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Making a film about squatters with Derek York


Watch the Birdie
Walter Lassally Film-maker
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Watch the Birdie is a little film that I made while I was at Kinocrat. By that time I had encountered my long-time friend, Derek York, who, alas, is no longer with us, with whom I subsequently made two amateur... semi-amateur movies I'll describe later. Anyway, Derek York and I worked at Kinocrat. Once we got the idea that we would take a 50ft roll of 16mm film and make a little silent movie which would be cut in the camera. So the entire movie would be made on those 50ft of film... 50ft of 16mm is something like two minutes... two minutes of shooting. So, we got this idea that we would show somebody coming in to have their photograph taken, and they'd go to the reception and they'd say, so and so and so, I want portraits, and this, and then they'd go to the studio, and they'd be sat down and they'd be lit, and the man would have a big plate camera with a bulb that you pressed for the exposure. And... and then they would leave and two days later they would come back and collect the photos at reception. So all that story we told, and we ran out of film just... we got it judged pretty well, but we ran out of film just before we finished the scene of her collecting the photos at the end. But all the... all the main part of being sat down and lit, because one of the three guys working there was a... or one of the two guys working there was a quite a good stills photographer, quite a good portrait photographer. And that was their main business, doing that. Film-making was kind of an adjunct. Anyway that was very interesting, and this film still exists, this little box of 50ft of 16mm, which we called Watch the Birdie.

Born in Germany, cinematographer Walter Lassally (1926-2017) was best known for his Oscar-winning work on 'Zorba the Greek'. He was greatly respected in the film industry for his ability to take the best of his work in one area and apply it to another, from mainstream to international art films to documentary. He was associated with the Free Cinema movement in the 1950s, and the British New Wave in the early 1960s. In 1987 he published his autobiography called 'Itinerant Cameraman'.

Listeners: Peter Bowen

Peter Bowen is a Canadian who came to Europe to study and never got round to heading back home. He did his undergraduate work at Carleton University (in Biology) in Ottawa, and then did graduate work at the University of Western Ontario (in Zoology). After completing his doctorate at Oxford (in the Department of Zoology), followed with a year of postdoc at the University of London, he moved to the University's newly-established Audio-Visual Centre (under the direction of Michael Clarke) where he spent four years in production (of primarily science programs) and began to teach film. In 1974 Bowden became Director of the new Audio-Visual Centre at the University of Warwick, which was then in the process of introducing film studies into the curriculum and where his interest in the academic study of film was promoted and encouraged by scholars such as Victor Perkins, Robin Wood, and Richard Dyer. In 1983, his partner and he moved to Greece, and the following year he began to teach for the University of Maryland (European Division), for which he has taught (and continues to teach) biology and film courses in Crete, Bosnia, and the Middle East.

Tags: movie, portrait, camera, film, exposure

Duration: 1 minute, 57 seconds

Date story recorded: June 2004

Date story went live: 24 January 2008