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Working with my father during the war


Choosing to be my father's assistant
Billy Williams Film-maker
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Then the question came of what was I going to do? Now my mother, who was much more security minded and of course, had lived all her married life with this insecurity of... of my father being in and out of work, having good times and bad times, and also he was a bit of a gambler; he loved horse racing, so that he was always kind of taking chances both in looking for work but also taking chances with backing horses, so she'd... she’d lived through a lot of... of this financial insecurity, and she had a brother-in-law, whom I liked very much, who... who had a business in the City of London on the Stock Exchange, and this uncle was willing to offer me a job to start as an office boy, but on the other hand, I'd got a lot of experience of the film world through my father, I mean the... the kitchen table was always covered with bits and pieces of cameras that were being repaired and lenses that were being scaled, so I'd... I’d been associated with... with cameras and film-making for as long as I could remember, and my father said, 'Well why don't you start off with me as... as an assistant’, you see. So I... I had this choice to make and my mother was usually right, she was much more stable emotionally and... and her judgement was usually much more sound than my father's, but I really didn't fancy going into the city and sitting at a... at a desk all day. So I went with my father and I was only 14, and it was quite tough because he was a very hard taskmaster; everything had to be done just right and, of course, the camera had to be looked after like a baby; it was so precious and everything had to be done in a certain way and at 14 I found it really... really quite hard.

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, 8 seconds

Date story recorded: September 2003

Date story went live: 24 January 2008