GREAT CINEMATOGRAPHERS


#1: From interview [Web of Stories website, 2003]

#2: ICFF Manaki Brothers [2009]

 

   


BILLY WILLIAMS

 

Born: 3 June 1929, Walthamstow, London, England, as William D. Williams,  son of doc and newsreel cameraman Billy Williams Sr. [1895-1966].

Career: At the age of 14, he became his father's asst. They made training films, industrial films and program fillers for the cinema. In November 1946, he went to Kenya and Uganda with his father, who now worked for the Colonial Film Unit. After his military service, he got a job as c.asst with British Transport Films for 5 years. Bought his own film equipment and started as freelance doph of doc's. 'I really wanted to get into feature films. I was beginning to appreciate cinema much more and there was a lovely cinema I used to go to in Oxford Street called the Academy Cinema, which always had foreign films. I was beginning to appreciate the aesthetics of cinema much more because I think, as an assistant with my father and with British Transport Films, it was very much a technical job, you know, knowing the camera, being able to take the camera apart and put it together again, knowing the lenses, handling the film stock, loading the film stock and knowing the filters. Generally it was a very technical job, and it was when I was in my early 20s that I really began to get more appreciation for the aesthetics of cinema, particularly European cinema, and I wanted to move into features, but there was no way of doing it because, if you'd grown up and were trained in documentaries, it was a very different field from feature films.' Started shooting commercials. 'There were a number of staff directors but there were also directors that came in for particular jobs, including Ken Russell, John Schlesinger and Ted Kotcheff, and I did commercials with them and little realizing that in a few years' time I would be doing features with them. And so commercials were a stepping-stone for me, in coming from documentary, because first of all I was learning how to work in a studio, work with dialogue, work with actors.' [Quotes from the Peoples Archive website.]

Retired in January 1996.

Taught cinematography at the NFTS [starting in 1978], the International DOP Masterclass [Budapest], the International Cinematographer's Guild Workshop, International Film Workshops, Rockport, Maine, a.o.

Was a member [now honorary member] of the BSC since 1967 and its president from 1975-77. Was awarded the OBE in 2009.

His work is discussed in the book 'Cinematography' by Peter Ettedgui [Screencraft, 1999].

Appeared in the doc's 'Behind the Camera' [2000, Richard Blanshard; for BBC-tv] & 'Reflections On Golden Pond' [2003].

Awards: BAFTA Film Award nom [1970] for 'The Magus'; BAFTA Film Award nom [1970] & 'Oscar' AA nom [1970] for 'Women in Love'; BAFTA Film Award nom [1972] for 'Sunday Bloody Sunday'; BSC Award [1979] for 'Eagle's Wing'; 'Oscar' AA nom [1981] & BSC Award nom [1982] for 'On Golden Pond'; 'Oscar' AA [1982; shared], BSC Award [1982; shared] & BAFTA Film Award [1983; shared] for 'Gandhi'; 'Genie' Award nom [1993] for 'Shadow of the Wolf'; ASC International Achievement Award [2000]; Camerimage Lifetime Achievement Award [2000]; ICFF Manaki Brothers 'Life Achievement Award' [2009].


[Right] with his father, Billy Williams Sr.

 

Billy Williams: '[My father] entered the industry and worked in a studio in North London and that's where he started his apprenticeship. Then in the First World War, he went in the Navy and filmed the surrender of the German fleet in 1918, which is historic archive material. He then became a documentary expedition type cameraman. In 1928 he filmed the General Motors Chevrolet expedition from Capetown to Cairo and then on to Stockholm as a freelancer. He had his own cameras and so he did documentary, expedition, newsreels and some features. When I left school I started with him as his apprentice and his assistant. I was only 14 when I left school and I was too young to really know except that I'd been surrounded by cameras and lenses all my life because of my father. My mother was keener on me getting a regular job. She had a brother-in-law who worked in London in the finance world. She wanted me to take a job there, which would have been very secure, but fortunately, I went with my father, and I don't regret anything. He was a very hard taskmaster. He expected a lot. Everything had to be just right, especially regarding the equipment because it was his own gear. [I worked with him for] four years, and then I served two years in the RAF as a photographer. I got a job with a company making films about transportation, railways, ships, etc. I worked there about five years. I wanted to become a cinematographer, so I left and bought my own Arriflex camera. I wanted to do features for years, but here I was in my early 20s in England. I was very frustrated that I couldn't get a job even as a focus puller on features. What happened was that television arrived and I started to work for a company that made commercials. At first, I worked in black and white. Color television came in 1964. What was good about commercials in those days was that people were coming from documentaries, television, and features. We were all coming together in commercials.' [From interview on the KODAK OnFilm website.]


 

 FILMS

1953

London Transport Cine-Gazette No. 13 'Children's Coronation' [Michael Orrom] b&w; doc/15m; as W.D. Williams; cph: R.M. Craigen, James Ritchie, Reg Hughes & Bob Paynter; prod British Transport Films

1956

Who's Who [R.Q. McNaughton] ?; comm doc/?m; as W.D. Williams; for Universal Asbestos Manufacturing Company

1957

Leo - The Automatic Office [Colin Bell] b&w; comm doc/15m; as W.D. Williams; for Leo Computers

1957

Rivers of Time [William Novik] 16mm/c; comm doc/26m; as W.D. Williams; cph: Harold Case & Peter Hopkinson; filmed in Iraq for Iraq Petroleum Company

1958

Steam and Steam Generation/Generation of Steam [Guy Fergusson] 16mm/c; comm doc/31m; as W.D. Williams; for International Combustion Ltd.

1961

The Link [Richard Carrickford] c; doc/?m; cph: Gerry Lewis; A New Zealand sheep farmer comes to London to find out what happens to his lambs when they arrive in England

1963

The Architecture of Power [Marc Broadway] b&w; comm doc/16m; for the Central Electricity Generating Board

1965

European Tapestry [Terry Gould] c; comm doc/23m; cph: John Mantell & Ian Struthers; for B.O.A.C.

1965

The World Is Your Oyster [Richard Lester] c; comm doc/14m; for Union-Castle Mail Steamship Co.

1965

Count Your Blessings [Bill Hammond] c; comm doc/12m; for the Central Electricity Generating Board

1965

San Ferry Ann [Jeremy Summers] b&w; short/55m

1966

Raceday [John Armstrong] c; comm doc/11m; cph: Mark McDonald, Arthur Wooster & Harvey Harrison; for Shell

1966

Just Like a Woman [Robert Fuest] c

1966

30 Is a Dangerous Age, Cynthia [Joseph McGrath] c

1966

Red and Blue [Tony Richardson] c; short/35m; originally conceived as seg of 'Red White and Zero' (3 seg; unreleased)

1967

Thirty Years of Grid Telemetering [Marc Broadway] 16mm/c; comm doc/14m; for the Central Electricity Generating Board

 

 

1967

Billion Dollar Brain [Ken Russell] p/c; 2uc: Ginger Gemmel; replaced doph Otto Heller, who refused a medical examination and couldn't be insured

1967

The Magus [Guy Green] p/c

1968

Two Gentlemen Sharing [Ted Kotcheff] c

1968

Women in Love [Ken Russell] c; 'When I read the script and the book, I realized that it had the most incredible variety of photographic moods and opportunities to do different things, which I'd dabbled with a little bit in commercials. There was a sequence [that] presented a marvelous chance to really use color to capture the time of day and the mood. This sequence starts with a day sequence in a forest with the two sisters. Glenda [Jackson] gets up when a herd of highland cattle appear and she proceeds to dance amongst them and it becomes like a ballet. We chose to shoot it with a hand-held camera. It ends with these cattle becoming so terrified that they all run away and, at that point, Oliver Reed and Alan Bates appear. Then develops a scene between Ollie and Glenda. There's a lake behind them and there's a tight two-shot where they're both looking at each other in profile and they're almost in silhouette. He moves a lock of hair from her face and I thought, that is so dark that I don't think it'll register, but I wasn't quite sure. So I tried to give a bit more light on the faces. I put up a lamp and it looked dreadful. I thought, this isn't going to work; I'll take a chance and go with the available light, and I suppose there must have been about four stops under-exposed on the skin tone. But in fact it worked and it helped the mood of the scene so much that they were very dark figures against this beautiful shimmering lake behind them.' *

1969

The Mind of Mr. Soames [Alan Cooke] c

 

[Right] next to Roddy McDowall - "Tam Lin"

 

1969

Tam Lin/The Devil's Widow [Roddy McDowall] p/c

1970

Zee & Co./X, Y and Zee [Brian G. Hutton] c

1970

Sunday Bloody Sunday [John Schlesinger] c

1971

The Devils/The Devils of Loudon [Ken Russell] was asked to be the doph, but turned it down; ph by David Watkin

1971

Young Winston [Richard Attenborough] p/c; fill-in ph (for a few days when G. Turpin was ill); ph: Gerry Turpin

1971

Pope Joan/The Devil's Imposter [Michael Anderson] p/c

1971

Kid Blue [James Frawley] p/c

1972

Night Watch [Brian G. Hutton] p/c

1972

The Exorcist [William Friedkin] c (1979: 70bu); 122m; ph Iraq seq; ph: Owen Roizman; see 2000

1973

Dublin Murders/A Likely Story [William Kronick] c; unreleased; made in Ireland; released on video in Brazil (1985)

1974

The Wind and the Lion [John Milius] p/c; 2uc: Ginger Gemmel; + small part

1975

Voyage of the Damned [Stuart Rosenberg] c; add loc ph: John Harris

1976

Des Teufels Advokat/The Devil's Advocate [Guy Green] c

1977

The Silent Partner [Daryl Duke] c; 2uc: Stephen Katz

1978

Eagle's Wing [Anthony Harvey] p/c

1978

Boardwalk [Stephen Verona] c

1979

Saturn 3 [Stanley Donen (replaced John Barry after 2 weeks)] c; addph: Robert Paynter

1979

Going in Style [Martin Brest] c

 

 

1980

On Golden Pond [Mark Rydell] c; 2uc: Peter Norman; aph: Rexford Metz; 'There was one sequence in the film where she [Hepburn] sends him [Fonda] off to pick strawberries and he goes into the woods and Mark [Rydell] wanted a kind of Ingmar Bergman atmosphere, a dark threatening atmosphere in these woods. And so we chose a spot where there was a little bit of sunlight coming through but in other areas there was extreme darkness. And he gets lost and he panics and can't find out where he is. And for this sequence I didn't use any lights, I just took some little bits of white card and just reflected enough light onto his face to capture his expression. And we finished up with a really dramatic scene that we shot during the daylight. Then he comes back to the house and he's very distraught and there's a scene where they come together and she tells him that he's her knight in shining armour. And we did a very long take with the two of them starting in mid shot and tracking in very slowly until we're in a tight two with no cover and it played beautifully. We didn't have video assist in those days but it played beautifully. And that was it, no coverage. When the director has got the courage to do that it's absolutely great.' *

 

With actor Ben Kingsley - "Gandhi"

 

1980

Gandhi [Richard Attenborough] p/b&w-c; cph: Ronnie Taylor; 2uc (+ 2ud): Govind Nihalani; aph: Robin Browne

1981

Birds of Prey [Daryl Duke] announced

1981

Monsignor [Frank Perry] c

1982

Get to Know IT: IT in Health [Anthony Wilkinson] c; comm doc/29m

1982

The Survivors [Michael Ritchie] p/c; 2uc: Sherman Kunkel; addph New York: Peter Norman

1984

[Agatha Christie's] Ordeal by Innocence [Desmond Davis] c; ph add scenes: Arthur Lavis; title seq ph: Ernest Vincze

1985

Dreamchild [Gavin Millar] c

1985

Eleni [Peter Yates] c

1985

The Manhattan Project/Deadly Game [Marshall Brickman] c

1986

Suspect [Peter Yates] c; + small part

1987

The Lottery [Garry Marshall] c; short/3m; spph: C.W. Fallin

1988

The Rainbow [Ken Russell] c

1988

Just Ask for Diamond/Diamond's Edge [Stephen Bayly] c

1989

Stella [John Erman] c; addph: David M. Walsh

1990

Three Points of View [?] c; comm doc (3 seg)/12m; other ph: Vic Sarin & László Kovács; demo film Eastman EXR 500T 5293 color negative

1990

Shadow of the Wolf/Agaguk [Jacques Dorfmann & Pierre Magny] s35/c; 2uc: Allen Smith; action unit ph: Hugues de Haeck

1995

Driftwood [Ronan O'Leary] c; 2uc: Peter Dorney & Jo Gibney

1999

Ljuset håller mig sällskap/Light Keeps Me Company [Carl-Gustaf Nykvist] b&w-c; doc/76m; cph: Lennart Adell, Dan Myhrman, László Kovács, Vilmos Zsigmond, a.o.

2000

The Exorcist: The Version You've Never Seen [William Friedkin] longer version (131m); see 1972

* From interview on the 'Peoples Archive' website

 

 TELEVISION

1973

The Glass Menagerie [Anthony Harvey] tvm

1990

Women and Men: Stories of Seduction [seg #2 'Dusk Before Darkness/Dusk Before Fireworks' dir by Ken Russell] tvm; 3 seg; other ph: Ernest Day (seg #1 dir by Frederic Raphael) & Steve Yaconelli (seg #3 dir by Tony Richardson)

1994

Reunion [Lee Grant] tvm

 

 MISCELLANEOUS

1945

Boys of the Old Brigade [A. Stanley Williamson; doc/3112 ft.] c.asst; ph: Billy Williams Sr.

1945

Animal Wonderland [F.W. Ratcliffe Holmes; doc/3045 ft.] c.asst; ph: Billy Williams Sr.

1946

Land of the Saints [A. Stanley Williamson; doc/3245 ft.] c.asst; ph: Billy Williams Sr.

1950

Berth 24 [J.B. Holmes; doc/40m] c.asst; ph: Ronald Craigen, James Ritchie & Ron Bicker; prod British Transport Films (BTF)

1952

Ocean Terminal [J.B. Holmes; doc/30m] c.asst (as W.D. Williams); ph: James Ritchie; re-ed/revised in 1961; prod BTF; 'We went on a tugboat called the Calshot and did shots of the Queen Elizabeth as she was leaving, you see, under steam and we had two or three cameras shooting, in fact I was operating one of the cameras and we were shooting various angles of the Queen Elizabeth leaving England. It was a lovely day and we kept on shooting and shooting and eventually we got a radio message from the captain of the Queen Elizabeth to say - if you've finished your filming may we please proceed to America?' *

1952

Dodging the Column [Michael Orrom; doc/10m] c.asst (as W.D. Williams); ph: Reg Hughes; prod BTF

1952

Scottish Highlands [Michael Orrom; doc/20m] co-c.asst (as W.D. Williams); ph: Ronald Craigen & Michael Currer-Briggs; prod BTF

1952

Farmer Moving South [John Taylor & Charles de Lautour; doc/17m] co-c.asst (as W.D. Williams); ph: James Ritchie, Reg Hughes, John Page & Michael Currer-Briggs; prod BTF

1953

More Power to Your Elbow [Malcolm Stewart; doc/15m] c.asst (as W.D. Williams); ph: Michael Currer-Briggs; prod BTF

1953

They Had an Idea [John Krish; doc/14m] c.op (as W.D. Williams); ph: Michael Currer-Briggs; prod BTF

1954

Wagons with Care [Tony Thompson; doc/20m] c.asst (as W.D. Williams); ph: James Ritchie; prod BTF

1954

London's Country [Harold Lowenstein & Syd Sharples; doc/20m] co-c.asst (as W.D. Williams); ph: Reg Hughes & Michael Currer-Briggs; prod BTF

1954

Heart of England [Michael Clarke; doc/20m] co-c.asst (as W.D. Williams); ph: Ronald Craigen & Robert Paynter; prod BTF

 

 

1954

Elizabethan Express [Tony Thompson; doc/20m] co-asst tech (as W.D. Williams); ph: James Ritchie, Ronald Craigen & Robert Paynter; prod BTF

1954

Holiday in Norway [Ronald Craigen; doc/23m] c.asst (as W.D. Williams); ph: R. Craigen; prod BTF

1954

Mountains & Fjords [Ronald Craigen; doc/22m] c.asst (as W.D. Williams); ph: R. Craigen; prod BTF

1954

Capital Visit [Syd Sharples; doc/21m] co-c.asst (as W.D. Williams); ph: Ronald Craigen, James Ritchie, Robert Paynter & Reg Hughes; prod BTF

1954

Tim Driscoll's Donkey [Terry Bishop; short/59m] 2nd c.op; ph: S.D. Onions

1955

No Love for Judy [William de Lane Lea; short/52m] co-c.asst (as W.D. Williams); ph: Billy Williams Sr.

1956

Five Guineas a Week [Donald Monat & Jacques de Lane Lea; mus short/33m] c.op (as W.D. Williams); ph: Billy Williams Sr.

* From interview [2003] on the 'Web of Stories' website