Flash, Bang, Wallop…The Stills Photographer Speaks

When Anna asked if I would come aboard the Blitz and Bananas ocean liner and join the eager crew sailing into the uncharted waters of amateur film making I saluted smartly, gave a hearty ‘Aye, aye Captain.’ and dallied just long enough to grab my Mae West!

Mirror, mirror...

Being invited to be the official stills photographer for the production (which has nothing to do with ocean liners but everything to do with wartime experiences) was a real honour for me and I was delighted to get involved.

Ready for 'Action'

Being a fan of the wonderful photojournalist Eve Arnold (who sadly died recently at the grand age of ninety-nine) and particularly the work she did of Marilyn Monroe, I was immediately put in mind of the film ‘The Misfits’, Marilyn’s last completed film and a real tour de force. Eve Arnold’s photos of the making of the film are so revealing, they capture the chemistry between Clark Gable and Marilyn perfectly, and show just what a really great photographer can do.

Mr Boom Man

The great priviledge of being a professional photographer is that it gives me a passport to the world behind-the-scenes in many different situations, and that was exactly what I found on the set of Blitz and Bananas…a world of sub-plots, intrigue, human nature in all it’s diversity and a story line nearly as fascinating as the script! But as they say ‘what goes on in Vegas stays in Vegas’…so fear not your secrets are safe with me.

Anna Confers with Brian

Of course there are a number of challenges to photographing the production of a film and I had to work hard to keep out of the way, keep quiet during recording and sensitive scenes and generally not inflame the tensions that inevitably build up over a long and stressful day of filming.

The Boys Are Back in Town

I would have dearly loved the use of a camera blimp (a padded box to muffle the sound of the camera) but without one I had to mostly confine my photography to the rehearsals. This often proved frustrating as actors generally save their best performances for when the director shouts ‘action’ and I have to sit back and watch as their faces come alive with all the emotion that was missing from the run through! Ho hum!

Seeing the sheer professionalism of the actors young and old, new and experienced, was a real eye opener for me and I was humbled by their ability to bring the script to life and make me believe in every word…what talent!

A Break between Scenes

For the technically inclined I kept my equipment simple and lightweight. I used a single DSLR with a single lens (sometimes a standard zoom and occassionally a prime lens), I worked only by available light (absolutely no flash) as I was keen to capture the on set atmosphere and not overpower it with supplementary light, and most importantly of all I had a pocketful of memory cards and spare batteries so that I could keep going all day long.

Making A Grand Entrance

Many scenes were shot in tight little spaces and I was grateful not to be encumbered by big bags and bulky equipment as I crawled around to get the best angle. Although lighting was used by the movie makers for interior filming it was frequently the case that the action I wanted to record was happening in the shadows, so I was extremely grateful for the ability of a DSLR to cope with low and mixed lighting.

In The Spotlight

I thoroughly enjoyed my time as Blitz and Bananas’ official photographer and though I’m no Eve Arnold I hope I managed to capture at least some of the je ne sais quoi of the production in my pictures.

Simon Earwicker

About Anna