Racing Demon

Meet the New Wave / Molly Manning Walker

Shot by Charlotte Ellis whilst on set shooting ’November 1st’

RACING DEMON

Meet the New Wave / Molly Manning Walker

Filmography (so far): More Hate Than Fear (2015), Lead (2016), The Vest (2017), Not With Fire But With Paint (2017), My Mother (2018), Reach (2018), November 1st (2018), If You Never Answered (2018), City Of Children (2018), Pompeii (2019), plus many music videos and commercials.

When did you discover you wanted to be a cinematographer?

I was really into photography at school. When I was 16, I took a camera that could shoot stills and video to the Occupy London protests and realised that what the protestors were saying was as important as what they were doing. So I ended up making a little film. I thought I wanted to be a documentary filmmaker for a long time. I went to Bournemouth to study film production and I soon realised the fiction teams had these amazing sets and camera kits. So I swapped over to fiction and shot my grad film More Hate Than Fear.  I had no idea what I was doing– it was great.

Where did you train?

Bournemouth University of Arts, and National Film & TV School.

What are your favourite films?

Rust And Bone (2012, dir. Jacques Audiard, DP Stéphane Fontaine AFC) – such an intimate film.

La Haine (1995, Mathieu Kassovotz, DP Pierre Aïm AFC) – so powerful, the camera is always in the right place.

Irreversible (2002, dir.  Gaspar Noé, DPs Benoît Debie/lighting, Gaspar Noé/camera) – the films aggressive subject is depicted in its wild camera movement.

I like a camera that follows the emotion rather than the filmmaker’s preconceived thoughts. All those films make you think through story and camera.

James Blake leaning over Molly's shoulder whilst shooting his music video “Can’t Believe The Way We Flow’ (shot by Jill Ferraro)
James Blake leaning over Molly's shoulder whilst shooting his music video “Can’t Believe The Way We Flow’ (shot by Jill Ferraro)

What’s the best advice you were ever given?

I called Stuart Harris for some advice whilst trying to do an intricate moving light shot. He shouted down the phone. "One light Molly, one light,” and then hung up. It has stuck with me ever since.

Who are your DP/industry heroes?

Bradford Young ASC is a constant source of inspiration. I love dark intimate images, and his frames capture an emotion rather than show off. I feel like he’s always trying new things rather than imprinting his look.

Stuart Bentley’s work is so simple and yet so effective. He taught me a lot at film school about not being afraid to be restrained in your approach.

Frank Lebon, a director I work with, because on every project he opens my mind to a new way of thinking.

Barney Batchelor, my focus puller, who puts up with me walking on set at 6am and asking for a 150mm at T1.4.

Shot by Billy Boyd Cape whilst shooting a commercial with Academy Films2

Have you won any awards or received any nominations?

Awards: More Hate Than Fear (Ozzie Morris Award For Cinematography); November 1st (Panalux Cinematography Award).

Nominations for: NHS Nurses campaign (British Arrows); A$AP Rocky ‘Sundress’ (MVA); More Hate Than Fear and November 1st (Camerimage Silver Tadpoles); City Of Children (Camerimage Documentary Short).

What’s your proudest moment?

Seeing my best mate, Billy Boyd Cape, pick up the Best New Director award at the British Arrows, seeing how far we had come since making our graduation film, and being able to stand beside him and grin.

Shot by Charlotte Ellis whilst on set shooting ’November 1st’. Two cameras sporting master primes on a low loader around Dunsfould cheating it for Ohio!
Shot by Charlotte Ellis whilst on set shooting ’November 1st’. Two cameras sporting master primes on a low loader around Dunsfould cheating it for Ohio!

What have been your best/worst moments on-set?

Best: was filming Lindsey Duncan whilst the World Cup was on. Between takes she and I would sneak the radio on to listen to the England game. She would still manage to give an amazing performance every time we went back to work.

Worst: probably a project where I had a slow realisation that the director didn’t care – suddenly your excitement falls flat on the floor.

What was the biggest challenge on your latest production?

The last short I shot the director really wanted to shoot on DV cameras. We worked really hard to adapt them to have wireless focusing and monitoring. It felt like taking steps backwards in order to go forward and often people don’t support your research as they think you’re bonkers, but I really enjoyed it and it looks wicked!

Tell us your most hilarious faux pas?

I can’t think of one! But a spark once asked if I was free, took me to the generator and said, “Stand there, watch that”. When I told him I was the DP he was so embarrassed.

Away from work, what are your greatest passions?

Cooking, eating and drawing.

What one piece of kit could you not live without?

My hat, I can’t think or see without it on. But really, it’s the Sony Venice, I’m addicted.

Shot by Charlotte Ellis whilst on set shooting ’November 1st’

What’s the hardest shot/thing you’ve had to light/frame?

We shot an advert for Adidas shoes on half-frame 35mm stills cameras. We shot three night shoots in three different continents over ten days, sleeping mostly on the planes. I was crawling along the streets animating the shoes at 18fps a second. We had to turnaround a lot of scenes and had only one chance to shoot each set-up. We shot with a flash, which is obviously more unusual in film, and we were also lighting the ambience. It was challenging to say the least.

Tell us your hidden talent/party trick?

Mario Kart champion.

In the entire history of filmmaking, which film would you love to have shot?

Paris, Texas (1984, Wim Wenders, DP Robby Müller NSC ASC)

What are your current top albums?

Kano – Hoodies All Summer; James Blake – Assume Form; Obongjayar – Which Way is Forward?

Can you tell us your greatest extravagance?

Food! I love to spend money on good food. Especially in the pudding form. And also large format – don’t make me go back to a 35mm sensor.

What are the best/worst things about being a DP?

Best: Finding a solution to the problem. I love solving problems in prep. This often means no one else is aware, but it’s even better when the whole crew collaborates to find a solution and it works really well.

Worst: missing friends and family, not being around for birthdays, etc.

Give us three adjectives that best describe you and your approach to cinematography?

Simple. Dark. Connected

If you weren’t a DP, what job would you be doing now?

I would love to be a radio presenter.

What are your aspirations for the future?

To be financially comfortable and continue to make films that question the world we live in.