Why storytelling is the key to good camerawork

Why storytelling is the key to good camerawork

RTS Futures
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Christopher Titus King, Helen Scott and Sophie Darlington (Credit: RTS/Paul Hampartsoumian)
Christopher Titus King, Helen Scott and Sophie Darlington (Credit: RTS/Paul Hampartsoumian)

Wildlife cinematographer Sophie Darlington (the BBC’s Planet Earth II and documentary feature African Cats) and director of photography Christopher Titus King, who straddles the documentary (BBC One’s Seven Ages of Britain) and drama (the History mini-series, The Bible) genres, discussed camerawork at the RTS Craft Skills Masterclasses.

The job: “If you do what we do, you have to love it because it’s not easy. It’s pretty much an all-consuming passion.” (Darlington)
“I’ve been from the bottom of the Pacific Ocean to the top of a volcano in Ethiopia and everywhere in between. I’ve had the most amazing experiences – and been paid to do it.” (King)
 
People versus machines: “Cameras are boxes that light goes into … How you control the light that you capture in the lens … and what you choose to [shoot] makes you a cameraperson, it’s not about the equipment.” (King)
“It is about your ‘eye’ and composition. I’m a composition fascist – I get really upset if things come in framed wrongly.” (Darlington)
 
Storytelling: “It doesn’t matter what camera you have, if the story’s no good you’re on to a loser.” (Darlington)
“Learning how to tell stories is absolutely key in our field,” (King)
 
King on shooting quickly: “The most expensive thing on set is time – if you’re a slow cameraman and you decide half way through a scene that you want to change the lighting, you’re not going to get any more work. People want you to get it right first time.”
 
Darlington on not being a slave to fashion: “Everything now seems to be drone [shot] … If it’s to drive a story and you need it to illustrate a certain point, then that’s fantastic, but you don’t have to have a drone shot.”
 
King on being an all-rounder: “It’s vital that you understand all the elements that make up the film craft: sound; editing; camera; script; music. If any of those major items is faulty, the product falls down.”
 
King on style: “Look up other people’s work and whoever you enjoy, try and replicate that … that’s what we do – take other people’s work, mix it all together and that’s your work. You can’t reinvent the wheel every time you put a camera on somebody. You are influenced by paintings, photographs and films – you’ve got to absorb as much of it as you can. It becomes your own style through an assimilation of other people’s work.”

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Sophie Darlington and Christopher Titus King were in conversation with Helen Scott at the RTS Student Programme Masterclasses 2017

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