Before the first day of shooting, I tried to remember any filming advice my cinematographer friend Seamus McGarvey had ever given me over the years, but we've never really talked about that stuff.
We talk about risotto, ghosts, talking dolphins, and freak out regularly over little things like a twisted curtain untwisting itself at dawn. When we walk down the street, we tend to bring our cameras up for the same shot. We must look like synchronized mimes. (Why doesn't anyone tell us?) We talk about everything - just not so much with the technical jargon.
So I improvised - I shot the day like I was shooting stills. I remembered a scene from a movie I saw once where there was a shot that zoomed back quickly. They probably had one of those slidey whoosits, what are they called? And I decided instead that I'd just stay within budget and walk backwards really fast. I ended up stepping on a lot of people this way but I had heard this is what happens to everyone in the movie business.
Later, I got a message from Seamus telling me that he's going to be in a book about cinema that includes interviews with him and a few other amazing cinematographers and could they use a photo I shot of him. And that's when I remembered that he did give me feedback once on shooting a movie.
He said: "It's not that hard. A pigeon could do this."
I googled pigeons for about an hour trying to find other movies that were shot by pigeons. I found a few but they weren't very good. And they weren't even close to The Hours, Atonement, or the Avengers. But then, Seamus has always been a special bird.
Here's a photo where McGarvey is pretending to be a pigeon. I wish they had picked this one because it's also a portrait of my camera, Ethel. It's called "A Portrait of Ethel, with pigeon."
Anyway, the photo below is the one they wanted instead.
I remember what I said right before I took it: "I think there's a bear in the room." And when he laughed I said "No. I'm fucking serious, Seamus."
I think I really convinced him, because he looked terrified.
So then I said "Wait. But it's a small bear."
And then he looked a bit less terrified, and I took the picture that you see here, which will be in a book that has nothing to do with pigeons.