When I was invited to join the BSC in 2010 it was, I have to admit, a bit of a surprise. Like many, I had been plowing away, working, learning, getting lucky, getting not so lucky and generally surviving as cinematographer. Even that word, ‘cinematographer’, was weighted with the kind of responsibility I barely felt able to uphold sometimes let alone expand upon; so to have those three letters after my name only added to my Imposter Syndrome (it’s not an uncommon experience; it’s often just called ‘working in the film and television industry’).
Absolutely the best thing about becoming a BSC member - and the thing for which the Society was primarily created - was meeting other cinematographers and having regular contact with those who have had the same problems and challenges as myself. Also, being able to dive into that pool of knowledge and experience that constitutes the BSC membership. It was a privilege and I shan’t ever forget the feeling of shared respect and acknowledgement.
And then I was asked to be the Society’s president. I certainly didn’t see that one coming. That was four and a half years ago. It’s been a true honour - and immensely humbling - to be a continuation of a line that started with Freddie Young BSC OBE seven decades earlier. But my two terms are beyond over and it’s time to give way to fresh thinking and new ideas. Therefore, this Presidents Perspective will be my last.
It’s fair to say that the BSC of today is demonstrably different to the Society born in 1949. Everything about the industry back then was insular in a cottage industry that punched well above its weight (you’ll miss these mixed metaphors, I’m sure). Today, we have a bigger Society but also one within an industry that has ballooned extraordinarily. The opening up of all kinds of filmmaking with a vast array of technological means at the cinematographer’s disposal has meant the democratisation of our art and craft. Or perhaps it’s meant a greater meritocracy. I’ll leave that debate to others for now.
But the upshot is that our particular world is, thankfully, more diverse and outward looking, keener to engage the world through its various communication platforms. We can no longer be an ivory tower. My predecessors in the Presidents’ chair saw this coming and, slowly but surely, laid the foundations for a more inclusive BSC. Credit to them. Our female membership, though still woefully short of what it should be, is rising. Mentoring, training and education is the key to this much-needed race and gender shift and the BSC should be across it. The establishment of its Diversity & Inclusion Committee is an expression of this awareness, as well its closer affiliation to this very publication you are reading - the British Cinematographer magazine.
Exciting news is coming soon about the revitalised relationship between magazine and Society but suffice to say it will benefit not only both parties but be a greater magnet for those wishing to learn more about the art and craft, not least thorough the magazine’s new Player platform that provides videos of masterclasses, Q&As and discussions similar to those the Society kick-started at the beginning of the pandemic and which became, overnight, hugely popular (hats off to Laurie Rose BSC for leading the charge on that).
With such a rapid development in cinematography in recent years we need people who understand its history - as well its potential - to be at the forefront of communicating the Society’s ethos and ambition. With an ally such as BC magazine, the BSC can hopefully fulfil that role with greater confidence.
In short, the BSC is becoming, by virtue of its new intake, a younger and more energetic organisation. I am excited about who will take over the Presidents’ role as I am sure the next four years will see an even more rapid rate of change in the Society’s make-up.
It’s been a pleasure writing this column every six weeks or so. Often a challenge what with work and all, but always rewarding. Thank you to Ron Prince who was my first editor when I started and, now, to Zoe Mutter who has taken up the editor’s mantle with aplomb.
I’m not sure if it’s the done thing to do on this platform but I would also like to thank publicly my fellow governors who, during the course of the last four and half years, have been such a support, supplying camaraderie, wisdom and clarity in equal measure.
It will be of little surprise to learn that three women have been the backbone of the Society for many years. They more than deserve a mention: Frances Russell, Company Treasurer and previously long-standing Society Secretary; Helen Maclean, Company Assistant and Audra Marshall, Society Secretary. The BSC would be nothing without them. I salute them and offer my heartfelt thanks.
Thank you for reading. And now for something completely different…..
Mike Eley BSC President