So, the Oscars have been and gone for another year and were largely satisfying and reasonably entertaining, with not a lot of surprises, but with well deserved wins.
I was delighted that Roger Deakins won for best cinematography for Blade Runner 2049…..at last…about bloody time is all I can say. He has done some wonderful work over the years and his win was overdue. The most notable Brit to have won this Oscar is Freddie Young, cinematographer for three of David Lean films: Lawrence of Arabia, Doctor Zhivago and Ryans Daughter…many nominations there!
I have known and worked with wonderful cinematographers – Nicolas Roeg, who went on to become a Director (The Man Who Fell to Earth, Don’t Look Now…remember the girl wearing the bright read raincoat), who, early in his career was second unit Cinematographer on Lawrence of Arabia. Nic was Director of Photography on The System (US Title The Girl Getters) in which I starred with Oliver Reed. Nic’s black and white work was beautiful and he was wonderfully assisted by his operator Alex Thomson who went on to become Cinematographer on a number of films including Ridley Scott’s Legend . Nic and Alex gave me confidence and encouragement, as I felt my way through my first big feature….Oliver was helpful, but not so much our Director, Michael Winner…it was his first big feature, from a great script by Peter Draper and I think he relied a lot on Nic Roeg.
Oscar nominated Douglas Slocombe lit The Lion in Winter, which was a much bigger film and less personal in terms of a relationship with the Camera Crew. Chic Waterson was his operator and I had a good connection with him and of course Anthony Harvey was a very active and engaging Director as far as the actors were concerned. Life on a film set is a delicate and intricate balance. As I have said before, as an actor, your audience is your crew and your closest connections are the Director, the other actors, the camera and the man actually behind the lens…the operator. And getting that relationship right can make the difference between a good shot/take and something more. Dougie was pre-occupied with lighting huge period sets and Chic was our link to him.
Of course when you’re working with dynamic actors, ( Peter O’Toole, Patrick McGoohan, Antony Hopkins, Katharine Hepburn, Glenda Jackson), the relationship with that actor can take over everything. You draw much of your energy and power from that interaction and a little less with those on the other side of the camera. But the connection is always there.
We had a very distinguished Cinematographer: Oscar nominated Bill Butler on Adams Woman, the film I made in Australia with Beau Bridges. The rest of the crew was Australian and although I don’t remember them individually – they were great…. lively and fun and I think we made an entertaining picture. They had no particular respect for the actors, which was refreshing. Sadly Warner Brothers didn’t like the film and shelved its distribution. I hear from people, from time to time that they have seen it and liked it, but it was a film that got lost. It was convict love story, taken from the truth of a time, when the British government would marry the convicts off to each other, give them some land and send them off to farm and cultivate it..what a way to start that great country!
I just saw the film: The Appointment, which I made a few years ago with the wonderful Edward Woodward, who starred in one of my all time favourite films, Breaker Morant. The Appointment is being considered for a new release by the British Film Institute as they consider it an underrated and poorly distributed movie, first time out. Brian West‘s camera work on the film is beautiful and the action sequence – a car stunt ..is amazing….this is in the days before computer graphics, so it is all real action and very exciting. The camera and the stunt crews did extraordinary work.
So…more recently, my work has been on smaller stuff, but still with enthusiastic, very talented people. They are working with digital, which is fine – but they don’t have the luxury of working with, 35mm, nor 16mm film, so have to be extra creative in a way, to get the beauty and the look they could achieve from working on film. Digital is fine and very cost effective, but it’s not the same as shooting on film. On Almosting It, with Lee Majors, directed by Will von Tagen, I worked for the second time with a talented cinematographer, Lincoln Lewis, whom I first met when he lit and shot one of the New Chilling Tales: The Tell-Tale Heart and who would also light Cougar, my little short, which achieved some success at Film Festivals. Lincoln’s operator is Mark Davis, with whom I really enjoy working..he gives off the same encouraging vibes as Alex Thomson.
More later friends!
I didn’t see the awards but I definitely agree with your statement about Deakins winning. About bloody time! Long overdue after 14 nominations. He is a very helpful and generous man. Logs on nearly daily and very happy to help out and explain techniques and experiences with filmmakers on his website. Not very often one gets that sort of opportunity for free. Just like you sharing with us here. A wealth of insight. Truly.
I look forward to your next post!