Filmmaking achievement was celebrated at the third BSC Awards ceremony. Despite being held virtually due to pandemic restrictions, the spotlight shone brightly on outstanding cinematography and camera operating throughout the last year, as well as acknowledging those who have contributed to the society either directly or, in the opinion of the BSC, to the wider industry.
BY: ZOE Mutter
There was talent and creativity in abundance from this year’s nominees. The cinematographers, camera operators, industry associations and experts crowned victorious this year are as follows…
BSC Best Cinematography in a Theatrical Feature: Erik Messerschmidt ASC for Mank
BSC Best Cinematography in a TV Drama: Suzie Lavelle BSC ISC for Normal People (season 1, episode 1)
Operators Award for Feature Film: Maceo Bishop for Uncut Gems
Operators Award for TV Drama: Benjamin Treplin for Das Boot (series 2, episode 8)
BSC ARRI John Alcott Memorial Award: Nina Kellgren BSC
BSC Special Achievement Award: The Mark Milsome Foundation
Bert Easey Technical Award: Dedo Weigert
BSC Short Film Cinematography Award: Student winner – Tamas Apor Meder for Summer Shade. BSC Club winner: Dan Atherton for The Passenger
Speaking ahead of the awards announcements, BSC President Mike Eley BSC took to the virtual stage and reflected on the rather unusual and difficult year which has seen cinematographers rise to the challenge. “British cinematography is as vibrant and as creative as ever,” he said. “Its reputation founded on a pool of artistic and industry talent that has served the UK film industry for over 100 years, and which the BSC has been proud to be a leading part.
“It’s been a supremely difficult year for all of us on so many different levels, with the illness or the threat of illness never far away. The BSC salutes the NHS and the care workers that have worked so tirelessly and brilliantly this past year. We have seen selflessness, fortitude and determination closer to home in our own industry. Being deemed ineligible for government aid was a blow to all the freelancers who make up so much of our department, adding yet more uncertainty to their lives. Getting back to work has been a slow and not always comfortable experience, but there’s a reason UK camera crews are sought after around the world. They are passionate about what they do, and they deliver. May we never take that for granted either.”
Eley also paid tribute to the talented filmmakers who have sadly passed away in the past year – Mick Mason Associate BSC; John McGlashan BSC; Mike Rutter Associate BSC; Tony Spratling BSC; Ian Wilson BSC; and Arthur Wooster BSC.
Host for the evening was Mike Southon BSC, introducing the event as one which would “celebrate the work and personalities that have raised the bar of what our industry can achieve aesthetically and were not only dealing with budgets and time, but this time everybody’s health”. Southon also acknowledged that this year’s nominees reflect the trend of streaming, accelerated by viewing from home.
Southon went on to present the Operators Award for TV Drama to Benjamin Treplin for his work on Das Boot (series 2, episode 8). Accepting his award, Treplin said: “It really is a surprise to be awarded for my work on the second season of Das Boot. I’m truly honoured. I wanted to thank Philip Blaubach BSC for nominating me… I also wanted to thank all the members of the ACO, the BSC and GBCT who voted for my work and found it worthy of being on the shortlist. And last but not least, the jury, who chose me to receive the award. I’m truly honoured.”
Operators Award for TV Drama (sponsored by Ronford-Baker and RED)
Benjamin Treplin for Das Boot (series 2, episode 8)
Chris Bain for The Crown (series 4, episode 6)
James Layton/Matt Poynter for His Dark Materials (series 1, episode 7)
Dan Nightingale for Dracula (series 1, episode 3)
Benjamin Semanoff for Ozark (series 3, episode 3)
The Operators Award for Feature Film went to Maceo Bishop for Uncut Gems. Accepting his award via video message, Bishop said: “It was an honour to work on this film…I worked as a camera operator for 14 years and I think this film really pulled all of the skills that I developed over those 14 years into play – not just in terms of holding the camera, but in terms of being sensitive to what was happening with talent in the moment. I felt like I was able to be there with them for what they were experiencing.
“And I wanted to thank the British Society of Cinematographers, and all the people who voted, I really greatly appreciate it…I’m excited for what’s happening in 2021. I hope that we get back to being together and making films and stories together and in all different kinds of interesting and new ways, with all kinds of voices being heard. Thank you for listening to mine.”
Operators Award for Feature Film (sponsored by Panavision)
Maceo Bishop for Uncut Gems
Colin Anderson/Graham Hall for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker
Christopher Ball for The Lighthouse
Brian S Osmund for Mank
Peter Robertson for The Gentlemen
Next Southon shone a light on the winners of the BSC Short Film Cinematographers Competition, announced in October last year. The Student winner was Tamas Apor Meder for Summer Shade and the BSC Club winner was Dan Atherton for The Passenger. Both were awarded an Alexa Mini package from ARRI.
BSC Short Film Cinematography Award (sponsored by ARRI)
STUDENT WINNER: Tamas Apor Meder for Summer Shade
BSC CLUB WINNER: Dan Atherton for The Passenger
German director of photography and inventor of the Dedolight, Dedo Weigert was awarded the Bert Easey Technical Award. First presented in 1949, the award is named in honour of Bert Easey, who in 1947 was head of the camera department at Denham and Pinewood Studios and was integral in the formation of the BSC. The award is presented by the Board to an individual or company who “has contributed something outstanding in the way of endeavour or equipment”. Announcing the award, Nigel Walters BSC highlighted Weigert’s incredible career, achievements, and innovations.
“It is always a privilege to delve into individuals’ lives when preparing these presentations. Observation I received from a Russian member of the influential IMAGO Technical Committee, includes the following extraordinary lines of living proof of the immortality of a cinematographer soul, a fantastic person… who is always able to see light and shadow and to see and value love, friendship, dedication, and honour. Every single day building with love and passion, tools we’re using to tell stories on the screen. His name on each light, on each tool he builds is a craftsman signature, showing responsibility and never-ending love for his chosen profession once and forever,” said Walters.
Accepting his award, Weigert said his “passion and my heart is with those who have dedicated all their character and all their lives to this profession”. “I’ve met some of those in the 40 countries I have filmed and in my work as a DP that is still in my blood and in my heart. I’m looking forward to the day when we can go back into a studio because I have some new tricks that I’d love to show to you,” he said.
“I’ve always been a little kid in the sandbox. Filming was never work for me. If after 18 hours, somebody would come and say let’s go to lunch. I would say, ‘the light is so nice, I’ll come back later’. I had the privilege of meeting many of the famous colleagues…and some who took great care of me, inviting me to their homes, teaching me. In England, I have some heroes. One of them is Duncan Brown. He is one of the few people I’ve ever met, who could see light. Many of us only see the reflection of light. He was teaching me very patiently how he was seeing light and that was an incredible experience. I have had the privilege to learn from colleagues and from teachers and I’m very grateful for that. It’s a tremendous honour.”
Bert Easey Technical Award (sponsored by Fujinon)
WINNER: Dedo Weigert
The BSC Special Achievement Award was presented to the Mark Milsome Foundation. Following the tragic death of British cameraman Mark Milsome ACO, who was killed whilst filming a car stunt in Ghana on the set of Black Earth Rising 2017, the Mark Milsome Foundation was set up, inspired by the achievements and character of the talented camera operator. The Foundation has since made great strides in creating change through a variety of initiatives including the launch a survey to help assess the current state of health and safety in the film and TV industry.
Presenting the award, Chris Plevin ACO Associate BSC said: “In the two-and-a-half years since the foundation was launched it has achieved industry-wide recognition…and supported many trainees now working in the industry. In December 2019, the Chairman of the foundation, Kirk Jones, started researching current on set health and safety and was concerned to find that very few members have received any formal health and safety training. Following a health and safety survey of crew, the foundation is about to issue an industry-wide statement and with their view of lessons learned from the night of Mark’s death, detailing four key points to be considered by everyone in the film and TV industry moving forward. The document will be available on the Foundation website and will be circulated to broadcasters, production companies and crew.”
Plevin also shared some words from Mark’s father, Doug Milsome BSC ASC: “Doug says, ‘The foundation has been an incredible source of support to us, seeing more than 4,000 crew wearing black T-shirts to honour Mark on the anniversary of his death was overwhelming and an incredible comfort. Also, watching training programmes for young people develop, carrying on Mark’s ethic of supporting others means his own beliefs and charitable nature will live on’.”
“Seeing the development of a new health and safety programme, inspired by the lessons to be learned from the night Mark was killed so that no wife, daughter, sister, or parents will have to suffer this level of unnecessary loss again,” Doug Milsome said. “The foundation was there also to support myself and my family during the inquest into Mark’s death, when we were faced with legal issues that we had never before had to experience. Having spent my own career working in the industry, I’m more aware of the level of friendship that is present within the industry. I just never thought myself or Mark’s family would ever be in need of this level of support. Mark was too bright a star to burn out and thanks to the foundation, his spirit, kindness and good nature will shine on for a long time to come.”
Foundation Chairman, Kirk Jones, accepted the award on behalf of the Mark Milsome Foundation, thanking everyone in the industry, in particular lighting and camera departments, for “their incredible support since day one”.
“There are occasions when I wish that Mark Milsome Foundation didn’t exist. I wish that on that night, in November 2017, that Mark had gone to set and had another successful shoot day as he had thousands of times before. But for some reason, which we will probably never understand, that didn’t happen,” said Jones. “Shortly after Mark’s death, Andra Milsome [Mark’s wife] asked if it would be possible to set up a foundation and many people have given months of their time since then to make it happen. Not just to keep Mark’s name alive for the sake of it, because Mark wouldn’t have wanted that, but to keep his ambition alive, his ambition to help young people, to support them, to allow young people to enter the film industry if they are talented, determined, ambitious and passionate. Not necessarily because they have contacts or because they’re wealthy or because they have great qualification, educational qualifications, but because they deserve to be there.
“Due to the nature of Mark’s death, it was only a matter of time before the foundation turned our attention to health and safety on set…One of the things which has been noted and may well have prevented Mark’s death in Ghana in 2017 is a historical problem, which is completely understandable: people feeling nervous and anxious about speaking out on set if they feel concerned about health and safety. I understand how difficult it is if people are in a junior position or if they are racing to make the day…but it’s a really simple change that I hope will be adopted throughout the industry. If anyone feels uncomfortable in that moment on set, please find the courage to speak up even if it means delaying things for a few seconds.”
BSC Special Achievement Award (sponsored by CVP)
WINNER: The Mark Milsome Foundation
The BSC Best Cinematography in a TV Drama award was presented by Sir Roger Deakins CBE BSC ASC and James Deakins, live from LA, to Suzie Lavelle BSC ISC for her beautiful lensing of Normal People (season 1, episode 1). Accepting her award – somewhat overwhelmed with emotion – Lavelle said: “Gosh, that’s quite a shock. I wasn’t expecting that, especially with the amazing nominees. I’ve enjoyed all your shows so much – they got me through lockdown…I’m in Belfast, with the same team, and same director to do our next show, so they’ll all be amazed and delighted to hear about this.“Normal People was an amazing show for me because I’ve been doing a lot of multi-camera TV and Lenny [Abrahamson] was a director I’d known since I learned filmmaking and I’d really loved his work. To get the chance to work with him and to do a very simple, single-camera show – and it was quite a small show and all about storytelling – it was kind of the best experience of my life.”
BSC Best Cinematography in a TV Drama (sponsored by Sony)
Suzie Lavelle BSC ISC for Normal People (season 1, eps 1)
Adriano Goldman ASC BSC ABC for The Crown (season 4 eps 3 Fairytale)
Rob Hardy BSC for DEVS (season 1, eps 7)
Shabier Kirchner for Small Axe (season 1, eps 1 Mangrove)
Steven Meizler for The Queen’s Gambit (season 1, eps 7 End Game)
The next award of the night – Best Cinematography in a Theatrical Feature – was presented to Erik Messerschmidt ASC for his work on David Fincher’s black-and-white biopic Mank. “I’m absolutely honoured. Thank you so much,” said Messerschmidt, accepting his award. “This film was an incredible journey for all of us. Thank you to David Fincher for his trust and Ceán for her encouragement and an extraordinary cast and a crew who I cared deeply for. They’re my family. Brian, Alex, will Dave, Danny, Jay, Dwayne – we made the movie together.”
BSC Awards Best Cinematography in a Theatrical Feature (sponsored by MBSE)
Erik Messerschmidt ASC for Mank
Sean Bobbitt BSC for Judas and the Black Messiah
Joshua James Richards for Nomadland
Alwin Küchler BSC for The Mauritanian
Dariusz Wolski ASC for News of the World
Rounding off the night in style was the announcement of the recipient of the BSC ARRI John Alcott Memorial Award. Sponsored by ARRI in memory of the late John Alcott BSC – whose work continues to inspire future generations – the award is presented to a person, who in the opinion of the BSC Board of Governors, has made a significant contribution towards perpetuating the original aims of the society. This year’s incredibly talented recipient of the award is Nina Kellgren BSC.
Presenting the award, Chris Ross BSC said: “Telling stories is how we make sense of the world. We all benefit from having a film industry that reflects the diverse reality of the world we live in. Diversity in cinematographic technique, genre and medium have been quintessential characteristics of Nina’s life.”
A note from Elen Lotman ESC was also shared: “Named in 2017 as the most prolific female cinematographer by the British Film Institute, Nina has been a role model both through her career as a working cinematographer and through her unfaltering activism to make filmmaking more equal. Her vision established the IMAGO Diversity and Inclusion Committee in 2016, and her work as a committee co-chair has changed many lives. Although she would prefer not to stand in the limelight she’s understood that being visible is a part of the changing unconscious bias. Every time she has stood in front of the packed audiences at Camerimage Festival or spoken at events and roundtables, she has created ripples of change, a change that is growing every day. Next generations of minority cinematographers will say, I am a cinematographer, because I saw Nina and I knew that I can be a cinematographer.”
Accepting her award, Kellgren said: “I’m deeply honoured to be given this, and especially in the name of such an incredible cinematographer, John Alcott…When I was first invited into the BSC and I first went into a room full of BSC DPs, it was pretty daunting, as you can imagine, but then I realised actually I was just in a room full of people with exactly the same passion for cinematography that I had and I felt at home. So that was marvellous…It’s particularly touching for me that this is ARRI sponsored because they’ve supported me through the whole of my career, from when I first wandered into ARRI Media Film Services, in my leather jacket, thinking I knew a lot more than I did. They’ve been completely onside and I’m very grateful for that.
“It really brought home to me how valued the BSC was when for the first time you put your name on the board and you can put those letters after it. There was an instant shift in attention and respect, particularly when shooting out of the UK. That’s been my experience working with IMAGO and throughout the world – that the BSC is very important and full of heavyweight talent. I’m very grateful to be given this by my peers. Thank you, everyone.”
BSC ARRI John Alcott Memorial Award (sponsored by ARRI)
WINNER: Nina Kellgren BSC