July 24, 2017

Phil Méheux BSC receives the BSC ARRI John Alcott Memorial Award 2017

We were delighted to present the 'BSC ARRI John Alcott Award' to Governor Phil Méheux BSC who has worked tirelessly for the society for many years to ensure we continue to 'preserve the vision' 

From all of us a very big thank you and congratulations. 

The citation written by Nigel Walters BSC, can be read below: 

At this stage in the afternoon, I was expecting to welcome the Managing Director of Arri, Franz Krauz who was booked to fly from Germany today  to present the Arri/BSC John Alcott Award. Unfortunately, he has become a victim of the ongoing British Airways strike. The Award will be presented in his place by Judith Evans.

I make no apologies for reminding us all about one of our greatest cinematographers, John Alcott. He is who best remembered for his films with Stanley Kubrick. His collaboration included 2001. A Space Odyssey, a Clockwork Orange, The Shining and Barry Lyndon for which he received an Oscar. He died in Cannes, aged just 55 in 1986.

This Award in his memory, is intended to recognise an individual’s outstanding services to film through perpetuating the original aims of the British Society of Cinematographers. The Society continues to be grateful to Arri for its annual funding of this magnificent trophy. This year marks its 100 years as a company. It has played an important part in film history and among the events it is generously sponsoring pm commemoration is the inaugural Imago Awards ceremony in Helsinki in October.

The first good news to tell you is that the recipient of this year’s Award has no connection with Wales. He is a son of Kent, a renown and respected cinematographer- some would say with acting aspirations as immortalised by cameo roles in his films.

The ARRI/BSC John Alcott Award for 2017 is going a going to a man who has worked tirelessly for the Society following his election to the BSC. He has come a long way since sitting as a young youngster in a blacked-out bus in Benfleet, Essex he soaked up the emotions created by Bambi and the antics of Felix the Cat. Even at an early age he knew he wanted to be the man behind the camera. His first job at sixteen was as a clerk for GM Sales, often running cans of film to Royalty House on Dean Street.   He later worked as a projectionist at the Cameo-Royal on Charing Cross Road.

His first break came when he was taken on as a projectionist by the BBC at Ealing Studios. He quickly earned a reputation for his constructive comments on rushes he projected from such eminent cinematographers as Dick Bush from whose inspiration he was later to be grateful. Others whose rushes he must have screened included Tubby Englander, Ken Westbury, Peter Sargent, Tony Imi,  Nat Crosby, John McGlashan ,and a young Brian Tufano. Dixon of Dock Green and Z Cars was to prove his training ground in film as an assistant. His colleagues included Tony Pierce Roberts, Mike Southon, Remi Aderfarasin, Paul Wheeler, John Hooper, John Walker and John Daly. The sixties and seventies were exciting days to be at Ealing shooting 35mm and experimenting with fast improving 16mm cameras, lenses and colour stock. Film was alive and kicking with great directors such as Ken Loach, Ken Russell and Mike Leigh also cutting their teeth in film for television. The first break for today’s recipient came when, as a young assistant, he was asked to complete the shooting of All My Loving directed by Tony Palmer. His cameraman had walked off.

However, in 1976 he took a bold step in realizing his childhood ambition to shoot feature films by bidding farewell to the sheltered life in the BBC for the unknown world of features. His last contribution as a BBC staff member was the memorable Spend, Spend, Spend.  His first feature was the official British entry for Cannes in 1977, Black Joy directed by Anthony Simmonds. Whilst working in Ealing he had established a relationship with John Mackenzie for whom he eventually shot four television and five feature films including The Long Good Friday, voted by the BFI as one of the top British films of the 20th century. His collaboration with the director Martin Campbell resulted in Academy and Golden Globe nominations for The Mask of Zorro which also launched the feature careers of Antonio Banderas and Catherine Zeta Jones.  The results of his long collaboration with Campbell include The Edge of Darkness and The Legend of Zoro, Casino Royale, Golden Eye. As the BSC is aware no matter how deserved no Bond has ever won an Oscar.

His film Entrapment, directed by Jon Amiel’s was a huge box office success grossing over 212million dollars worldwide. According to the great American film critic Roger Ebert “the film only works because it is made stylishly”. This spoke volumes for the cinematographer!

His consolation for Casino Royale was a BAFTA nomination while his fellow members in the BSC awarded him the Best Cinematography Award. This was followed by his peers in the American Society in 2015 honouring him with the prestigious ASC International Award.

The John Alcott Award today in given for services to film and the BSC. Frances unfortunately cannot be here having been banished from her home to make way for her daughter’s hen party. She has asked me to read this: “the recipient is much loved, having proved a tremendous support since being elected to the Board in 1999, through his enrolment, through two terms as President, but continues to this day to labour tirelessly since taking over the challenge of filling the Newsletter following in the footsteps of the Alec Thomson years.

She continues:” Wherever in the world he might be... even when filming on tight schedules… he has always IMMEDIATELY responded thoughtfully to my email appeals for help, proffering perceptive, well informed advice…. for which I shall be eternally grateful. He is more cognisant of the history, ethos and workings of the Society than any other Board member and continues to safeguard the original aims of the Society. A wonderful Governor and a very good friend. this presentation is long overdue.”

I have personally known him for fifty years. Frances is not here to remonstrate as I have overrun the allocated time for this introduction.  There can be few if any in this room who have not long deduced that the Arri/BSC John Alcott Award for 2017 is to be given to Phil Meheux BSC for his outstanding services to film and the BSC.

I have pleasure in inviting Judith Evans, Arri Rental Director of Marketing to present this magnificent Award.

Nigel Walters BSC