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The Survivors


Monsignor: A scandal in the Roman Catholic Church
Billy Williams Film-maker
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After shooting Gandhi I went to Rome to shoot a contemporary drama called Monsignor, which was about a financial scandal in the Roman Catholic Church. And the lead was Christopher Reeve, and... who played the Monsignor who gets involved in some commercial shenanigans with another man that he knew as boy, who in the course of growing up had become a bit of a crook. And it involved shooting in lots of churches and, you know, cathedrals and so on and... there were some wonderful sets and wonderful colour within the scene. And, it was visually a nice film to do. Unfortunately the script had been messed about with and altered from the original by Abraham Polonsky. It was a very good originally script but certain things had been cut out and certain things had been altered. And the producer had an undue influence in my opinion on the director. I've never worked on a film before where the producer was always on the set, right behind the director, talking to him and influencing him the whole time. And I don't think that helped at all. The other thing which I found quite surprising was that the director wore headphones throughout the shooting and never watched the action. He just stood behind the dolly and listened to the sound. And that really concerned me. And it... it proved to be quite difficult because if you've ever worked in Italy you’ll know that it's very difficult to get the crew to stop talking. A lot of Italian films are done using post sync and Italians talk more than any other crew I've ever worked with. And trying to get silence was almost impossible, because as soon as there was a cut, they would start, and then trying to get quiet again, it was quite amusing actually. But, I enjoyed doing it but it wasn't... it wasn't a great movie.

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, 27 seconds

Date story recorded: September 2003

Date story went live: 24 January 2008