboys Playoff Football

Plus a big Southwest matchup and the start of the Wings' offseason