Childhood & Early Life
Daniel Moder was born on January 31, 1969, in Los Angeles, California, to Mike Moder and Patricia Ann-Waltz. His parents worked in the entertainment industry as small-time film producers. This gave Daniel an early brush with the world of Hollywood.
Daniel grew up in a huge family with four siblings: John, Jane, Jyl, and Debbie. During the initial years of his life, Daniel had no interest in the world of cinema and was academically good. He graduated from ‘Saint Monica High School’ in 1987. Following that, he joined the ‘University of Colorado Boulder’ and studied psychology.
Following his graduation, he decided to join the film industry as a cinematographer. The contacts his father had in the industry helped Daniel get relevant experience as a production assistant.
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Daniel’s first stint as a production assistant was in the 1995 action thriller film ‘Crimson Tide.’ The film was a huge commercial and critical success and earned three ‘Academy Award’ nominations.
He worked as a camera loader for the 1996 film ‘The Fan’ and for the 1997 film ‘The Brave.’ The latter was a critical and commercial debacle. However, it was showcased at the ‘Cannes Film Festival.’
Following this, Daniel worked as a second-assistant cameraman in the 1997 Will Smith-starrer ‘Enemy of the State.’ The film was a major commercial and critical hit and is also known as a cult film. These films taught Daniel a lot about cinematography and helped him prepare for his cinematography debut.
However, before making his debut as a cinematographer, Daniel worked as an assistant for ‘The Big Tease,’ ‘Tuesdays with Morrie,’ and ‘Lucky Numbers.’ He also worked as the first assistant in the independent film ‘Jerks.’
In 2000, he made his debut as a full-time cinematographer, with the short film ‘Kid Quick.’ The comedy film was appreciated for its uniqueness. However, Daniel knew that he was still not ready to work as a cinematographer in feature films. He decided to give himself some more time to learn and continued to assist in films such as ‘The Mexican’ and ‘Sand.’
In 2002, he worked as a cinematographer for the feature film ‘Grand Champion.’ It was a children’s film that also starred Julia Roberts and Bruce Willis as guests. Shot mostly in the American countryside, the film received a lukewarm response at the box office. The cinematography did not receive any special mention anywhere.
In 2002, he worked as the first assistant of the cinematographer for the film ‘Full Frontal,’ directed by Steven Soderbergh. The film was a critical and commercial debacle. The next year, he worked as the director of photography of the second unit of the film ‘Mona Lisa Smile,’ starring Julia Roberts in the lead role. His work for this film was appreciated wholeheartedly.
In 2004, he finally quit being an assistant and started working as the chief camera operator, making his debut with the film ‘The Forgotten.’ It was a science-fiction film that received negative critical reception but was a box-office success.
In 2005, he was hired to be the camera operator for the film ‘Mr. & Mrs. Smith,’ starring Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. The film was a big commercial and critical hit and was praised for its cinematography.
In the years that followed, he continued to work as a camera operator for a number of big-budget films such as ‘Déjà Vu,’ ‘Spider-Man 3,’ and ‘Seraphim Falls.’ With the 2007 documentary ‘Border.’ he once again started working as the chief cinematographer. The film was shot around the US–Mexico border and received a limited release.
In the next two years, Daniel worked on two small indie films named ‘The Hit’ and ‘The Kopper Kettle.’ The 2008 film ‘Fireflies in the Garden’ became his most prominent and polished work as a cinematographer so far. Although the film was a critical and commercial disaster, its cinematography was universally praised.
Daniel then continued to work in small films such as ‘Grace’ and ‘In Dreams I Run Wild.’ In 2012, Daniel worked for the film ‘Jesus Henry Christ,’ which premiered at the prestigious ‘Tribeca Film Festival.’
In 2013, Daniel handled the cinematography of the film ‘Plush,’ an erotic thriller. The film was considered to be gutsy and had a distinct visual appeal, but it could not manage to rake in good reviews and profits at the box office.
In 2015, Daniel worked for a psychological thriller film titled ‘Secret in Their Eyes,’ which starred Nicole Kidman and Julia Roberts in key roles. The film was an average success, both in terms of box-office collections and critical reception. With too many flops in his hands and much less praises for his work, Daniel was never an in-demand cinematographer.
He had to turn to camera operation again, for the 2015 film ‘Point Break.’ He also did additional photography for the 2016 film ‘Heaven’s Floor.’ He made yet another comeback as a cinematographer with the 2018 film ‘Ibiza,’ a romantic comedy. The film received mixed reviews.