All that jazz
Meet the New Wave / Adam Scarth
All that jazz
Meet the New Wave / Adam Scarth
Filmography (so far):
Daphne (2016), Apostasy (2016)
When did you discover you wanted to be a cinematographer?
I knew from my teenage years that I wanted to work in film, but I didn’t know then what a cinematographer was. In my first year at university, when I thought I wanted to be a director, I realised that the visual language of a film, and how you can tell a story with light and images, is what really fascinated me.
Where did you train?
The Arts University Bournemouth, where I was lucky to spend three years shooting on 16mm – an invaluable experience.
What are your favourite films?
The Deer Hunter (1978, dir. Michael Cimino, DP Vilmos Zsigmond) – is a masterpice, every part works in harmony to elevate the whole.
The Yards (2000, dir. James Gray, DP Harris Savides) – feels like a epic set in small spaces and is a masterclass in underexposure. The scene lit purely by candlight is just beautiful.
Klute (1971, dir. Alan J Pakula, DP Gordon Willis) – such a gripping story with a simple narative and suspensful visuals that grab you and won’t let go.
Kes (1969, dir. Ken Loach, DP Chris Menges) – beautiful, emotive, character-led realisam.
What’s the best advice you were ever given, and from whom?
A DP I used to load for told me you need to learn, on occasion, to say “No”. Sometimes “no” is better than “yes”. Every one will remember the “yes” if it goes wrong, but they will forget the “no” if what you give them works.
Who are your DP/industry heroes?
Roger Deakins CBE BSC ASC – a true master of visual language. Watching his films woke me up to realising how a camera can tell a story.
Vilmos Zsigmond ASC HSC – one of the greatest in mastering hard light. His lighting, although expressive, was still naturalistic and humble, never drawing overt attention to itself.
Harris Savides ASC – true artist, every image told a story and is embued with emotion.
Gordon Willis ASC – he took risks that no one else would and he paved the way for the rest of us. We would not have the films we have today without him.
Ken Loach – every film he directs reminds me that we have a greater responsibility as filmmakers, that there is a power in what we do and we can wake people up.
Have you won any awards or received any nominations?
The video I shot for Last Night in Paris – Pure won Best Urban Video at the UKMVA awards and a wooden pencil at the D&AD awards.
What’s your proudest moment?
It’s a tie between landing my first feature and signing with my agent Lux Artists. It’s a great honour to be on the same roster as so many DPs that inspire me and to work with agents whose opinions I trust.
What’s been your best/worst moment on set?
Best: standing on top of a bus at sunset in Tanzania setting up a shot with my focus puller and gaffer, who are really close friends and realising how lucky we are.
Worst: when I was working as a second AC, I was on a night shoot in winter with two ARRI 435s running simultaneously – I was the only loader, with no trainee.
What was the biggest challenge on your latest production?
Mainly time, as we had 21 days to shoot a 90-page script. There is a real challenge to make sure you are making the right choices, not just rushed ones, under this pressure, but our first AD Ursula Haworth, director Dan Kokotajlo and I manged to hold it together.
Tell us your most hilarious faux pas?
When I started shooting documentaries, I had the bad habit of rolling the camera myself. On one occasion I pressed record on the camera at the same time as my focus puller pressed it on the wireless focus, meaning the camera didn’t turn over. We got five minutes into an interview before noticing, surfice to say I now keep my trigger-finger in check.
"In my first year at university, when I thought I wanted to be a director, I realised that the visual language of a film, and how you can tell a story with light and images, is what really fascinated me."
- Adam Scarth
Away from work, what are your greatest passions?
35mm street and documentary photography, cooking, reading and my ever-growing photography book collection.
What one piece of kit could you not live without?
My Gossen Lunasix F Light Meter. I use it on both film and digital jobs, as it’s perfectly suited to my way of working. I would be lost without it.
What’s the weirdest place you’ve ever shot in?
On the set of Daphne, shooting one of our many bar scenes. It gradually dawned on us that the bar we were in doubled as an S&M club. There were ominous hooks in the ceiling for people to suspend themselves from. I won’t tell you what we found in the basement.
Tell us your hidden talent/party trick?
Putting people to sleep by talking about left wing socialist politics.
In the entire history of filmmaking, which film would you love to have shot?
The Deer Hunter, but I don’t think anyone could have ever matched up to what Vilmos Zsigmond created in that movie.
What are your current top albums?
“Emergence” – Roy Hargrove, “A Moon Shaped Pool” – Radiohead, “Page One” and “Our Thing” – Joe Henderson.
Can you tell us your greatest extravagance?
Probably my Cape Heights on-set coat, as it is so so warm.
What’s the worst thing about being a DP?
The early mornings – I need a lot of coffee.
Give us three adjectives that best describe you and your approach to cinematography?
Instictive. Respectful. Collabarative.
If you weren’t a DP, what job would you be doing now?
Probably be a documentary photographer.
What are your aspirations for the future?
To keep being given the opportunity to visualise emotive storiess that I engage with and feel a passion for.