From shooting powerful movies such as Jamil Dehalvi’s Jinnah and Immaculate Conception and making commercials for brands such as Tapal and Telenor Djuice, UK-based cinematographer and director of photography Nick Noland has worked with leading directors of the industry.
On Thursday evening, Noland joined the film students at the South Asian Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Television (SAAMPT) and shared his experiences with attentive film students.
“In London, it takes 10 years for someone with a Master of Arts [MA] degree in Film to register himself in mainstream cinema,” Noland told the students. “So this field basically requires you to be patient yet committed at the same time.”
He emphasised the importance of gaining formal education in this profession. “I had no formal training in film. That is why it took me until a couple of weeks ago to become good at it,” he said. Impressed by the efforts and work of film schools such as SAAMPT, he added that such training can actually help pave the path to success for passionate and educated film-makers.
Commenting on the Pakistani film industry’s development, he said: “Some things are definitely improving. Last year, only three films [released globally] were produced, and this year if I’m not wrong, around 15 films are under production — which is great.” However, when asked about the changing work ethic and conditions in Pakistan, he remained silent for a moment and then said, “You’re doing better than you used to,” leaving the crowd in fits of laughter.
He then expressed his opinion on the structure of the film industry, saying that the dynamics are odd in Pakistan; a standard hierarchy of film crew includes a director of photography and an assistant director (AD) at the top, according to him. He believes, first AD is someone who comes on set and organises the whole shoot; whereas in Pakistan, his role is merely assisting the director — which is wrong.
“An AD is supposed to have equal authority as the director of photography (DoP), on set,” he said. “I can’t imagine myself or any other DoP in UK, sitting back in his chair just waiting for things to happen. You have to work with your first AD and get things done — it’s that simple,” he said, adding that the Pakistani film industry either needs to understand the importance of enhancing the role of their ADs or else find skilled freelancers for this job.
When a question from the audience arose regarding the film Bol’s visual management and effects, Noland commented: “Although I haven’t seen the whole of it as I couldn’t understand anything, it seemed very stagy to me — but at the end, it is the director’s vision.”
Although the advent of high-resolution cameras and technology have made the traditional 35mm and 16mm film cameras redundant, Noland is still hopeful: “I think film [cameras] will survive at some level although digital cameras are getting stronger day by day.” He added, “I have been a film [camera] person for a long time and resisted the new technology, 5D and Red, but things are beginning to change — Alexa cameras, for instance, have literally changed everything.”
“I’ll give an example of the Dogma film group in Denmark which made a film called Fasten — it was shot on a DVCAM but the content of the film was so strong that it [type of camera] didn’t really matter,” he said, adding that it ultimately depends on the content of the film and not the technology used.
Noland’s wife looks after the cinematography unit at the London Film School which allows him to interact with students and faculty. Learning from his meetings with those students, he advised Pakistani film students to work on every designation in a film’s crew instead of just one specific role. Although it’s being done to some extent, he feels a more formal implementation is required.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 15th, 2012.
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