30.11.1920 – 25.11.1982
BRIAN PROBYN BSC
Brain Probyn began his career working in documentaries. Among his credits he was an assistant to Walter Lassally BSC on EVERYDAY EXCEPT CHRISTMAS (1957) directed by Lindsay Anderson, one of the noted documentaries that came under the umbrella of FREE CINEMA a movement in Britain (see below) and was successfully released as an accompaniment to a feature film and nominated for a BAFTA award.
[Free Cinema was a documentary film movement that emerged in England in the mid-1950s. The term referred to an absence of propagandised intent or deliberate box office appeal. Co-founded by Lindsay Anderson, though he later disdained the 'movement' tag, with Karel Reisz, Tony Richardson and Lorenza Mazzetti. The movement began with a programme of three short films at the National Film Theatre, London on 5 February 1956. The programme was such a success that five more programmes appeared under the Free Cinema banner before the founders decided to end the series. The last event was held in March 1959. But the movement had a great influence on British New Wave film making of that period - Wikipedia]
Brian gradually worked his way up to cameraman on several documentaries and In August 1961, was asked to shoot a BBC television documentary with famed Swedish actress, Mai Zetterling, called Lords of Little Egypt: Mai Zetterling among the Gypsies directed by Mai herself. Looking for an assistant, Brian called upon Chris Menges (BSC) who was at the beginning of his own career to go to Switzerland as his assistant. In his biography published by Camerimage, Chris says: “That was followed by SATURDAY MEN [another] of the “FREE CINEMA” [documentary shorts] that was starting in Britain. The free Cinema movement developed from the Italian Neorealist School. Thanks to Brian, I had the luck to be part of an impressive new wave of British Film Making. Brian was perceptive and could work fast, catching shots that many would miss. He was even tempered, had an eye for the girls and as an ex-prisoner of war, became grumpy when he missed out on meal breaks.”
His first feature credit using documentary techniques was Poor Cow (1967) also the first social drama feature from acclaimed director, Ken Loach with Chris Menges as operator. Among his other credits are films such as Downhill Racer (1969) directed by Michael Ritchie. Probyn also worked on Terence Malick’s troubled Badlands (1973) but left halfway through, however, Chris Menges notes: “… even if Terence Malick would rather ungraciously disagree. Having assisted Brian on several documentaries, a couple of shorts and a cinema feature, I can see, smell and acknowledge that Brian was the master of BADLANDS cinematography.”
Towards the end of the 1970’s Brian moved to Australia and continued to work as a cinematographer on films such as: The Mango Tree (1977) directed by Kevin James Dobson, The Little Convict (1979) directed by Yoram Gross; Sweet Dreamers (1982) directed by Tom Cowan and his final credit was Far East (1982) directed by John Duigan.