Harry Potter 1-5:
A Muggle Film Buff's Guide to the
Magicians Behind the Movies
By Jen Johans
In comparing and contrasting the differences in the five cinematic adaptations of
J.K. Rowling's overwhelmingly popular and universally beloved
Harry Potter series,
it's important to first explore the directors, screenwriters, cinematographers and editors who worked
on each film.  

With an emphasis on the directors, I'll investigate the background of each individual and highlight
past films and experiences that may have contributed to their artistic vision, pinpointing strengths
and weaknesses.  However, no film is made by one person so with this in mind, I will also explore
their talented and diverse collaborators.   

Along the way, feel free to check out the video clips, trailers and links to learn more.

(Most research found on IMDb except where noted)
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1)  Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (2001)

Director: Chris Columbus
Screenwriter: Steve Kloves
Cinematographer: John Seale
Editor: Richard Francis-Bruce
Trailer Note:

Trailer is complete with an
original score composed just
for the trailer
Harry Potter composer
John Williams
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Adventures in Babysitting: "Babysitting Blues" Montage
Home Alone: Kevin's in "Trouble"

When he was only a sophomore in the Film
Program at New York University, Chris
Columbus sold his first screenplay, which
inspired him to keep writing until his
fourth feature length work
Gremlins was
optioned by Steven Spielberg after
graduation. Columbus, who moved out to
Los Angeles to work on rewrites for the
legendary director in Spielberg's Universal
Studios Bungalow, created two additional
scripts for the director before getting his
own big break stepping behind the camera
on the 80's teen favorite
Adventures in
.  Starring Elisabeth Shue,
Adventures in Babysitting paved the way
for a successful Hollywood career and also
introduced audiences to what would
eventually become his recurring theme of
movies for and about intelligent,
humorous, rebellious and good-natured
young adults who must overcome
outrageous obstacles to succeed.  

Often mistaken for another mentor of his,
John Hughes, Columbus had his largest hit
of the early 1990's with
Home Alone before
moving onto more box office successes with
Home Alone's sequel, Mrs. Doubtfire and
others until he was offered the chance to
director the first
Harry Potter film when
his first boss Steven Spielberg passed on
the project.  He won over Rowling by
promising the author that not only would
he film
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's
in the United Kingdom but also use
an all-British cast and mostly British
crew.  In doing so, he returned again to his
roots of films about a young boy who, like
Kevin in
Home Alone, has to deal with
bullies, villains and eccentric,
domineering relatives such as Kevin's
Uncle Frank and brother Buzz that
fans will instantly recall while watching
Columbus' depiction of Potter's uncle Mr.
Dursley and cousin Dudley.  

Penning the screenplay was Steven Kloves
who'd made a career out of writing films
about talented males such as
The Fabulous
Baker Boys
(one of Rowling's favorite
films), a stellar adaptation for Curtis
Hanson of Michael Chabon's novel
and also with his first screenplay
Racing With the Moon, which helped
launch the careers of two wonder boy
actors Sean Penn and Nicolas Cage.  

For the first film, Columbus handpicked
talented Australian cinematographer
John Seale whose work on the boarding
school films
Children of a Lesser God and
Dead Poet's Society along with gorgeous
work on
The English Patient, The Talented
Mr. Ripley
and The Perfect Storm made him
a versatile, classical styled photographer
ideal to introducing Harry and audiences
to the world of Hogwarts School of
Witchcraft and Wizardry.  Seale's shots
were cut together by inventive Australian
editor Richard Francis-Bruce whose
filmography involves a long history of
editing tense character driven action films
such as
Dead Calm, The Shawshank
Redemption, Seven, The Rock, Air Force
One, The Green Mile
The Perfect Storm.
Jen's Film Analysis:

Exquisitely photographed and painstakingly adapted (almost
to its peril) in syncing up with Rowling's novel, Columbus'
Sorcerer's Stone is an admirable beginning but, compared to
the others, it feels a bit cold, long-winded (clocking in at 152
minutes) and in dire need of some fresh air.
2)  Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

Director: Chris Columbus
Screenwriter: Steve Kloves
Cinematographer: Roger Pratt
Editor: Peter Honess
Background & Analysis:

A superior film adaptation of an inferior
book, the series really hit its cinematic
stride with
Harry Potter and the Chamber
of Secrets

Whereas the first film seemed to recall
some of Columbus' John Hughes like
influences, in the second outing, director
Columbus pays homage to his first
mentor Steven Spielberg with the great
flying car sequence that initially appears
like an homage to the unforgettable
flying bike sequence (at right) but then
becomes far more intense as Ron and
Harry crash land into the whomping

Perhaps the greatest inclusion in the
sequel is the casting of Kenneth Branagh
as Gilderoy Lockhart, in a role initially
intended for Hugh Grant.

Providing much needed comic relief,
Branagh's pompous, incompetent
Lockhart makes the women swoon and the
men roll their eyes and he provides ample
comedic fodder in a film where the stakes
are raised greatly when an unknowing
Ginny accidentally opens the Chamber of

Kloves is back as screenwriter but some of
the other artists have been replaced.  
Later tapped to shoot
Goblet of Fire,
British cinematographer Roger Pratt
makes his series debut and although his
credits are heavy with critically lauded
period pieces such as
The End of the Affair
Chocolat, he's a master of action and
fantasy, having photographed Tim
Burton's brilliant
Batman and worked on
Twelve Monkeys, Mary Shelley's
(for director Branagh), The
Fisher King
and Troy.  Editor Peter Honess
is no stranger to cutting together pulse
pounding shots of chases, speeding cars,
and swashbuckling adventure with his
outstanding edits of
The Fast and the
Furious, L.A. Confidential
and Rob Roy--
but, as great preparation for
Harry Potter,
his softer side was also on display with the
touching, fantasy
Disney's The Kid.  

Together, all of these talents crafted a
film that far exceeds the first, however
the best of the series was yet to come.
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The Flying Bike Scene from
Music by John Williams
Gilderoy Lockhart: "Do You Want To?"
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3)  Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

Director: Alfonso Cuaron
Screenwriter: Steve Kloves
Cinematographer: Michael Seresin
Editor: Steven Weisberg
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A Little Princess: "In My Arms"
Great Expectations: A Music Video
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The Trio Discuss Alfonso Cuaron
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"When you work with kids, people
tell you to be very delicate, but
that's the last thing you should do
with kids.  They feel patronized if
you're like that.  They just want
you to be normal."
-- Alfonso Cuaron
(As Quoted on IMDb)
Background & Analysis:

Wanting to return to America to spend
time with his family, director Chris
Columbus turned over the reins to
Mexican director Alfonso Cuaron after
watching his gorgeous and magical
adaptation of
A Little Princess.  

At the time of the job offer, Cuaron had
never read the novels or seen the first two
films but he brought a dazzling and
artistic sensibility to
Harry Potter and the
Prisoner of Azkaban
that marked Cuaron
as the ideal candidate to move the
previously solely youth-oriented series
into the darker and more mature
territory that was to come.

Eager to learn and get acquainted with his
young cast, he asked the three actors to
write an essay in first person about each of
their characters and as IMDb reported,
true to the personalities they portray,
Daniel Radcliffe (Harry) wrote an earnest
and straight-forward one page version,
Emma Watson was the quintessential
Hermione with a whopping sixteen page
draft and Rupert Grint (Ron) didn't turn
his assignment in.

Passionate about film since his youth
when he would sometimes tell his mother
he would be going to visit friends and
escape to the local theatres instead,
Cuaron was first invited by the great
American director Sydney Pollack to film
in America after his work
Love in the Time
of Hysteria
made a splash at the Toronto
Film Festival.  In one of his first
assignments, Cuaron worked with actor
Alan Rickman on an episode of
that he helmed before later
re-teaming with Rickman in
Harry Potter.  

However, it wasn't until
A Little Princess
that his career first took off and the film
shares many situational and thematic
similarities to the big screen series about
the boy who lived in a cupboard under the

Princess, he directed the stunning,
freewheeling and majestic
, despite a tense relationship
with Twentieth Century Fox and then
later crafted his own daring entry into the
burgeoning Mexican New Wave with his
adults-only coming-of-age road movie
Y Tu
Mama Tambien

It seemed like an odd choice following his
Tambien to jump into J.K.
Rowling's world of magic and quidditch but
it proved to be just the right breath of
fresh air that the series desperately
needed. Using New Zealand cameraman
Michael Seresin whose dark and exquisite
work on
Angela's Ashes and The Life of
David Gale
proved to be a perfect fit as he
fell right in-step with Cuaron's trademark
of hand-held cameras that are constantly
moving with a preference of wide angles
and long shots to, as Emma Watson noted
in the video on the right, keep things more

The look of the film is far different than
the classically stylized first two with their
bright colors and kid-friendly approach
and while the scenes feel a few seconds
longer than the ones in the works by
Columbus (which prompted some viewers
to say it moved far too slowly), despite its
shorter running time, Cuaron's
and A Little Princess editor
Steven Weisberg kept things running at a
terrific pace.

The first film in the series to experiment
with puppetry (that was ultimately
thrown out in preference to CGI for the
right Dementor effect), Cuaron called on
his magic realism background and also
incorporated an actual illusionist as a film
consultant.  Completely invested in his
vision, Cuaron stayed on to oversee and
contribute in the film's entire
post-production period, therefore making
him unable to fit the next film into his
busy schedule.
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4)  Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Director: Mike Newell
Screenwriter: Steve Kloves
Cinematographer: Roger Pratt
Editor: Mick Audsley
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Donnie Brasco Trailer
Pushing Tin: Male Rivalry
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The Shining Hedge Maze
"I was very anxious to break the
franchise out of this
goody-two-shoes feel.  It's my view
that children are violent, dirty,
corrupt anarchists.  Just
adults-in-waiting basically."
-- Mike Newell
(As Quoted on IMDb)
Background & Analysis:

Warner Brothers Studios hired
Cambridge educated and Granada
Television trained director Mike Newell
to helm the fourth installment of the
Harry Potter and the Goblet of
 The first British director involved
in the film, Newell turned down the
opportunity to direct
The Constant
to take over for the previous
helmer Alfonso Cuaron who was still
working on post-production of

Despite discussion circulating that the
film would be better off cutting the novel
in half and dividing book five into two
separate films, urged by Cuaron, Newell
made the decision to make one film and
longtime scribe for the series, Steven
Kloves dropped numerous subplots in his
adaptation to keep only what was strictly
vital.  The result is an uneven work-- one
filled with action but little of the heart
or emotion of the previous films or
indeed the novel and without all of the
exposition, the film's mystery has little
significance and may in fact confuse
those who haven't read the books.  

In addition to the disappointing
translation, the entire look of the film
fits with Newell's vision as stated above
as the cast appears often slimy and
unwashed and moodiness pervades with
some fist-fights (including one the
director was involved in which he
fractured one of his ribs while
demonstrating) and an emphasis on
masculine competitiveness.  

A veteran of the more action oriented
second film, cinematographer Roger
Pratt returns and Newell makes good use
of British editor Mick Audsley (
Fidelity, The Grifters, Interview With the
Vampire, Danerous Liasions, Twelve
).  While on one hand, the male
camaraderie and rivalry works well for
Harry's Arthurian quest in the fifth tale,
by the time the students attend the Yule
Ball, audiences feel long overdue for
some beauty and emotion.  

After directing one of the 1990's most
beloved and popular romantic comedies,
Four Weddings and a Funeral, Mike
Newell ventured into more traditionally
masculine territory with his clever
adaptation of
Donnie Brasco, based on a
true story as well as the darkly comic
Pushing Tin with the same kind of male
rivalry between characters played by
John Cusack and Billy Bob Thornton
involving women (Angelina Jolie and
Cate Blanchett) that feels echoed by
similar love triangles in
Goblet of Fire.  

Unafraid of his feminine side, Newell has
directed such diverse and gorgeous works
Enchanted April and Mona Lisa
, which, like Potter takes place at an
elite school.  A true film lover, Mike
Newell's influences are on display in
Goblet of Fire including his most visible
and IMDb admitted homage to the Hedge
Maze scene from Stanley Kubrick's
(at right) that culminates near
the end of
Goblet of Fire as Harry and
Cedric unknowingly journey towards a
ready-to-rise Voldemort.
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5)  Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Director: David Yates
Screenwriter: Michael Goldenberg
Cinematographer: Slawomir Idziak
Editor: Mark Day
4)  Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Director: Mike Newell
Screenwriter: Steve Kloves
Cinematographer: Roger Pratt
Editor: Mick Audsley
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Dumbledore's Army Casts a Patronus
Background & Analysis:

After a misstep with the fourth film, the
franchise made a wonderful recovery by
hiring British television director David
Yates.  Proving he had a great handle on
not only the stylistic direction he
wanted to take the series in as IMDb
reports that his personal favorite film
in the series was Cuaron's excellent
third installment, as evidenced in his
Emmy award winning Made-for-HBO
The Girl in the Cafe, he had a
fondness for civil disobedience in the
young and a terrific moral compass.

Click here to check out an outstanding
fan-made trailer of The Girl in the Cafe
to see the similarity in a story of a
romance between a young woman who
decides she can't just sit by and watch
when she has the opportunity to inspire
change while at the G8 Summit Meeting
with her political beau that makes a
great precursor to Harry training and
helping run Dumbledore's Army.  

The fifth film proves to be the best in
the series in successfully marrying the
artistry displayed by Cuaron with the
importance of detail in the first two
works.  Although regular scripter
Steven Kloves was unavailable for the
installment, the producers made a wise
decision to hire the man whose script for
the first film had impressed them years
earlier in the form of playwright
Michael Goldenberg (writer and director
Bed of Roses).  Reuniting with his old
television editor Mark Day, Yates
further exhibited his wonderful taste by
utilizing the talents of amazing Polish
cinematographer Slawomir Idziak who,
in his native country had worked
alongside Kieslowski while shooting
Three Colors: Blue and The Double Life of
before coming over to
Hollywood to work on some outstanding
Ridley Scott productions such as
Hawk Down
and King Arthur.

An excellent example of what's to come,
director Yates is currently working on
the next installment of
Harry Potter and
has expressed interest in tackling the
series finale,
Deathly Hallows.

1)          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mpuxh2Bjsu4
2)          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U6n9ZVIuQP4
3)          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2NzFD_SLoA0
4)          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Dmjpsixw54
5)          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X80Gd80X40s
6)          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wiZ8eNtLMIg
7)          http://www.movieweb.com/video/V07A346ntyAGRW
8)          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aNeFXvGj_AQ
9)          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AW_c5Hc1frQ
10)        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u6oybjDKjYE
11)        http://www.movieweb.com/video/V07A12afmNOPUV
12)        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ShM8bGKVFXg
13)        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JCjkcNZmxU8
14)        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ley9k94GoZU
15)        http://www.movieweb.com/video/V07D9fgjnqtMUX
16)        http://www.movieweb.com/video/V07L2bmpwCDLSW

1)        http://milesandhisfavorites.wordpress.com/category/harry-potter/
2)        http://www.veritaserum.com/movies/movie1
3)        http://www.impawards.com/2002/harry_potter_and_the_chamber_of_secrets_ver3.html
4)        http://www.ilmfan.com/credits/project_display.php?id_project=190
5)        http://www.crankycritic.com/archive05/posters/pages/harrypotter_gobletoffire_v12.htm
6)        http://www.flickr.com/photos/arthuserea/1236622918/
Works Cited

All factual and cinematic information cited courtesy of
IMDb and found at links throughout page.
Video Credits
Photo Credits
Text Only (c) Jen Johans.   filmintuition.com
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