Alan Lawson 0:04
The copyright of this recording is vested in the BECTU history project. Jerry Anstiss, camera operator feature films. interviewers, Alan Lawson, and Sid Wilson, recorded on the first of September 1993. side one
first and foremost, when and where were you born?
Gerry Anstiss 0:39
I was born 1928. in Hampstead it's like the old St. Mary's Hospital right close to the heath, likeby ther common Yeah,
Alan Lawson 0:53
that's where I was born my grandchildren when they've gone there too. What about schooling?
Gerry Anstiss 1:00
Well, I I want to the normal infant area that you know you went to primary school with and what have you we're quite happy. My father was a professional musician. Ted Anstey. His name was he was Assistant General Secretary of the musicians union in the end. And I was taught the violin. And through the violin, I won a special talent scholarship to the Royal Academy of Music. When I was about eight and a half, nine, and that special talent scholarship paid for my schooling. And I went to the Holloway County High School, up until the outbreak of war, and then we were evacuated. And we went to Towcester in Northamptonshire. And I went to the Towcester Grammar School. still continuing my music, because I used to have to go through to Northhampton most of the time, to a professor there who carried on the teaching that was started at the Royal Academy in London. But in 19 In fact, in 1939, I was the leader of the junior Symphony Orchestra at the Albert Hall, played at the Albert Hall. dad wanted me to become a professional musician. In fact, I was offered jobs with the London Philharmonic and things like that when I was 16 and 17. But I always wanted to come and live in business. I'd always been interested in films, I used to have one of those old and crank projectors, with the Popeye films and the Chaplin films and all those kinds of films. And dad new Lady Youell And through him, I got an introduction to Rock studios in 1943 44 this was And I was taken off for a two year apprenticeship at Rock studios. It was six months, sound six months, camera, six months editing six months in production. And at the end of the two years, I was asked what department I wanted to go iand I chose camera department.
Alan Lawson 3:31
That was that was British National.
Gerry Anstiss 3:32
It became British National it was Rock studios. And Fred Swan was the studio manager in those days. Jimmy Wilson was the chief cameraman there. And he was the man that gave me my first job. So anyway, I went into the camera department with Rock. And I was there until I was called up. When was that? Was in November 49. November 45. Yeah. I beg your pardon. November 45. And I was inducted into theRoyal West Kents in the army. And I did my I was a Z list reservist actually. 13 soldiers, and you know, we were we were machine gun corps Bren gun. And, of course, the war finished. And it was a waste of time as far as I was concerned because I really hated the army. I couldn't wait to get out. And I was demobbed. I should have been demobbed in November 47. But my group was deferred for a further six months, and I eventually came out in May 1948. And during this time, of course, Rock had become British National. And they'd actually closed. So my six months reinstatement was with ABPC at Welywn Garden City.
Back in the camera, back in the camera years I came back as a clapper boy.Otto HellerWe did Queen of Spades with Thorold Dickinson he was the director he was writing over a number of films, there was Guilt is my Shadow. And For them that Trespass and there was a couple of other films being made at the same time, which was Bond Street. What else was Cavalcanti was up there at that time . Anyway, what happened was that Welwyn Garden city was shut, they closed down. We were all transferred to ABPC Elstree. Everybody came from from Welwyn Garden and just went into went into to Elstree. But there were too many camera crews at Elstree then , and, you know, you It was, like waiting for dead man shoe. You know, you used as a clock on eight o'clock in the morning and clock off again at 630 at night Even though you didn't do any work, you know, you just met in the camera room. But I was lucky for the fact that I I did Dancing Years which was really the first location first foreign location that had been done since just after the war. We were in Austria went to St Wolfgang?, in fact, in fact, into the White Horse Inn . In fact, that's where we were that's where we stayed in the White Horse Inn on St Wolfgang?. And in Vienna, we went to Vienna to shoot all the sequences in the old opera theatre there
Alan Lawson 7:27
What were you I was still clapper yes
Gerry Anstiss 7:30
I think I've got a picture of somewhere of the whole camera crew, it was Norman Warwick was the operator. And Ian Craig was the was the Technicolour technician because it was a Technicolour picture. In fact, we carried that bloody great safe all over all over the mountains. And especially dolly that takes it and especially you know, especially Technicolour dolly because there was a there was a sound man, I think his name was RV Key. who was in charge of sound at ABPC who wanted direct sound. And when we got it back to England, oh, you can hear the crickets and the birds right there. She couldn't hear any of the dialogue. So ithad to be redubbed all the way through. But we carried that down great safe around all over the place. That was it was it was great fun, though, because it was my first foreign location. And they were good people they you know, it was it was a great film to work on. It didn't make any money. But what do you think it did? But it was a very good film, very enjoyable film to work on. And then what happened after that? Oh, I was offered. I was offered a job with a Big films. Joseph Yanks?
Alan Lawson 9:05
Gerry Anstiss 9:07
And I went to Italy and worked in the Italian film business. With a I was an assistant to a cameraman called Mario Martelli. From the old Scolera? studios, which are no longer in existence. We, when you
Alan Lawson 9:25
say worked as an assistant, but
Gerry Anstiss 9:28
jack of all trades clapper if at all, because he used every shot we had. And as you know, testing bars?, I used to do those in my room at night when we got back off the location to give him first thing in the morning just to show him that the film had come out. But it was it that was interesting too, because I I stayed I stayed there for over a year.
Alan Lawson 9:56
Did you speak Italian? Yes, I
Gerry Anstiss 9:58
did. Yeah. Big Have you had it when you're there you'd learn to speak it might be very rusty now what I used to go back to Rome I went back to Rome every year up until about 1956 it was it was a beautiful city beautiful I had a flat in the parioli district which is like the hampstead of Rome via artinaga?but the union business at that time was just beginning to get more militant and I couldn't get a work permit. That was the the problem suddenly you needed a work permit and you needed to belong to the union. So I came back to England came back to England and I went for an interview with Freddy Young up at MGM in those days was he was about 50 real Tartar in those days Mr. Young Mr. Young or sir and so you were invited to call him Freddy yes, it was definitely Mr. Young , or sir Skeets Kelly. was his operator and Kit Bole? and Bonnie Frankel and inn fact Nick Roeg was was there at the same time In fact, I worked with Nick when he was first promoted from clapper boy to focus puller on the Hour of 13 that was the first job he did as focus puller and he was the senior clapper boy so I stayed as clapper boy and when on the on the crew with it. But Freddie gave me a job. And we did Ivanhoe and a couple of other smaller Well, as I say the Hour of 13
and I've worked I did a lot of I did a lot of stuff with Howard the special effects concert because first, Tomy Howe Tommy Howe Yeah, I worked in the Guinness in the special effects department did that for about nine months. That was at MGM. MGM. MGM. But that drove me around a bend it was a floor man. I wasn't you know, fiddling around with especially effects except drive me up the wall.
Alan Lawson 12:45
In concentrated into tears.
Gerry Anstiss 12:47
Yes, it is. It's very interesting. I mean, you You learn a lot. Yes, you learn a lot, but it's not like being on the floor. Not at all. Now. You're remote from everything else. Get on with it, do a painted mat. Do this do that. You know, we used to do all those kinds of things that we were effects Tommy. But I got fed up with it in the end. And I couldn't get back on the floor. And I was offered a job at Pinewood to help develop their splitting camera is that we developed two two split beam cameras. This was the offshoot of coming from the special effects you see we developed this split being camera and I can't think of the boffins name, who came from ICI he he was a chemical genius with colours and what because it was flipping camera was you know the blue backing and also the sodium lighting. We did the sodium lighting as well. Yeah. George Ashworth built in built the camera and I helped develop that. Does one of his crew think Mark Goodly? was in charge of it and Dennis Barker that was there as well Dennisand Roy Field. That was the that was a group. But I was I was given a contract with Pinewood and I Bert Easy, who was the head of the camera department. He put me back on the floor again because he he thought I'd stop moaning about all these tests and stuff that we were doing for this split beam camera So I went back on the floor which is where I wanted to be actually where I wanted to be
Alan Lawson 14:59
as a clapers They're still clappers.
Gerry Anstiss 15:00
But I became focus puller almost immediately. I was, I was teamed with with Jackie Aquila?. And we were almost a permanent second unit to most films being made at. Pinewood at that time
Alan Lawson 15:35
about what date are we?
Gerry Anstiss 15:38
Well, I was. I was there from 5052 to 57. Those were the five years because as contracts came up for renewal, it was I think it was Burt's instigation. So it was various way that because I had to get rid of now they had nearly 19 camera crews. As the contracts came up for renewal, they weren't renewed. So it was a natural, wasted flow state. Harry was there. That was when I first met Harry, Harry Weston, because I pulled focus for him on a couple of films. And Jeff Unsworth was there and Chris Chalice Bob Thompson, Ernie Stewartr. They were the operators. Yes. Yeah. It was the mood was the CEO of David Harcourt. Dudley Lovell.they were all there at that time. And we were all a giant Johnny Alcottand myself really, to senior focus pullers And I did numerous films. Numerous. I have toask Kate Kate. My wife was the she was a wardrobe mistress. So that's how we met. But we did things like Campbell's Kingdom Hell Drives that was with Brian Langdon Brian was the was the cameraman on the unit that we were working on. Dangerous Playground. Tale fo two Cities Gypsy and the Gentlemen. Captain's table. NorthWest Frontier
Alan Lawson 17:48
who directed that?
Gerry Anstiss 17:50
J Lee Thompson. Yeah, that was Geoff Unsworth cameraman on that. There weren't with that. There were numerous things. I did a couple of Dirk Bogarde pictures. It's difficult. What you're asking? I certainly find Yes. Let's
Alan Lawson 18:19
change horses. But talking about the camera men you worked with I mean, quite incredible characters. Which was the one that gave you the most? What should I say encouragement?
Gerry Anstiss 18:34
I think Harry was Harry. Harry was was was I don't think it was anybody. more technically brilliant than Harry. Harry new cinematography inside out completely. And I've known another cameraman with even bigger names than Harry phoned him up and ask him how to do a certain thing. And Harry he has been able to pull it out of the fire for and I always found. If you ask Harry. Why he was doing something he'd actually stop and tell you. Which a lot of cameramen don't do these days because I think half a dozen don't even know what they're doing anyway. But but that's that's, that's my opinion. Might seem get it done by accident rather than by design, or by having a good gaffer with them, you know, because I'm sure I'm sure I'm sure a lot of them couldn't tell you what myrad?number was or anything you know. They're completely non technical. they call themselves artists but was it they used it as a painting with light? And today? I think they distemper with it. they don't paint?
Alan Lawson 19:51
Did you end up drawing and painting with light?
Gerry Anstiss 19:53
Did you ever work with Guy Green at all? Yes, but only he was only he was a director. I see. I didn't work with him as a cameraman Mmm because he was the one who directed Arrer 13 ?
Alan Lawson 19:53
Yeah, I agree because he was the man who painted the light really did
Gerry Anstiss 20:08
well I did those kinds of people are no longer you know because I think the first camera I ever worked on a film with and this is going back to going back to the start again
was Kunter Kranth? when we did was it it was a direct demand he Latin Quarter when everything was liquid without Kunther there was he painted with light you know? I think Jeff did too. I mean, Jeff was a terrific guy. And, and certain other people, you know, around that era, you know, the French
Alan Lawson 21:09
Gerry Anstiss 21:11
No. Go get my MA he was at Denham. Yeah, he was also he was. But yeah, George Pernod?. I mean, he was also with with, with the group down at Shepperton and was with Korda and white crowd.
Alan Lawson 21:32
You're the first person I've come across his work who worked with Steven Dadewhen he was a cameraman. And he seemed to completely disappear.
Gerry Anstiss 21:42
The last time I saw Stephen, he just come back from Africa on the years, years and years ago. But I remember we used to I used to have to get all those light strips, located for technicolour l synex and put them in a book with the same number, the type number and the date we shot it. So the the end of the picture I presented him with his book with every shot of the picture. Because he did he did that Frederick March picture as well when he was at Columbus was it Columbus, Columbus.
Alan Lawson 22:34
I think I think you're right. Yeah.
Gerry Anstiss 22:36
Yeah. He was nice man to very insular man who was a Steven always kept himself to himself. Yes.
Alan Lawson 22:42
And I knew him in 1928. nobody's really ever raised him at all.
Gerry Anstiss 22:53
I don't I perhaps he wasn't. Because he wasn't forthcoming enough. You know, he didn't. He perhaps didn't have the presence of some of the others
Alan Lawson 23:03
I don't know if you ever worked with Harry Kratz, but he didn't have the footwork
Gerry Anstiss 23:09
probably couldn't duck and dive That's probably very true. But it was a very quiet man. Very, very pleasant. And as I say, the last time I saw Stephen it was it was after he came back from Zurich
Alan Lawson 23:25
Now, next thing I want to talk about actually is when you when you started doing pull focus did you use tables at tall tables? Yes.
Gerry Anstiss 23:40
What do you mean focus tables? No, no, no, no, in those days you didn't know if you had the Jackson rose. Yeah, you know, you could double check yourself with one third forward and two thirds back. You know, that was that was what used to work.
Alan Lawson 23:55
Again, depending on that partular?
Gerry Anstiss 23:57
Yes but those tables didn't really come into effect until the cadi calculator. You could look them up in In fact, I still got an old Jackson Rose. Where you can look at that depth of focus was most the people used to shoot he used to put the put the focus where the money was you know, they used to shoot almost wide open, you know? Especially Jack Cox and people like that. And Ernie Palmer did a lot of pictures Ernie Palmer in fact, he taught me what the studio lunch was ham and veal pie that's when they used the old De Brie cameras they used the photographs where the film was coming into and after lunch he was always half a stop more open. You know, it's
Alan Lawson 24:52
coming to actually to the next thing I wanted to talk about was operating. When you first operated what camera did you use
Gerry Anstiss 24:59
BMP? eye finder BMP But I did operate on Newells and
Alan Lawson 25:09
but but there's again still side finders stilll sidefinders
Gerry Anstiss 25:13
the other side.
Alan Lawson 25:15
And that judging the parallax as you get closer in
Gerry Anstiss 25:19
sometimes your not even in the picture. It's out there not in the viewfinder, there's quite an art
fellow who taught me that was Bob Thompson. Oh really because I was Bob's assistant for some time as well. And Bob used to make me set the Finder for him. And that's how I learned parallel. He used to explain it to me. Especially if you're on a split Yes. And the finder was pulled out and he was out of the picture out of the frame. I don't think there's many operators who could do that these days.
Alan Lawson 25:53
Because you've got the net you've no longer got side finders , or did you? Did you ever work with a Superpiro?
Gerry Anstiss 26:01
Suoerpiro De Brie? Yeah, yes. And that was at Rock studios. So the film thriller film. Yeah. In fact, the only cameras that we used on on the stages were De Bries
Alan Lawson 26:11
I know. I think it was Lionel Baynes. Once he got his head underneath the black velvet, he remained there virtually until
Gerry Anstiss 26:20
lunchtime. Yeah. And so his eye became accustomed to it. Yeah. Well, I didn't usually use meters even in those days. It's all done by contrast on the film. Yeah.
Alan Lawson 26:30
Yeah. So yes. But did. But do you think about the difference between operating and pull focus, which is the you think is perhaps the most difficult? Well,
Gerry Anstiss 26:47
it's two different jobs, really , two different jobs. One is technical. But the other one is, where you're the eyes of the director of really And that's what that's why I stayed an operater all my life. It's something I've always loved here.
Alan Lawson 27:04
on that. What what, you know, what, as you say, as the eyes of the director, in your experience, did you have any directors who were difficult about this at all?
Gerry Anstiss 27:19
Difficult with regards to what setups and yes, they want to?
Alan Lawson 27:24
I mean, I'm thinking of Stanley Kubrick.
Gerry Anstiss 27:27
I never did work with Stanley Kubrick, thank God.
Alan Lawson 27:33
People like that too. Rather insistent? Well, I was there setting
Gerry Anstiss 27:38
Joe Losey I was under I was under a year's personal contract, with Joe the two films where the one was Galilleo. And the other one was Romantic English Woman. And he's quite pedantic about what he wants really what he wants, because he used to be renowned for eating operators before breakfast. But I had a great relationship with Witcher, which is important, and he could be tough. Could be very tough. But he knew what he wanted. And once you could interpret what he was after, there was no more problems.
Alan Lawson 28:18
You hear me? And I know you went with the Boltings? Yes. What Roy wasn't it? I was both
Gerry Anstiss 28:25
Roy and john. Yes.
Alan Lawson 28:26
Yeah. How did you get on with them?
Gerry Anstiss 28:28
Well, I was they gave me my first job as an operator. In fact, I was told I was called into the office one day and Roy said to me, you're operating on the next picture. And you're going to get 65 pounds a week. There was no negotiation it was as what you're gonna do, and that's what you're gonna get. Because although I was with him for about 16 years, I never actually signed a contract. It became a joke. Because I just wouldn't sign a contract there was you know, when it was Charter Films, yes. When they had their own production company, but British Lion Yes, them Yes. But I stayed. I stayed at Shepperton 16 years. You never moved over to
Alan Lawson 29:16
Gerry Anstiss 29:18
No, no, no, no. The only time I ever wanted to Beaconsfield was when I was with Pinewood when we did the Human Jungle series. Bob Thompson was the operator and was Ernie Steward? you did a lot of. No, Beaconsfield but it was a nice studio Actually, in those days, it was almost a country estate
Alan Lawson 29:46
well. rather like Sound City was at one time.
Gerry Anstiss 29:50
Yes, probably. Yes. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah, it was it was a friendly studio that everybody liked going up. I think because you got two and six and day extra for the for the travel from Pinewood It was a nice studio
Alan Lawson 30:11
Did you did you ever work at Denham
Gerry Anstiss 30:13
at all? No, no, I did that I was on leave once. And I went down to Denham and I got myself. I was I was on 14 days leave out of the army and I managed to get six days work on Hornblower when Hornblower was being made there, but I would say the only time I ever went into Denham to do anything on the big old ship. strange enough, Harry Watson was the
cameraman. Oh, really? Yes.
He was a cameraman on that unit.
Alan Lawson 30:49
Because I knew Harry before the war, and I knew hin during the war, when he was in the RAF film unit
Gerry Anstiss 30:55
always lovely stories he used to tell me about that. Very modern thing. Nice. I remember that. He was a sergeant wasn'y he flight sargeant
And he's operator was Gil Haleywas a flight lieutenant. And Harry used to go work at dead on stage with his slippers on in the Gil, Haley used to put him on a charge for work being improperly dressed, and he was a cameraman.
Alan Lawson 31:30
All the directors you've worked with, which is the one that you've been impressed with?
Gerry Anstiss 31:36
Well, I think I was very impressed with Roy Roy Boulting because whenever you went on the floor with Roy, he knew the film backwards. He knew exactly what he wanted. He was a good artists director. And I think both of them was slightly before that time he because the films they used to make very good films. And but I swear that, you know, sometimes when the going got tough, I think they actually changed clothes in the middle of the day. Big because, you know, you'd be absolutely whacked out. And it's either John taken over from Roy or Roy taking over because you couldn't tell them apart. You know, their voices are the same and everything you could in latter years. But in those years, you couldn't. Yeah,
Alan Lawson 32:23
I mean, there was there were you know technicians, directors. There were artists directors. Schlesinger. Yes, yes. Carol Reed Yes.
Gerry Anstiss 32:34
Did you never worked with Carol reed no
Alan Lawson 32:37
You work with John Schlesinger? Yeah,
Gerry Anstiss 32:38
I did Yanks with John. Yes. And I think he's he's a great artist, right? Yes. Very, very, very good. Let
Alan Lawson 32:45
you get on with it. He's not a technical. No, no, no,
Gerry Anstiss 32:48
technically, if he if he's not sure of anything, he calls in his editor. You know. I mean, I
Alan Lawson 32:56
mean, there's quite a few directors that I've worked with who, whose whole attitude was that you're a technician that's your business.
Gerry Anstiss 33:05
No, I didn't find that not. I found it once. Actually, I found it once. Mind you I don't think it's I think it's possibly because, you know, we really didn't get on. Yeah, there's this where I say you take it out of the take it out of the recording. But I always had difficulty with Roy Wallpace? I found him an unsympathetic man. Although, you know, he was quite a big director.
Alan Lawson 33:39
I wasn't meaning it quite in that way. It was the the, I mean, rather like Carol reed was, his attitude was, you know, your the camera man. I want to get on with my artists, please, you know, get on with yours.Not not in a derogatory way.
Gerry Anstiss 33:54
Roy used to do that. Really? Roy used to say harry how long are you going to be Harry would say about 25 minutes alright give me a call when your'e nearly there And when he used to come on the floor room demanded complete silence when you've had your time. Now it's my time with the artists. If you've got anything to do after I've rehearsed them Okay, go ahead and do it afterwards. But whilst I'm rehearsing the artists, absolute silence and that's my time. Which I think is fair enough. Oh, yes, you know, because there's not every camera man that can make a good picture. He's got a lousy picture and most brilliant photography. It doesn't make still doesn't make it a good film.
Alan Lawson 34:46
Now, you've seen enormous changes in the equipment and stuff. You started What on Parvo?
Gerry Anstiss 34:55
are those? Yes Parvo and De Brie. Yeah then Vinten's the old H
Yeah Vintens Everest one that was the way the morrored shutter Yes. Withe the morored shutter
Alan Lawson 35:09
didn't do the work on the Vinten before?
Gerry Anstiss 35:11
Oh, yes, yes. Yes. ont eh Vinten H where you know in that so called blimp Yes. those layers with about six inches backlash the focus, you know because it's all Bowden cable Yes, yes.
Yes I worked on worked on the BNC's and Newells. And then of course on the technicolour, technicolour cameras all the Arriflexes .
Yes. Which is
evolution Let's be able to since you know, we're the first ones we use really combat cameras with a private gate. Yes, it did. revolutionise Yes. I mean, some of the cameras are brilliant. Some of theArri's Panavision. I did Cinemascope as well,
Alan Lawson 36:02
while they're in a way, they don't need kind of a wglorified Mitchell that
Gerry Anstiss 36:06
really was a Mitchell with a Bowton? lens on the spread on the front. But we used to I suppose we use about the first ones that came across, he would work more in production. They used to make CinemaScope for us
Alan Lawson 36:25
Have you used the Eclairs at all I knew the Eclairs
Gerry Anstiss 36:28
I've only I've only ever played with an Eclair on a couple of occasions. I don't know I never thought of an Eclair as a as a production camera.
Alan Lawson 36:41
It's rather funny thing is he was always scratched.
Gerry Anstiss 36:45
Forever scratched, though maybe they got rid of that in the end. The French people loved it. The French cameramen
Alan Lawson 36:57
Same as they love the De Brie
Gerry Anstiss 36:58
Yeah, yeah. No, the the vistavision incident. I did the first first few vistavision pictures or where we got a t Pinewood. Ill met by moonlight and the Hell Drivers that were shown in Vistavision
Alan Lawson 37:16
But again, that was basically a Mitchell wasn't it?
Gerry Anstiss 37:20
No, it was it was a it was a mix match of because it was it was Leica frame that you shot. Yeah. Yeah. So the film went through, went through the camera sideways. Yeah. It was a special built camera. Although the movement was basically the same adelphia usually 2000 feet in 10 minutes, not 1000 feet. And you loaded it like the old De Brie Yeah, you know, you had a hanging magazine on one side, and he looked at and passed it through the camera that way and looped it and put it into the take up side
Alan Lawson 37:54
Were you on War & Peace
Gerry Anstiss 37:55
No, no, no, no, no. No, I never thought no. I didn't do that. That was an outfit that was really based in Spain wasn't Bronson? That was a that was an empire for two years wasn't? No, I never I never got tied up with with any other Spanish Spanish outfits. A lot of people did. Yeah.
Alan Lawson 38:18
Did you work with David Lean at all?
Gerry Anstiss 38:21
No, it was one of my one of my I would loved to have worked with him Because he is what he was one of the best ones.
Without doubt most of the old style cameramen if you worked on the David Lean picture you were due for an Oscar. That's what they used to say. You know, let's
Alan Lawson 38:45
get demand redundancy pay at the end. Yes. Yes. Yeah.
Gerry Anstiss 38:51
I would like to have I would like to work with work for him. I think I think he made some lovely pictures. beautiful pictures. I mean, go back to his early early
Sound Barrier and all that. Yes. Although he was what co director yes with, I mean, he was with Noel Coward when he was the technical director.
Alan Lawson 39:19
And from the point of view of putting the thing together
Gerry Anstiss 39:23
can Bridge over the Kwai and Lawrence? Ryan;s Daughter and you know, they would lovely pictures. So shame they can't be made now.
Alan Lawson 39:33
Gerry Anstiss 39:36
You know, Zhivago yes, yes. All that. I mean, they were brilliant pictures.
Alan Lawson 39:47
Of all the directors you've worked with. As you said, Roy, was your your favourite? Did you have any ones do you have mentioned one name but do you ever ever, ever have any others that you'd rather Never ever worked with at all and never would want to work with again.
Gerry Anstiss 40:03
I won't work with Michael Winner because I did his first three filmshe ever did .
He always nine times out of 10 he phones me out and says can't we work together again Jerry. I keep saying I haven't got the time you know, I'm busy or I'm just off on holiday or gotta go and do the shopping or something. But
Alan Lawson 40:32
were you on Hannibal Brooks?
Gerry Anstiss 40:34
No, no, no, I was I was on Clerical West 11 Billa Mikado and over the years I do the second unit on Wicked Lady. Jack Cardiff. Let me do the second unit for him and I did something on this last picture he did actually out but only for a couple of days. That was Dirty Weekend. But I only did a couple of days. Just to stir him up a bit. It's not that I dislike it. I think I think he's hilarious. You know, as long as you don't let him get on top of you. I think he's really hilarious.
Alan Lawson 41:24
But does he know he is sorry? Does he know he is?
Gerry Anstiss 41:28
I never sure. I'm never actually sure. I don't know whether he it's a big act It's a it is a big act. You know?
Was it What was his lovely story about what was it? Yes a film is made with team effort.
That that was that was his one of his interviews he does yes is team effort I said over what is team effort. These are what a lot of people doing exactly what I told them. You know, you got to have a biggie for that go to the image. I can stop you there....................................
Alan Lawson 0:12
You were saying that you
Jerry Anstiss side two you were saying that you did have quite a bit of fun with it
Gerry Anstiss 0:20
with with Michael. Yes, we did. Yeah. Because of the story about Andre on West 11. We're doing one take and Michael said to Jerry, who was operating is that how was that for you during these? Oh, it was all right up. So the number and things like, well, I must admit, I enjoyed the book better. But when we were doing West 11, we on the back of the camera car, we have a big Blackboard. And we had the whole camera crews names written on the blackboard. And we were using the old fearless dollies with the with the metal rails. And in those days, Michael to come in with a different Savile Row suit on everyday and he's Gucci shoes. And he's big cigar and his directors finder hanging around his neck. And he used to put his foot when he was talking to us he used to put his foot on the rail. We had a lovely grip called Ted Lockhart. And every time he saw he put his foot on the rail ran the dolly over his foot. And if you've got tears in his eyes, he went out to the camera car and put three stripes and if he made him if he made him shout you've got five marks on the back on this Blackboard and things things like like taking all the batteries out of his loud hailer and seeing him thump it and blacking the end of it so that when he got black marks, round his mouth was on one particular occasion we were working in a in a cafe, a restaurant, a restaurant cafe, boutiquey place in Knightsbridge and the tea tea truck was outside the chuck waggon was outside and we used to get him his tea with the camera crews tea. And this particular day in the cup they put about eight teaspoons of sugar in this in this cup and he got a lovely blue Savile Row suit on and silk tie and we were chatting to him and backing him up against the door. The entrance into this cafe. And the idea was at the clapper boy as soon as he saw a shape in the glass doorway, came hurtling through the door with ease and he put the coffee hold down of front of him all this sticky messy coffee. And we were brushing it inside. Oh Christ Michael has ruined your sofa with putting it into his coat. We had to leave the set because we couldn't stop laughing. Get outside. Five marks up on the blackboard. used to have some marvellous was another occasion we're on location down at Gatwick Airport. And the scene was people arriving coming back from the continent. And it was like it was on Play it Cool. And Helen Shapiro and she was the daughter of Dennis that lovely actor slightly queer.
Alan Lawson 3:46
Gerry Anstiss 3:50
Anyway, what happened was we done about four takes and when they came through the doors, all the press photographers had to take the flash pictures and we hadn't got the shot. We're still waiting for the weather and the props had run through all the flashbulbs. So we had enough for one more take and we're always standing around chatting around the cameras I mean the clapper boy rushed out and went 327 times six bang and they all flash to
come up was
there wasn't another bulb in the place.
He said some other stuff. I did the Omen I enjoyed that. Dick Donner Dick Donner was was a good director. He went on to greater and better things you know with Lethal Weapon, all those kinds of things. But in those days, I got along very well. He was good. He was good director to work with.
Alan Lawson 4:53
Did you ever think of having a go at lighting?
Gerry Anstiss 4:57
I do a bit of it. He said I do a bit both really camera operate. But in the days when we were doing film after film I just loved operating well I was always offered pictures. In fact, I was going to do the last Boulting picture before, before the disaster happened at a Sheperton. And they said to me that, you know, they gave me my breaks all the way through and they were gonna give me a break on the on the, this was about 73 that I think you're a bit remote as a cameraman. When you're working on a film, I, although you set the tone when you set the quality of the film and the style. You don't get as much fun. I don't think as operating as an operator, you're more into the film, you know, you I think you're more into the early part of it really part of the team here. And this is why, as I said earlier on, you are the eyes of the director and the ears of the cameraman. You know, that's that's basically I mean, operating. Only 5% of the job is turning handles
Alan Lawson 6:11
Yes, yes. Yes. interpretation.
Gerry Anstiss 6:13
It's, it's, it's it's transposing what the director says into the picture. And you're listening out for any problems that could be likely to happen for the camera man. Although the camera man of course, this is your as your governor. I've had a wonderful life in the film business 40 50 years
Alan Lawson 6:41
when you were setting did you ever make up?????
Gerry Anstiss 6:44
Yeah, many many many times here because I knew I knew Andy first as a production manager before he became studio manager. And in fact, old Andy was still used to prop up the bar at Shepperton up until the time just before he died.
Alan Lawson 7:05
What have you used a lot of zooms at all
Gerry Anstiss 7:08
on productions zooms Yeah, yeah. I still prefer attractors. But I mean they can get you out of out of a lot of problems sometimes. I don't mind I don't like zooms ??????????????? that out for me is amateur reel. But I quite like using zoom to change your focal length on a lateral track or something like that. Where you don't see zoom but if you actually see it as a mark that I prefer a cut to a zoom You know, it seems lazy working way around it
Alan Lawson 7:41
it is a lazy lazy tool
Gerry Anstiss 7:43
and what you're what you're doing really is you're not approaching you're just bringing bring it bringing the picture sharper to you. You're not you're not actually doing any movement on the camera. Because I suppose you could make a picture with a static camera we just a zoom I suppose. zoom in zoom out. Now the zoom basically I suppose was made for television wasn't ityes, yes. I mean, that was that was why was zoom was invented.
Alan Lawson 8:17
Well, they're accurate. I mean, it was around before television i mean but what what a box of tricks that was that was the barrier down if you're
Gerry Anstiss 8:27
no the ones that we used to use with will speak were Cookes the big heavy Cookes when we first asked me in a box Yeah. But now some of those when the five to ones are quite nice you know there's I don't like the idea of zooming from a 25 to a 250 just because it's there are a lot of people do too. We got a zoom, let's use it
Alan Lawson 9:00
all the pics you have operated on which is what is your particular favourite?
Gerry Anstiss 9:05
I've got two actually I think Yanks when I did Yanks with John Schlesinger
Alan Lawson 9:15
camera man on that?
Gerry Anstiss 9:17
Richard Bush there were 1000 1380 setups and the camera was on the move the whole time you don't see a camera move on the screen. That to me was you know that was the one I'm most proud of. Because there are some some lovely setups and as you say, john being what john is he actually get on with it and he accepts you know you can offer suggestions for him and if it works for him it works. for you
Alan Lawson 9:52
found directors sometimes resentful of the art suggestion?
Gerry Anstiss 9:58
Yes, on To call it a word yes on some occasions. But I find that there the inexperienced ones I have a feeling that sometimes I think you're usurping their authority, when in actual fact you're not, because what you're trying to do is to offer them you know, so some of your experience, I mean, you can't go into a supermarket and buy experience. And you can't come out of film school with a certificate that says, I am a director after three years courses, and never been on the floor before. And if you've got somebody with you who's done 30 years old, and he offered a suggestion to you is only offering it for your benefit. He's not offering it for anything else.
I do find some of them resentful yeah And if that happens, then I kind of slide away. I'm either out shopping or doing other things. I never actually say no, I don't want to work with you.
I make make excuses. Because nothing is worse than having an unhappy unit Nothing is worse than the old attention and the backbiting and the what they call politics local politics. I'm a camera operator is is an essential part of filmmaking. I think it is a it's a good training ground to become a director of photography, because you work with so many people that something must rub off on you.
Alan Lawson 11:37
Yes, and you're always you're always looking at that little picture. Yes.
Gerry Anstiss 11:40
All the time. All the time. Yeah. And you sometimes hear something that the camera man doesn't that Harry taught me how to light. I know how to light. I don't extend there. I must admit. I can't stand that kind of floodlighting. I don't like that at all. You know, I like I like to mould Things
Alan Lawson 12:04
to Do you ever work with Gil Taylor?
Gerry Anstiss 12:06
Yes, I did for about five years.
Alan Lawson 12:08
And it was it was it was he still he was bouncing light off white sheets then was he know
Gerry Anstiss 12:13
No then he's kind of gone? He gone back? I mean, I think bouncing light off sheets as far as Gil was concerned was expediency when he was doing the television series?
Alan Lawson 12:23
when he was working with Polanski?
Gerry Anstiss 12:24
Yes, yes. I know that he used to do it then. But But mainly It started when he was on when he was working on the television series ABPC because it's so much easier, isn't it? slamming a light up against a couple of eight x four polystyrene sheets. And you get shadowless light. And then the exposure of 3 5 and you walk away from it don't you Ino I like moulding on I light also Harry used to say seen him coming outside of the frame. Doesn't matter if you don't see him again. But see him go out the other side That's that was his idea of and Whatcy ? Green was another one because he used to do a lot of Boulting Pictures as well. And Max was a lighter. He was Kris Kringle, old Max, a great, great guy to work with. But over over the years, over the years, I think, unfortunately, yes. The industry today is losing it. The standards are going down.
Alan Lawson 13:41
It's lost its way. The
Gerry Anstiss 13:43
standards are definitely dropping. Yes. Yeah. And you can see actually you can see it on the on the films. A lot of people I suppose say the old time way of working is a bit past it. But I don't think so. I think you've got to, you've got to learn. You've got to gain experience. These pop promo directors and lighting cameraman. I don't rate them highly at all. I'm not old fashioned, but I just don't like what they do.
Alan Lawson 14:20
Yes, true. So you're down also as documentary?
Gerry Anstiss 14:26
Yes, I do documentaries. Yeah. Documentaries over the years. I was I did a stint of about nine months, I suppose. With Merton Park with Geoffrey Dinsdale? while working way, way, way, way back. But we used to do documentaries. Yeah. We're every other week we're going to ever fail to the steelwork wisdom, which still there, who know. Not Not that I know, because he was head of the camera department.
Alan Lawson 14:57
Kind of up to enjoy During the war,
Gerry Anstiss 15:00
now this is after
Alan Lawson 15:10
Gerry Anstiss 15:11
no in charge of the cameras. I can't think of his name he was in charge of the camera department in those days, but, I mean, he was a knowledgeable cameraman. Oh, yes. Yes. very knowledgeable.
Alan Lawson 15:30
Because Harry Max really started there. You know?
Gerry Anstiss 15:33
Did he really?
That was just before the wars was quite a bit before. Yeah. I'd loved old Terry . I thought he was great. He was couldn't suffer fools gladly. But he was great. He always had a running battle with the with the producers always. I think that was his meat.
Alan Lawson 15:59
On last night. I mean, they were the they were the exception. Towards the latter end of his life, he did tremendous non Woo Commercials.
Gerry Anstiss 16:09
Yes, that's right. Yeah. Come to us at studio. Yeah, that's right. Yeah. But I think the last picture I did with Harry Waxman was I felt married to him actually . was Biggest Dog in the World. We did that. But Harry used to phone me at two o'clock in the morning after, you know, he's been thinking about what we did with this stupid bloody directory, etc, etc. why we did this? I do not know. So hesaid right soon as he as he put his phone down, I'll be awake for the rest of night wondering what the hell he was talking about?
Alan Lawson 16:53
Looking back over it? Or if you could, you know, start again? What would you change at all?
Gerry Anstiss 17:01
I wouldn't change camera department I think I think I would have accepted my chances. Rather than stay an operator. Yeah, I think I would have become a director of photography. When I had the chance. I think that was a mistake.
Alan Lawson 17:23
Because at the moment, it must be very difficult to do to do step out from being an operator to being a lighting cameraman.
Gerry Anstiss 17:31
Well, you I can do it I can. But these days, these days, I want the whiskers. I would rather as I say with the Boultings in 72. If I would have taken it, then, you know, I would have been a director for over the last 20 years. Yeah. That is now I'm an old time operator I'm over 65. And, quite honestly, they don't, I don't want to be they don't want people like us around. And I find it with most of the operators actually. When you talk to them, the old time operators said No, we've I've had enough of this and they've retired people like Dick Waterson? and Dave Harcourt I think it is, I think, I think you have to respect the person to to really
give your all. But if you don't respect them, it's very difficult. Because I won't let my standards drop and sometimes it leads to real altercations. You know, I hate people turning round to me like what I did a an NBC movie of the week last year.
And the line producer. We had it with we had a five five, which over five and a half weeks schedule mind you we were working 16 hour day. And using the new American thing, which is a nine day week, you work nine days before you get a day off, and then you work another nine days you get another day off. So a nine day week and a 16 hour day. And if you if we boil that down, you're really on a 12 week schedule. Yes. And this line producer kept saying, you know, when we were waiting for Oh for Christ's sake is only for television. Now, this for a man who is making a picture,
Alan Lawson 19:32
but he has attitude,
Gerry Anstiss 19:33
the attitude is wrong, and you don't respect him for it. And why should you let your standards drop? You know, just because this man is down in there saying well, it's only for television. I don't care if it's only for television or whatever it is I still try and give the best of my ability. You know that's that's my approach to it.
Alan Lawson 19:49
But one last thing I want to ask you and I when I was last an operator, every operator his own little gadget box what's in yours?
Gerry Anstiss 20:04
I haven't got a gadget box
Alan Lawson 20:05
Gerry Anstiss 20:06
I was an operator I used to have a gadget box I used to have a gadget boxes oas a focus puller but I still got it upstairs in the loft and that's what the filters and filled a crisis as well I've got boxes of them upstairs. Yes, yes. Yeah, I've got those upstairs in the loft which is in a steel case which I used to take on location. If anybody wanted anything I was sure I had it. But as an operator you you know, you don't unless you take a couple of metres of
Alan Lawson 20:40
perhaps it was as opposed it may have been
Gerry Anstiss 20:43
used earlier. My box is with French flags and gauzes as you say unfiltered filter holders tape measures yes everything yeah, yeah that's the that's still upstairs in my loft I'd hate to think what's in there now couple of Stanley? levels
worth a fortune
now I used to have one
Alan Lawson 21:04
did you used to buff the gate by the way?
Gerry Anstiss 21:08
I used to not with a chamois leather
Alan Lawson 21:10
have I had a grease stick
Gerry Anstiss 21:13
Now I used to do with the grease off the nose.
Alan Lawson 21:17
We use the grease stick with with Shammi leather with jewellers rouge
Gerry Anstiss 21:22
No no whatever we used to, used to take the no like the the natural grease off your face
Alan Lawson 21:33
leaves the path to take out the front plate. And if you just take out the gain jeweller rouge and rub it up
Gerry Anstiss 21:44
we used to have we when we were working on Shepperton and when I was you know for all those years I was there we had a camera of our own that was only yours. And mine was called the crown jewels. Nobody ever touched that. That was my camera ??? 235. I mean, that was my one
Alan Lawson 22:06
that came from meaning. I don't know what
Gerry Anstiss 22:09
Alan Lawson 22:11
Well, it came from APRC
Gerry Anstiss 22:14
I had good I had two high speed Mitchell's really were Peter Brock. So it would only let me use he would let anybody else because I used to get you get a terrible jam on those if you're not careful. If you're going to use our speaker Jerry goes with that. Because when we did HMS Defiant and we were on a raft, sunken raft about a mile off Filhighoie?? so in the Mediterranean as like for about four months, sea water and I used to take those Mitchells apart and clean them practically every night. literally take the movement and bring them all out in Vaseline and back up again. Because you know what? sea water
Alan Lawson 23:01
and simplify things. Yeah.
Gerry Anstiss 23:06
Yeah. Howard Lydecker. how are the brownies today he used to say, the brownies box Brownie They worked every day without a hitch for four months. At 96 frames. Never once, not once did they have any problem But, you know, in my latter years now, I don't do very much these days because there isn't as a much around to do. You live in hope. But I'm now chairman of the Guild of British camera technicians. And I'm vice chairman of the ??????????????? of Great Britain. So I keep in touch, you know quite regularly with everything that's going on, but you must be looking shrinking number. I think operators are a dying race because I don't know directors seem to like operating and camera men seem to like operating I think these days with the playback, you know, with the video assist you got everybody that's looking at the playback and if the chippy doesn't like it will you go again? You know, it's one of those terrible but I I'm not sure why they want to operate themselves. Because I find it difficult to to do the to to light and operate.
Alan Lawson 24:45
Well, isn't it because they haven't got the competence. That's the answer and they can't accept
Gerry Anstiss 24:57
but I don't know so in in, in in those days of yore If you'd like to talk about time passed, at the end of a shot, the director would say, you know, Is that alright? To the operator? And the operator would say yes or no. If it was all right, yes, it's alright. If it's no, you explain why. And if it's not to his liking, then you go again. But today, that doesn't happen. are many using this assist? Yes, a lot of lot of people use the assist. And I don't think you can direct artists to if you're watching the television screen. And I think the artists objected to this disembodied voice around the back of the set looking at the television, so well, we go again, because of you know.
Alan Lawson 25:45
But again, it is it's, although they say it's the same medium, it
Gerry Anstiss 25:49
isn't the same. It doesn't. It is not the same film business as it used to be. That's not the same business. Unfortunately, with the, you know, now that the studios are no longer existent. And you had studio training, because you belong to a studio and you got trained, and you learn to gain experience that that goes through these four wallers, you're in and out, and nobody's got time to teach anybody anything. And that, again, is one of the reasons why the standards fall you know, the guild is trying to set up some training schemes now. Because we don't want to lose the, the expertise of cinematography. And some of the the older type. Respected cameramen are giving lectures now. And operators are giving lectures, you know, new people out, you know, how it's done, how it's done, or how it should be done. Just point a camera, you know, you compose the picture is,
Alan Lawson 26:47
it's like how often one has heard all you do, as you pointed out.
Gerry Anstiss 26:53
But for me, it's turned off.
Alan Lawson 26:57
He was saying just now that some people do appreciate the work you do?
Gerry Anstiss 27:04
Well, I think it's because you're able to, you're able to cut corners on it, you can you can, you can get something done in half an hour. That will probably take an inexperienced person Yeah, a couple of hours to do. And I reckon you can if you're really on top of it, you can practically save a day a week, in some cases, because you know, from experience what you're up against. And some of them are very appreciative. Because you do get them. You do go do get them out of a hole this untested young American writer I was working with on this NBC thing that I did last year. Mike Schweitzer he's never really done a full feature film, he comes from Hill Street Blues, and those kind of, you know, the, the slick American, and he's a very, very he's an imaginative man. And, of course, he's been used to the speed of, of the American television shows, you know, where you work 12 hours back to back that's, you know, 12 hours shooting. And he used to say to me, I don't care what we do, as long as I've got 33 setups on the report sheet going back to America. I, after the first week, I said to him, Well, rather the 33 crappy setups. why don't why don't we do 25 good ones. And he went, Oh, yeah. And then you found that we could actually cover more time. Because instead of it being cut, cut, cut, cut, cut, cut cut, you were able to combine a couple of shots and make it a little bit longer and a bit more interesting. And in the end, at the end of the six weeks that we were working on on the film, he came he thanked me very, very much. He then said Jesus Christ, good, you know, throw a gun back. You're the first one I'm gonna call. So you do get appreciated. But it was his first film outside of America. And he was
very suspicious because he'd been used to the American system. Well, I don't think the American system is any better than ours.
Alan Lawson 29:22
What equipment we're using on that
Gerry Anstiss 29:23
we used the BL. the BL On tripod or? No, no. It was all proper, you know with dollies and anvil heads, and it was it was a professional, professional job. Frank, Watts was the cameraman I don't know if you remember Frank. Frank was a cameraman. And nobody was going in the frame is very, very good. But we turn into a very good stuff and in fact they were very highly pleased with at the end of the of the end of the picture. But unfortunately the big problem was our as I told you earlier, we got a line producer Ah Jesus only for television. That's good enough for television. Okay, fine if you want more, if you don't want him in the picture that's fine with us. You know? Why isn't in the picture? We didn't know these marks? It's one of those.
Alan Lawson 30:21
I see they're using a system. Yes.
Gerry Anstiss 30:26
It's it says knowing is knowing what you can get away with and what you can't get away with. I mean, some things you obviously you can get away with. Because as I used to say operating is really is up to the operator if he wants to cut there he cuts Yes, within the atmosphere cut there. What else he doesn't make any difference as far as the operator. So you know, your piece itself as long as it's nicely composed in here. And it's a nicely operated? Yes.
So the operating Yeah, yeah.
I don't like jerky pans or I hate it. When I see on television. Sometimes these days somebody stands up and they go out a picture and then the camera catches them up
Alan Lawson 31:06
banging their head.
Gerry Anstiss 31:09
Excuse me, I'm gonna stand up I like working with American stars. Well, over the years, I mean that they are professionals, and they really are professionals together.
Yeah, I love
Let me say, I started off with I start off with Bob Taylor. He was great. Robert Taylor And over the years I've worked with Peck Gregory Peck on a picture of The Omen, it's the only time I've ever seen a unit by an artist. And then the picture present
Alan Lawson 31:57
Gerry Anstiss 31:58
And I made a collection around the unit. And they bought a Georgian claret jug from Harrods. And they had an engraving on put onto it To a gentle man.
And he was delighted. absolutely delighted. I've worked withElizabeth Taylor Joan Fontaine. Bette Davis Victor Mature? Quite a few of them. It's a revelation because they know exactly what you're doing on
Friday. Oh, yeah. And I started what Lindsay had gone on and you say, oh, I've got a 50 I might say, Oh, you cut in there and that the dads on the line? You know, they know exactly what you're up to. Yeah, it's
all in all, it's
been a good life. It really has. you've travelled the world, you've been paid for going to some marvellous place mind you some crap places too remember locations like Nigeria, or my God. Israel wasn't very good either. When we were there, India. If I think of the only place I haven't really been to is South America.
But I've been all over the other places, most of the world over all the Continental countries, including Russia, Greece, Turkey. And I've done practically every country in Africa over the years. And there's been a bit of a change there. Because I met my wife, Kate. We met in South Africa, in Natal. And over the years, you know, I went back to places
they will change their names now most of them a year and Uganda and Ethiopia and Kenya and Tanganyika and Malawi and Rhodesia, West Africa, Belgium, Congo. I've been all over those places. And in fact, Kate one day, a few couple years ago said me, I'd love to go back to Africa. So we took a month holiday and we went on a fortnight Safari And we also went down to Mombasa. She said, I don't like this anymore. She couldn't get used to change the change. But over the years, we've spent our time in Africa.
Well, I don't know if there's very Much more I can tell you is that's great, except that I'm still going on if I can possibly carry on as long as my legs work and I can look through the camera, I'm alright. Thanks very much. You're very, very welcome. Yeah, I hope it's of use to you.......................