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The collaboration between British and Indian crews on Gandhi


Difficulties with the Louma crane in Gandhi
Billy Williams Film-maker
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We had, going back to the Louma Crane, we had a lot of shots that we needed to use it for and we soon found out that using it in the rough ground in India and in those conditions was rather different from the demonstration on the roof of Samuelsons. Because the ground had to be perfectly levelled if you were going to track and the other thing which I'd experienced so often before, is that in these hot countries you might have a nice calm morning but the wind gets up in the afternoon and with the Louma crane as soon as the wind got up, especially if it was a cross wind, the camera started to wobble. And the first time this happened I... you know, we were actually... we were in a tent and... but the wind was still coming in and the ground wasn't perfectly level. And I thought this look... doesn't look all that steady, but we didn't know until we got the rushes that... that there was a problem. So we sent for the designer from France and he came over and kind of played with it and made a few adjustments and we carried on, but then it persisted, especially with... with the wind, the wind was the worst problem and we lost several scenes. And I said to Dickie, ’We... we've got to do something about this, we can't go on taking a chance with it’. And eventually, I think quite reluctantly, Dickie agreed that we had to part with it and the only thing that was available to us as an alternative was an ancient crane in the Bombay studio which was manual, it had to be pushed by about a dozen grips. And so it was a step backwards in a way, we were using equipment that you probably wouldn't see in a British studio now. But I mean it worked, but it was cumbersome and it was slow, but at least it didn't shake around in the wind. So that was... that was quite a drama to get that sorted that out and, you know, that was when I wished we'd had the Chapman because with the Chapman you can go anywhere and it's not affected even... even in a strong wind it's such a solid piece of equipment but there we are. Well of course since then I think those cranes have been improved but although I think it's still... in high winds you can't use them.

Billy Williams, London-born cinematographer Billy Williams gained his first two Oscar nominations for the acclaimed “Women in Love” and “On Golden Pond”. His third nomination, which was successful, was for the epic “Gandhi”. He was President of the British Society of Cinematographers, and was awarded the Camera Image Festival’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 2000.

Listeners: Neil Binney

Neil Binney began working as a 'clapper boy' in 1946 on spin-off films from steam radio such as "Dick Barton". Between 1948-1950 he served as a Royal Air Force photographer. From 1950 he was a Technicolor assistant technician working on films such as John Ford's "Mogambo" (photographed by Freddie Young), Hitchcock's "The Man Who Knew Too Much" (Bob Burke), and Visconti's "Senso" (G.R. Aldo/B. Cracker). As a camera assistant he worked on "Mind Benders", "Billy Liar" and "This Sporting Life". Niel Binney became a camera operator in 1963 and worked with, among others, Jack Cardiff, Fred Tammes and Billy Williams. He was elected associate member of the British Society of Cinematographers in 1981 and his most recent credits include "A Fish Called Wanda" and "Fierce Creatures".

Duration: 2 minutes, 42 seconds

Date story recorded: September 2003

Date story went live: 24 January 2008