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Releasing tensions on set


Working with John Schlesinger
Billy Williams Film-maker
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The great thing was that it... he was a wonderful director to work with. He was, I think, the most complete director. He was not only visually very imaginative but he understood the script, particularly this script because it was his personal story in a way, but he was so good with the actors because he'd been an actor. And I was... I have over my career worked with... with many directors who've come from acting and their great strength is understanding the way actors think and behave, and how to develop a character and how to talk to actors, and... and with so many of the best directors I’ve... I've found that they will talk very quietly to the actor about what they want and then if they do another take, they'll go up to them, speak very quietly about what they need... rather than letting everybody know what... what the issue is, and it's this sort of understanding, I think, of the... the temperament of an actor, which is so important for a director. And John, of course, he'd already made several groundbreaking films in terms of their social realism. He also understood editing well and music; he had a great strength in music and he went on to direct a number of operas in... in later years. So he was a very rounded, cultured man and with a lovely sense of humour. He... he... you know, you could have a laugh on the set. I always remember he would be very conscious of what was going on around during the take and we had a boom-swinger, who'd worked with John a few times so he knew him, and we were doing this take and it was a very long take, and the boom-swinger was hand-holding the mike, you see, and this went on for a couple of minutes, you see, and after a while this boom-swinger – Tom his name was – started pulling awful faces and John started to notice this, you see, and couldn't really concentrate on the acting. And in the end when he cut he turned to... turned to Tom and he said, ’What's the matter, what's the matter, is something wrong with the scene?’ Tom says, ’No’, he says, ‘This is so heavy. Ooh it's heavy guv’.

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, 24 seconds

Date story recorded: September 2003

Date story went live: 24 January 2008