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Confidence and communication on a film set


Story boards versus rehearsals
Billy Williams Film-maker
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Most of the directors that I've worked with have rehearsed the scene at length before you shoot it, so that out of that rehearsal would come the decision as to where the camera was going to be placed. Some directors work with storyboards; in more recent years a lot of directors work with storyboards, and I used to work with storyboards on commercials because with commercials everything had to be so precise. But I always found them a bit of handicap because sometimes it was quite difficult to get exactly what was on the storyboard, and... and that's what they wanted with commercials. And when I got onto features and where storyboards, in my experience, were not being used very much, the opportunity of good rehearsals gave one a chance to see how the scene was going to play, what the actors wanted to do, and then deciding where to put the camera, you know, in conjunction, obviously, with the director and the operator, kind of working as a three... as a trio, a threesome, in determining the position of the camera in relation to where the actors wanted to be and how a scene was going to be covered and how... when one was going to need to reverse and when you did close ups and so on.

So I think with the advent of this Moviola dolly there was developing much more freedom in using a set and giving the actors more freedom, opening things up more and it was a more fluid way of... of storytelling, and it's like I was... in hand-held... with the hand-held Arriflex but, of course, that was in a very simple style and it was without sound, and it wasn't on a stage; it was out on location. So things were becoming more cinematic. I mean, I discovered some years ago that the word kine is a Greek word for movement and, of course, in the early days it was called the kinema before it was called the cinema. The k became a c, so it became the cinema and we... we are cinematographers. So cinematographer is a... a photographer of movement. You know, the actors move, the camera moves, sometimes the lights move, but I think the more that cinema has evolved, the more movement has developed. With the Moviola you could also jib up and down silently. Yes of course, with the Moviola you could change the height; another little job for the grip to do or sometimes the second assistant cameraman would... would do the jib. If... if the grip was... was fully occupied steering the... the dolly, then the... the clapper loader — second assistant — would adjust the height of the dolly. Course the storyboards were drawn to any perspective they cared to use. They could use a false perspective in the foreground, and another perspective in the background. Yes. You couldn't possibly... Yes, I think storyboards have a purpose for certain types of things. I think though essentially if you're going to do process work, because you've got to know what's going on in the fore... if you're making plates. I think if you're doing stunts and if you're doing battle scenes, then storyboards are a very... a very good guide to knowing where things are going to be.

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: 3 minutes, 54 seconds

Date story recorded: September 2003

Date story went live: 24 January 2008