A graduate of the prestigious National Film Board of Canada's documentary school, Lepine established himself as a cinematographer via his lengthy collaboration with idiosyncratic American auteur Robert Altman. His first film credit was as camera assistant for Altman's "Come Back to the 5 & Dime Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean" (1982) and he worked in the same capacity, or as camera operator, on Altman's "Streamers" (1983), "Fool for Love" (1985) and "O.C. and Stiggs" (1987). Regardless of the widely held critical impression that these and other 1980s films comprised a "low" period for Altman, Lepine gained valuable experience working with a meticulous craftsman, getting himself in synch with Altman's signature mix of cynical, documentary realism and satirical, absurdist hyperbole. Lepine also worked on a number of non-Altman Canadian films such as "Mario" (1984), "Exit" (1986) and "Speed Zone" (1989).
Lepine first made the transition to director of photography on episodes of Altman's acclaimed political comedy series for HBO, "Tanner '88" (1988). He would later work without Altman on a handful of TV projects, such as the miniseries "JFK: Reckless Youth" (1993), but Lepine was ready to shoot feature films as well. His first credit as director of photography was Altman's somber and intimate "Vincent & Theo" (1990), a study of the relationship between Vincent Van Gogh (Tim Roth) and his brother (Paul Rhys) distinguished by lush visuals evocative of the Dutch master's work. Lepine would later reteam with Altman for the snazzy glitz of the fashion world farrago "Ready to Wear/Pret-a-Porter" (1994), and director-star Tim Robbins would put Lepine's experience on "Tanner" to fine use on his irreverent cinema verite-style political satire, "Bob Roberts" (1992). Lepine's most virtuoso work, though, came with Altman's dark tale of Hollywood, "The Player" (1992), including an already-famous, extremely lengthy tracking shot at the film's start, done as a reflexive homage to Orson Welles' opening of "Touch of Evil" (1958).