Natural Born...

Meet The New Wave / Patrick Meller


Natural Born...

Meet The New Wave / Patrick Meller

Head Image Credit: Jan Cermelj

(so far):

Features: Boyz In The Wood (2017, Sigma Films, dir. Ninian Doff)

Shorts: Boat (2017, Film4, dir. Louise Stern), Beast (2017, BFI & Creative England, dir. Leonora Lonsdale), The Bohicas: Swarm Over Essex (2016, Pulse Films, dir. Thirtytwo) and Greg (2015, Pulse Films, dir. Ed Lovelace)

TV Dramas: Dream Land (2017, Merman, dir. MJ Delaney), winner of BAFTA – Best Short Form Programme.

When did you discover you wanted to be a cinematographer?

When I was a boy we would spend part of our summers at the cinematographer Peter Biziou’s house in France. One of my favourite films when I was a kid was Bugsy Malone (1976, dir. Alan Parker) which Pete photographed. I remember asking him if he could get me one of the splurge guns from the film. He explained to me that they weren’t real (I was gutted!) and that they’d used trick photography to capture those scenes. I was intrigued by what he referred to as “trick photography”. It sparked a great interest in the making of films for me. It blew my mind that there was actually a role out there for someone who could compose camera angles and light film sets.

Where did you train?

I didn’t go to film school. I started out as a runner on music videos and ads. I got a break into the camera department as a trainee before becoming a loader and so on…

What are your favourite films, and why?

M*A*S*H (1970, dir. Robert Altman, DP Harold E. Stine) – it’s a perfect black comedy and a very brave script for its time. I love its doco-style aesthetic – it compliments the film so much.

The Big Lebowski (1998, dir Joel Coen, DP Roger Deakins CBE BSC ASC) – the script is brilliantly relentless and funny. I love every character and how they develop.

Sicario (2015, dir. Denis Villeneuve, DP Roger Deakins CBE BSC ASC) – it’s so well directed, and Roger’s cinematography is exceptional. It’s so honest, I love the composition, and also the score.

There Will Be Blood (2007, dir. Paul Thomas Anderson, DP Robert Elswit ASC) – the ominous cinematography is incredible. Paired alongside the genius of PTA and Daniel Day Lewis, it makes for a fantastic film.

What’s the best advice you were ever given?

“Always explore and question the shot you’re lining up, and ask what it’s saying to the audience” – Jeff Cronenweth ASC.

Who are your DP/industry heroes?

Paul Thomas Anderson ­– I love how he uses the camera to tell a story, in particular his long takes, it’s very emotive. He lets the actors breathe in the frame and he doesn’t shoot endless coverage.

Gordon Willis ASC, Jordan Cronenweth ASC, Conrad Hall ASC – all respectively for being brave enough to take cinematography each in a new direction when the pressures on them must have been staggering not to blow it.

Robert Elswit ASC – he’s one of my favourite DPs out there. I love how dark he goes in his images.

Have you won any awards or received any nominations?

I won Best Cinematography at the MVAs in 2016. I was Nominated at Camerimage for Best Cinematography in a Music Video in 2016. Also the Sky Summer Short that I shot, Dream Land, scripted by Sharon Horgan, just won a BAFTA for Best Short Form Programme for director MJ Delaney.

Credit: Laurence Beckwith
Credit: Laurence Beckwith

What’s your proudest moment?

The birth of our daughter.

What’s the worst knock-back/rejection you ever had?

Too many to mention.

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

The best: was wrapping my first feature film. I had just had a baby and I’d also recently lost my mother. I wondered how on earth I would get through it all. It was a good day when I finally did.

The worst: was fogging a roll of 35mm when I was a loader. The walk of shame back to the set from the truck to tell everyone was long and filled with terror!

What was the biggest challenge on your latest production?

We were shooting in The Highlands for five weeks. The weather was horrible and so was the terrain. Just getting in and out was a massive challenge.

Tell us your most hilarious faux pas?

When I was a loader I went to the wrong studio. I sat down, ate breakfast, looked up from my plate, only to realise I knew none of the crew. It was pretty embarrassing when I rang the focus puller telling him I was going to be late.

Away from work, what are your greatest passions?

My family, photography, cooking, motorbikes and music.

What one piece of kit could you not live without?

A Directors Viewfinder and a Mitchell A.

Which films are you most proud of to date?

Boyz In The Wood. It was my first feature and such a big challenge emotionally.

"I had to shoot a fight sequence in the rain, in an old ruined village, up a very steep hill. The crane we were going to use for our softbox came off its tracks on the way up the hill. We had to run around like crazy trying to light all the gaps... It taught me a great lesson that one should always have a back up plan."

- Patrick Meller

Credit: Ciaran Spencer
Credit: Ciaran Spencer

What’s the weirdest place you’ve ever shot in?

An abandoned tube platform near Aldwych. It was ghostly. It still had all the original advertising from the ‘50s on the wall.

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

I had to shoot a fight sequence in the rain, in an old ruined village, up a very steep hill. We had SFX and stunt elements which had to be perfectly planned and rehearsed. The weather was awful and, to make matters worse, the crane we were going to use for our softbox came off its tracks on the way up the hill, which meant that we couldn’t land the crane near the set. We had to run around like crazy trying to light all the gaps. It was horrible. It taught me a great lesson that one should be prepared for anything and to always have a back up plan.

Tell us your hidden talent/party trick?

I have a party trick, but it’s too rude to mention, so I thought I’d leave it blank.

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

Blade Runner (1982, dir. Ridley Scott, DP Jordan Cronenweth ASC) or Dr Strangelove (1964, dir. Stanley Kubrick, DP Gilbert Taylor BSC).

What are your current top albums?

Bon Iver – 22, A Million.

Can you tell us your greatest extravagance?

Spending money on old motorcycles.

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

Considered. Natural. Practical.

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

Maybe an architect or a chef.

What are your aspirations for the future?

I’m attached to two features this year and I want to keep my focus on narrative projects. Ultimately, I just want to make work I can be proud of.

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