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The Bostonians: Problems with the film stock


Heat and Dust: The difficulties of working in India
Walter Lassally Film-maker
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Heat and Dust was another one of those films where the lines of communication with the laboratory became extremely extended because, even phoning London was a quite adventure, in those days, from Hyderabad. You couldn't always get through and the line wasn't always very clear. And we used to get strange telexes which had explosions of stars and asterisks and commas and things in the middle. I once received a telegram which said, 'Ru he loo exelet', and that means: rushes look excellent. Only half the letters were there. But I managed to decipher that one. But sometimes it said quite a nasty... no they didn't use words like that, they said, 'Severe scratch left of frame on take ***', you know. So that called for a number of phone calls to London, which, again, were... took a long time getting through, but fortunately, the other end of the line was Les Ostinelli in Technicolor lab. And I've already said how important it is to have somebody at the other end of the line who can give you an opinion, who doesn't just say, 'Yes, there's a scratch and it's up to you if you think it's serious'. He was able to say, 'I don't think it's very serious, this is a cell scratch or this is an emulsion scratch'.

But by and large, we didn't have any severe problems, other than those caused by the lights failing and the big HMI failing. That caused severe problems, and it took a quite a long time to repair. Because India has a quota... Each film that you make in India has a quota of so much equipment that you can import, free of customs, and that quota we'd exceeded before we even started to shoot. So from that point onwards, any time we needed a spare part of any kind, somebody had to come from London with it in his pocket. That was the only way, and you can't exactly put an HMI in your pocket. We did get, though, imported in that way in somebody's suitcase, we got the starter unit which was actually the part that had failed, could be put into somebody's suitcase. But this isn't always the case. So the lines of communication got very, very stretched, both for equipment and for communication with the laboratory. But we made it through to the end.

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: Heat and Dust, Les Ostinelli

Duration: 2 minutes, 16 seconds

Date story recorded: June 2004

Date story went live: 24 January 2008