During my first year of university, we had a lecture by Stills Photographer Giles Keyte, he was such a stimulating and energetic speaker that he inspired me to at least experience Unit Stills Photography. Since graduation in 2018 I have been banging and kicking doors, sending emails and phoning contacts for an opportunity to generate a set of Unit Stills Photographs. Finally, my hard work and tenacity came to fruition; I gained the opportunity to photograph on two BBC productions.
Prior to the shoot I received documents detailing Covid safety procedures and protocol in addition to an excellent document describing the style and variety of photos required regarding the three main areas of photography i.e., Action Shots, Cast & Crew and Behind the Scenes. The day prior to shooting everyone received a Call Sheet, which specified the scenes, locations, and script.
My day commenced with a Covid-19 Rapid Antigen Test and an on-set meeting at 07:00hrs. This necessitated a 05:00hrs up-and-out of the house. Typically, I got home around 18:00 or 19:00hrs, which meant very long days. But my day didn’t end there, Giles Keyte had described how following each day’s shoot he returned to his hotel, processed the images he’d taken; as I was determined to emulate Giles; I downloaded all my images for the day, processed them in Lr and created a folder of selected images, I then cleaned-down my QXD capture card and recharged the camera battery. Phew, I had no idea that it would be such hard work, but it had been so exhilarating; I loved it. Up at 5am again tomorrow!
The people I worked with on set were passionate, charming and great fun to work with, the director, Alex Vlahos, was so fervent and energetic and engaging, yet managed to stay aware of everyone on set and frequently checked to ensure that everyone was comfortable and remained hydrated during the scorching hot days on set.
To avoid clashing with cast and filming, and yet capture the energy of the film was challenging. One comment I heard was, if you’ve not been told to “get off the set”; you’re not doing your job properly, which made me feel a lot more comfortable and at ease.
Capturing the commitment and energy of the crew was very invigorating, each department passionately ensuring that the makeup, wardrobe, and lighting were prefect for each scene. I admired James, the sound engineer, who had to lug around the heavy recording equipment and the out-of-balance sound boom, which needed to be in precisely the correct position for each scene. I also now know the role of the ‘focus puller’, Mei explained to me in detail how the system worked between him and Ciro, the photographer. It was fascinating to witness the makeup and wardrobe departments as they took several photographs each of their clients to ensure scene continuity and that nothing was out of place, their observations were meticulous.
Each day was extremely fast paced, with continuous challenges to pre-empt each unfolding scene and to be in the best position to take the required photos. It was gruelling. However, there were scenes or locations where there was no room for a photographer, which meant a lot of hanging around, waiting for the next opportunity to take some photos, but at the same time remaining alert and focussed on the task.
The Video Village was an interesting concept that I was unaware of. Many of the crew were huddled around a monitor, viewing live images from the rehearsals and shoots. Each of them was alert and ready to halt proceedings if there was any lack of continuity or deviation from the script. The whole event was very exciting and enabled me to gain an understanding of the machinations of the film industry.
I am so grateful for the opportunity to participate in the making of the movie. I learnt a great deal about the production of a movie and now view films with renewed vigour.
It was also very rewarding to employ the skills I’ve gained working on previous commissioned photo-assignments with NAWR and Storyopolis.
I would like to thank Giles Keyte for his words of support and of the many other Stills Photographers I have contacted who have also encouraged me to pursue my ambition in Unit Stills Photography.