The 2nd BSC Awards Night was held on February 15th at the Grosvenor House Hotel. After last year’s inaugural event, it was great to see the same energy taken forward by all involved and which we all hope will be an annual celebration. This year we were honoured to have with us director Danny Boyle as our special guest. He was on stage to present Brian Tufano with a Lifetime Achievement Award, one earned for not only his work on films such as Quadrophenia, Trainspotting and Billy Elliott (to name but three in an illustrious career) but also his work as a teacher at the National Film & Television School. The room stood as one to applaud a man who, approaching the end of a shooting career, decided to give back to the industry. It was lovely moment.
It was quite a night for the School for it also received a Special Achievement Award for its contribution to cinematography and the education thereof. As Gavin Finney said in his citation,
“A quarter of current BSC members owe the start of their career (to the School). 80% of the women invited to become members of the BSC are graduates, as was Sue Gibson, our first female president”.
The NFTS really is a jewel in the crown of the UK film industry and the BSC is proud of its connections. I believe it will be incumbent on the Society, in the future, to see that that connection is strengthened and made (more) visible by on-going commitments. Watch this space.
It was therefore fitting that the recipient of the Best Cinematography in a Feature on the night went to NFTS alumni Roger Deakins BSC ASC CBE, thereby scoring a clean sweep of BAFTA, Academy and BSC Awards for his outstanding work on ‘1917’. Roger’s brilliant virtuosity on Sam Mendes’ epic brought to the fore, for the general cinema-going public, an appreciation of camera work and visual story-telling in a way that is rarely seen. There is the argument in our world that states if you notice it i.e if the cinematography is in anyway ‘showy’, then it has failed an essential test of the discipline. Yes, and No. All I would say is that when technique and craft is so intimately entwined with story and what I can only describe as ‘honest intent’ (the director has to rely on the audience to define that) then you get an immersive experience the like of which only cinema can deliver. Congratulations to all involved on ‘1917’. If ever a film appears to rely on collaboration and team-work, it’s that one.
In March, IMAGO, the international federation of cinematographers comprised of forty-nine Societies, will elect a new president following the resignation of Paul-Rene Roestad. It is a crucial time for the federation after a fracture that saw two Societies break off relations. The recent decision by the ASC to join IMAGO as an Associate Member is indicative of its ambition to be a truly international federation. At the time of writing, final candidates have yet to be chosen and manifestos published but whosoever receives the nomination and assumes the presidency, the BSC will back their enthusiastic and inclusive work to bring the family of Societies back together again. More than at any time, the centre needs to hold.
Picture the scene: a cinematographer in discussion with an agent representing female technicians. The agent is putting forward candidates for an upcoming film on which the cinema- tographer will be working. The candidates are known to the cinematographer since they have worked together before on previous projects, with great results. But this new upcoming project is different says the cinematographer since “the director wants the old gang back together again”. The agent, despairing, replies with a voice that has heard that argument all too often. “But that’s what we’re trying to change”, she says “that old cliche”. The words hit home. I know because I am that cinematographer. The way I so easily slipped into comfortable shoes because it worked last time and “everyone was happy” brought me up sharp.
It’s time for change and the best way, the only way, we are going to make it happen is if we dare to approach things differently. Always keeping in mind that we didn’t invade this Magic Kingdom (the film & television industry) and take it by the sheer force of our talent alone. We had help. We had mentors - even if they weren’t so officially called - and we had someone, somewhere, open the door wide enough for us to get our foot in. And then some.
If the gender imbalance of the camera department is to be corrected, those who fill the positions on set are going to have to slip off the so-called comfortable shoes (aka lazy thinking) and believe they can make a difference. More importantly, make a difference with absolutely zero
compromise. There is serious talent out there waiting to get a shot - and then a second shot, and a third - at showing what they can do. We can only benefit.
Mike Eley BSC