BSC’s 75 Year Anniversary

It cannot have escaped any cinematography buffs that the BSC is holding their 75th anniversary this year! And obviously this calls for some celebration. So, without further ado, here are some voices from BSC members we found at the BSC Expo last week.

We did make one curious observation though, in the BSC gift shop at their booth the logos on all the shirts and caps still said ”70 years”… But then it could be argued that the BSC badge obscures the zero and technically, there could be a five behind there…

So… ”Who is your candidate for best British cinematographer of all time, and which one is the best British film of all time?” 

Harvey Harrison BSC with British Cinematographer Magazine Commander-in-Chief Stuart Walters.

Living legend Harvey Harrison BSC, one of IMAGO’s founding fathers, needs about half a second to come up with his candidates. ”Freddie Francis. The only BSC member to win Oscars for both Black & White and colour cinematography.  Best British film of all time? ’Don’t Look Now’ (1973), Nicolas Roeg (Also a brilliant DP).

James Friend ASC BSC and… friends. Left to right Milos Moore, Aremac Productions, J. Friend, Zoe Mutter from British Cinematographer Magazine and Teddy Nygh.

James Friend ASC BSC won last year’s Oscar for best Cinematography for ”All Quiet on the Western Front”(2022). He suggests Freddie Young OBE, BSC, as the best British cinematographer of all time and Young’s ”Lawrence of Arabia” (1962) as best British film of all time, and offers ”Casino Royale”, shot by Phil Méheux BSC, as a runner up for the latter title.

Nina Kellgren BSC

Nina Kellgren BSC has a Scandinavian heritage. Born in the UK with an American mother and a Swedish father hailing from Åre in Jämtland in Sweden (a mountainous region, although in the Himalayas these wouldn’t even qualify as hills…). ”There have been a number of brilliant British cinematographers and many brilliant British films. I don’t think in terms of ’the best of all time’, that’s not the way my mind works”.

Titans of British cinematography, Jamie Harcourt (Associate BSC) (of ”Star Wars” (1977) fame, need we go on..?) and former BSC president Robin Vidgeon BSC ( ”Hellraiser” (1987), some 43 features with Dougie Slocombe etc. ).

Jamie’s choices: Billy Williams and ”Gandhi” (1982). Robin’s choices: Dougie Slocombe and ”Raiders of the Lost Ark” (1981). ”Dougie got Raiders because he shot the India sequence in close ’Encounters of the Third Kind’ for Spielberg, who was highly impressed with Dougie’s expertise and unbelievable track record. I felt Dougie was a brilliant choice for an action/adventure film like Raiders, because he gave it a touch of class, as if it had been a high society drama, like ’The Great Gatsby’ or similar”.

Jamie Harcourt and Robin Vidgeon BSC

Former IMAGO President Nigel Walters BSC feels that ”the greatest all around British cinematographer in my opinion is Chris Menges ASC BSC, because of his outstanding work on both documentary and feature films. The greatest British film is ”A Clockwork Orange” (1971) shot by John Alcott, whom I nominate as Best Cinematographer for feature films.

Nigel Walters BSC and Chris Menges ASC BSC. (Picture taken at the 2020 Expo).

And I’m also going to suggest -as ’Honorable Mention’- a somewhat controversial candidate, in that I feel Adrain Biddle may have become one of the best British cinematographers of all time had he lived. As things now stand, he turned in sterling work on James Cameron’s ’Aliens’, Ridley Scott’s ’Thelma and Louise’, ’1492, Conquest of Paradise’ and many others”.

Gaffer Luisa Fanciullacci and Mike Eley BSC

Mike Eley BSC, also a former President of the BSC, picks Jack Cardiff and ”The Third Man”(1949). ”Normally, cinematography isn’t supposed to call attention to itself, but I just loved all those giant shadows and the atmospheric night exteriors in Vienna”. We have a little chat on what Orson Welles’ contributions may or may not have been to the final look and sound of the picture. ”I can’t imagine anyone as creative as Orson Welles not offering ideas or suggestions on the set, I’m sure he contributed a great deal. And it doesn’t make sense, but it works! The scene where Harry Lime’s cat gives him away; we see the cat stroking itself against Harry’s shoes and trouser-leg in a dark doorway, a woman turns on the light in her apartment and suddenly a powerful spotlight (!) illuminates Harry in the doorway. A car comes down the street, and in the split second it takes for it to pass the doorway, Harry has disappeared without a trace!”

Nic Knowland BSC and Ingrid Domeij FSF

Nic Knowland offers Jack Cardiff and ”The Third Man”. Incredibly, Nic picks the same two choices as Mike. ”It must be because we’re from the same part of London”, Nic laughs. ”I was a member of a film club in my youth”, he reminisces, ”and I would run the projector. And I remember running ’The Third Man’ was just magical!” 

Jeff Lawrence from Ronford engineering Co Ltd, steadicam operator Gernot Grondiger AAC and cinematographer Thea Adlung AAC.

Technically not a BSC member, but the bona fide members would suffer enormously if they couldn’t rely on Jeff’s sterling camera supports, and had to hand-hold everything… so Jeff is in. But he gracefully choses ’The Kellgren Option’ and remains silent. We’ve noticed the scarcity of gear heads at the Expo and wonder if this is because the industry is physically running out of gear heads? ”It’s running out of people who can operate a gear head”, Jeff clarifies.

Mattias Nyberg BSC

Finally, another Scandinavian connection, as Mattias Nyberg BSC was one of the panelists at the Expo. ”The questions are almost impossible to answer”, he explains, ”because there are so many absolutely brilliant British cinematographers and so many British films that I love. But Douglas Slocombe BSC has to be up there among the finest cinematographers of all time and ’Dr Zhivago’  (1965) is simply a film masterpiece”.

In summing up, surely Robert Krasker BSC must also be a strong contender for the title of Best British cinematographer of all time, since his magnum opus ’The Third Man’ turns up twice in this little survey.

Text and Photos Lars Pettersson FSF