Robert Christopher Elswit, ASC (born April 22, 1950) is an American cinematographer. He has collaborated with Paul Thomas Anderson on six of his films and won the Academy Award for Best Cinematography for There Will Be Blood. Elswit has also collaborated with director and screenwriter Dan Gilroy on all three of his films.
Elswit was born in California. An early short film he worked on was the 1982 television adaptation for Ray Bradbury's short story All Summer in a Day. Elswit worked as a visual effects camera operator at John Dykstra's Apogee Productions Inc. on each films, including Star Trek: The Motion Picture, The Empire Strikes Back and E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, before shooting made-for-television films and shows. Elswit has been a fierce defender of shooting on film, and whenever possible avoids using digital cameras. Images shot digitally, he said, have "no texture, no grain." He started shooting digitally, starting with Nightcrawler. Elswit has worked with George Clooney several times. He shot his black and white, multiple-Oscar nominated film Good Night, and Good Luck. Elswit shot the film in color, and converted the film into black and white in post production. According to Elswit, the technique preserved the subtlety of the colors (as complex shades of blacks and greys) and made the overall look much richer in the final film. Elswit was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Cinematography for Good Night, and Good Luck, but lost to Dion Beebe for Memoirs of a Geisha. Elswit won the award for There Will Be Blood in 2008. Elswit has cited early independent filmmaker John Cassavetes as a major influence. Elswit is a graduate of the University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts and worked there as a teaching assistant.
CableACE Award for Direction of Photography and/or Lighting Direction for a Dramatic or Theatrical Special/Movie or Miniseries