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Figuring out how to stage the polar bear fight


A recce in the Arctic
Billy Williams Film-maker
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We went to the Arctic, to a place called Frobisher Bay — the Inuit name is Iqaluit — and when we... we landed it was the beginning of March and we got off the plane first in the morning... it was -36- and the production manager met us and she was a lady and she said: ’Ah, we're going out on a recce now’. So we'd got all our protective clothing... my gear, the... the clothes that I was wearing weighed 30lb, we'd got all our gear and we'd been forewarned about frostbite in that when you get frostbite you don't feel it. If you see any white spots on the face of your companions, you must take off your gloves and mittens and... and massage the face until it's warm, otherwise you'd get more serious frostbite; so we'd been warned about that. So off we go on this recce, and there are about six of us, and we each had an Inuit driver, who’s all hooded up in furs, and most of these Inuits have all got scarred faces from frostbite; and we get on the back of a skidoo and I'm hanging onto this... this Inuit, who is as wide as he is high, and I'm hanging on to this Inuit and I've got everything that I can think of, except I'd forgotten my face mask. I had a face mask made of goose down, which was a protection against the wind, and I'd forgotten it, so off we go and when you get up to about 30 mph, this chill factor becomes about -50 or -60 , it was unbelievable... it cut through everything that I'd got on. So when we finally arrive at the place where we're going to recce, we’re all... we've all got bits of frostbite, nose and cheeks and so on. I was absolutely dying for a pee, so I found a suitable... suitable rock, and had a pee; it never touched the ground, it froze. Everything froze. But fortunately the camera didn't; the Panaflex was great, it never gave us any trouble.

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