1) What was it that got you into being a camera operator?
Followed the advice of a great focus puller and friend. Also helping out colleagues and friends who were making a break into lighting on short films, music videos and grad films.
2) What three movies inspired you when you were younger to pursue a career as a cameraman?
There was never a bank holiday where I didn’t watch an old Bond movie, and it’s impossible not to be inspired by any of those. I could say something worthy like Tarkovsky’s ‘Stalker’ but it just isn’t true. Growing up in the eighties puts me firmly under Spielberg’s influence. Indiana Jones, E.T., Empire of the Sun, all have iconic shots I can remember frame by frame.
3) Tell us a brief synopsis of ‘The Little Drummer Girl’
After an eight year old Jewish boy is killed by a suitcase bomb in the opening scene, we know we’re on the hunt for the terrorists. Charlie, a politically opinionated struggling actress, is recruited by Mossad agents to infiltrate a Palestinian terrorist organisation. As the situation escalates where will her allegiances lie? Set in the 70s against a backdrop of exotic locations, colourful polyester outfits, and old fashioned listening devices.
4) How did you get the job on The Little Drummer Girl and are you a fan of John le Carré?
I went for an interview with Woo-hyung Kim (Woosh), got on really well. Add in that it’s a John le Carré story, directed by Park Chan-Wook, stars Michael Shannon, shoots in London, Greece and Prague and its a no brainer.
5) Introduce us to your camera & grip team.
So lucky to be surrounded by such talented crew, and even more so that I get to work with them regularly. Woosh didn’t have a UK crew he knew, so I introduced him to Ben Brown to focus the A camera. He brought Alex Finlayson to assist him. David ‘Spooky’ Churchyard focused for me in the UK, and Alex Taylor in Greece and Prague. Ben Foat loaded all the way through. Jim Philpott key grip’d and entertained us. Greg Murray looked after me and Tino Liverton was their trainee. Freddie Fitzherbert was our trainee. Thomas Patrick and Patrick King were our DIT’s. I had to leave the production early, so Martin Stephens came in to replace me for the last few days of Greece and all of Prague. It’s worth saying our focus pullers did a great job working with the Xtal Express lenses. Especially as we were often at minimum focus and using the extreme edges of the very distorted anamorphic. Thomas Patrick set up five different frame line options so that we could quickly choose which 16×9 section of the full frame we wanted to use depending on the shot. ‘The Little Drummer Girl’
6) How did the dynamic of DOP/Director/camera operator work?
Director Park (as he likes to be called) has spent a long and very successful career shooting with one camera, lots of time, and lots of resources at his disposal. Six hours of tv in 17 weeks whilst retaining his signature cinematic style was going to be a challenge. His solution was to be incredibly well prepped for every day of the schedule. Planning shots, blocking, and script amendments that would allow him to complete his days. Over 90% of these shot plans were one camera based. Long developing shots choreographed with the blocking to give him all the coverage he needed. The producers were very nervous of this approach as they felt it would leave no room in the edit to adjust to the strict run times for the episodes. The challenge was going to be finding shots that complemented the scenes without diluting the directors vision. I didn’t want him to see me as someone slowing things down or serving the producers agenda and not his own. Added to this was that Director Park spoke very little English and communicated through his assistant. Luckily Woosh was an absolute dream to work with, very accommodating and we collaborated well together. I had free reign to try whatever I felt would work. I’d almost always find something to shoot and only if it was completely impossible or detrimental to Woosh’s lighting would I sit out a set up. It wasn’t long before it was expected that every set up was two cameras and happily the director was very pleased with what we were getting. In the end it was one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve had as an operator.
7) Can you tell us a memorable scene or something you did on the Little Drummer Girl?
After months of wrangling and pleading, the production gained permission to film at the Acropolis in Athens at nighttime. Closed to the public we had the whole site to ourselves. Needless to say it’s was an unforgettable experience and capped off with a beautiful sunrise.
8) What are you currently working on at the moment?
Prepping for “Cats” the musical. 12 weeks of singing and dancing at Leavesden with Chris Ross BSC shooting. DOP “Woosh”