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David Watkin autobiographies


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#1 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 01 September 2012 - 11:10 AM

Have been reading British cinematographer David Watkin's self-published autobiographies, first "Why is There Only One Word for Thesaurus?" (read that a few years ago) and now "Was Clara Schumann a Fag Hag?" (that title has yet to be explained and I'm near the end)… On acting, I came across this passage today:

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A Mr. Stanislavsky is credited with having introduced what is called method acting. I am unqualified to say more than that on film sets his precepts are susceptible to misapplication. There was one who hurtled around like a scalded rat to such an extent that he finished up performing for all he was worth not only off the set but behind the camera. We had to stop and explain. Another was asked by the camera operator to change his position slightly.

"No, no, I feel it will be better here."

"Perhaps you're right -- you're just outside the picture area."

Maggie Smith, while in New York promoting a film, was asked about the Sanford Meisner method school of acting which is based on ruthless self-exploration.

"Oh, we have that in England too. It's called wanking."


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If I have some time, I'll quote some of his comments about cinematography. One part doing the final color timing of a movie:

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Our American cousins have, sometimes, a perverse notion that rendering this service should be its own reward. Making a negative is merely the first half of the process. That the second half, making a print from it, takes only the same number of days as the former took weeks, seems hardly a reason not to pay anyone. It has been put to me that it is in my interest to have a movie look good (as if I'm going to be watching it over and over?). That's like telling the captain of an ocean liner he's only paid up to mid-Atlantic, after which it's in his own interest to carry on for free.
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#2 John Holland

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Posted 01 September 2012 - 12:19 PM

Well what can i say my hero .
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#3 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 01 September 2012 - 08:31 PM

Watkin worked with our costume designer this season on "Smash" back in 1988 in NYC for a movie called "Last Rites" -- he tells this story:

A night shoot of a raid had a lookout way up on a warehouse roof waving an arm to give warning. In a black overcoat the tiny figure wouldn't separate from the equally black sky behind him, so I asked the costume designer, Joe Aulisi, whom I'd already noticed was good, if he had a grey coat instead. Up it went, solved the problem, and rewarded us with an unparalleled example of long-distance overacting.

(Joe) "Would you like the black coat back?"

and I had found my friend for the picture.

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#4 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 02 September 2012 - 08:54 AM

Watkin felt that making cinematography look like paintings was an act of prevention but he did it when called for in a commercial or feature. In one commercial, he was asked to recreate a Degas painting and after he finished lighting it, the agency asked him if he could add more lights to the scene, which would destroy the effect -- Watkin said "Don't ask me, ask Degas."

Here's a shot from "Jesus of Nazareth" where he actually did create the effect of a painting:

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#5 Kieran Scannell

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Posted 02 September 2012 - 09:23 AM

Well what can i say my hero .


One of mine to, have'nt read his autobiography yet though can't find a copy under 50 quid!
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#6 John Holland

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Posted 02 September 2012 - 11:55 AM

No you wont find many around now . His ex-lover had most of them destroyed . I have " Fag Hag "
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#7 John Holland

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Posted 02 September 2012 - 12:01 PM

There is a website about David. www.davidwatkin.co.uk
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#8 Kieran Scannell

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Posted 02 September 2012 - 04:49 PM

1346605296[/url]' post='376163']
There is a website about David . davidwatkin.co.uk.


Thanks John I'll have a look
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#9 Kieran Scannell

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Posted 02 September 2012 - 06:06 PM

1346622597[/url]' post='376178']
Thanks John I'll have a look


Wonderful interview with the man himself ever seen this?
http://www.youtube.c...be_gdata_player
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#10 Leo Anthony Vale

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Posted 02 September 2012 - 10:39 PM

i was watching a library dvd of Hammer's "To the Devil a Daughter". (Why rent when one can get it from the public library?)
In the extras, Watkin mentions that while setting up a shot, Richard Widmark asks where nis his key, Watkin says he doesn't use a key, to which Widmark says he does and walked off.
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#11 John Holland

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Posted 03 September 2012 - 02:27 AM

Thanks Kieran i hadnt seen that love thats its not edited .
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