Meet the New Wave / Si Bell
Meet the New Wave / Si Bell
Filmography (so far): Almost Married (2014), Electricity (2014), Orthodox (releasing 2015), Tiger Raid (releasing 2015), Undercover (releasing 2015).
When did you discover you wanted to be a cinematographer?
I was 23, at Northumbria University, back in 2007. They had 16mm Aaton cameras, we were given a few rolls of film, and shot a ten-minute short, which I directed. I was interested in filmmaking in general, but I began to focus in on the cinematography aspect.
Where did you train?
Northumbria University – Media Production BA Hons, specialising in Film & TV Production. But, I got my real training on-set as a camera trainee and clapper/loader with DPs such as Sam McCurdy BSC, Lol Crawley BSC and Philippe Rousselot AFC ASC. I also learnt a lot on the set of my own low-budget shorts I shot in Newcastle with help from legendary local gaffers Tony Cook and Allan Ramsay.
What are your favourite films, and why?
Captain Phillips (2013, dir. Paul Greengrass, DP Barry Ackroyd BSC) – I love the realism that Barry and Paul created. Children Of Men (2006, dir. Alfonso Cuaron, DP Emmanuel Lubezki AMC ASC) – for the long, handheld takes and innovative camera moves. City Of God (2002, dirs. Fernando Meirelles and Kátia Lund, DP César Charlone) – for its slick style, brilliant editing and cinematography.
What’s the best advice you were ever given?
Several experienced DPs have expressed to me how important it is to follow your heart when choosing projects, and not to make a decision based on how much money you will make.
Who are your DP/industry heroes?
Roger Deakins CBE BSC ASC for his simplicity, Anthony Dod Mantle DFF BSC ASC for his innovation, Robert Richardson ASC for his unique style, and Chris Doyle for his personality.
Have you won any awards or received any nominations?
I won the RTS North East & Border Photography Craft Award last year. In 2014, I was selected for Screen International’s ‘Screen Stars of Tomorrow’. Electricity got selected to be a part of the BFI LFF 2014 and Almost Married won Best Film at the Marbella Film Festival. A number of my short films have won awards in various festivals including best cinematography for Sleep Working at the HorrorQuest Film Festival 2013
What’s you proudest moment?
When I got selected to be a Screen International ‘Screen Star of Tomorrow’.
What’s the worst knock-back/rejection you ever had?
I didn’t get into Northumbria University the first time I applied. I was gutted, but it was a good wake-up call to work harder and focus on what I wanted to do.
What have been your best/worst moments on-set?
The best was working on Orthodox with Stephen Graham and David Leon. We had such great energy and the whole team were into the project. I loved the whole experience! My worst moment was as a loader, standing in a dark room, downloading an ARRI 416 magazine, and hearing the sound of it uncoiling from the middle onto the floor, then trying to manually wind it back, pouring with sweat.
"[proudest moment] When I got selected to be a Screen International ‘Screen Star of Tomorrow’."
- Si Bell
What was you biggest challenge on your latest production?
We did a four-minute handheld shot on Tiger Raid, starting in a dark room and then walking with the leads into the blazing Jordanian sun, back into the dark room, and then out into a stunt sequence. I had limited time to block, light and shoot, but it was fun.
Tell us your most hilarious faux pas?
Laughing out loud whilst trying to operate handheld on the comedy film Almost Married. I had the same problem on the upcoming TV comedy Undercover. So I've been trying to stay on the dolly a bit more when shooting comedy.
Away from work, what are your greatest passions?
My girlfriend Alex and my family, film, music and travelling.
What one piece of kit could you not live without?
What’s weirdest place you’ve ever shot in?
A Palestinian refugee camp in Jordan on Tiger Raid. An eight-year-old boy was walking around with a loaded, double-barrelled shotgun. The whole shoot was a crazy experience, but probably the most enjoyable I’ve had, and with one of the most passionate, hard-working crews I’ve had the pleasure to work with.
What’s the hardest shot/thing you’ve had to light/frame?
On the first day and first shot of Undercover I had to light a café scene, south-facing, with massive windows, and the sun was in and out all day. We started with a 180-degree track and dolly shot seeing the whole café, followed by eight pages of dialogue that had to match to that. It was very tricky and stressful, but we made it work.
Tell us your hidden talent/party trick?
I’m pretty good on rollerblades. I can use them to get interesting tracking shots for chase sequences, etc., and even more so with the invention of the Movi Rig.
In the entire history of filmmaking, which film would you love to have shot?
The Godfather (1972, dir. Francis Ford Coppola, DP Gordon Willis ASC)
What are your current top albums?
1000 Forms Of Fear by Sia, Original Pirate Material by The Streets, Skankonia by Outkast, and The Blueprint by Jay-Z.