Philip Bonham-Carter

nickgilbey's picture

In a recent interview with cinematographer, Philip Bonham-Carter, he reveals his passion for capturing situations when they happen.  It doesn’t matter if the lighting isn’t good or even if there is no light at all –the importance of capturing these moments, that can never be repeated, governs his approach.  This is how the ground-breaking BBC documentary series, ‘The  Family’ was filmed in 1974. An approach that bought him quite a lot of criticism, at the time, from his fellow cameramen at the BBC who felt he was ‘letting the side down’, by not carefully lighting the interiors. This technique was very different from that used by Richard Cawston  when he produced the documentary, ‘This is the BBC’ in 1959. While you are meant to be watching events as they happen over a 24 hour period at the BBC, every scene is obviously clearly crafted with probably two or three takes for each scene. By 1974 the possibility of ‘actuality’ filming had become more achievable with lightweight hand-held 16mm cameras ( Philip used an Aaton), fast Zeiss lenses and film speeds. For the interiors in the family’s house, Philip did put colour correction gel over the windows but no film lights inside or even photofloods in the existing light sockets. There was no second camera, which is common place today, so Philip had cover the whole action on his camera and make sure the editor had suitable points to cut in and out of a sequence. I believe Philip Bonham-Carter led the way in this filming technique. Well worth listening to the whole interview where Philip also talks about his long career, including filming the Queen and the Royal Family over many years.

The BEHP, conducted by Darrol Blake, is on the BEHP website -  Interview number. 728