Cinefest International Festival of Cinematography

To my knowledge, there are only 3 cinematography festivals in the world the biggest is Camerimage in Bydgoszcz, Poland, the most beautiful but remote is Manaki Brothers (International Cinematographers Film Festival)in Bitola, Macedonia, and the third is the two year old Cinefest, the largest cinematography festival in Western Europe, staged by the Centre for Moving Image Research (CMIR) at University of the West of England that takes place in Bristol, England.

Professor Terry Flaxton is Director of CMIR and also Director of Cinefest with Dr. Sarah Sparke producing the festival. Flaxton, a new member of Imago's education committee, is founder of the three year old CMIR that examines the role of the moving image, studies the history of cinematography, and conducts research in cinematography at UWE. CMIR helps conduct the CML tests with its founder Geoff Boyle who is also a visiting professor at UWE. The tests examine new cameras and prototypes and this year collated the largest lens test so far.Bristol 1- Panel

Cinefest is not a festival of film screenings, it is 5 days of presentations, on-set lighting workshops, masterclasses, technical panels and discussions on the latest trends in image acquisition and techniques, camera technology, and the overall state of the art of cinematography today it is educational, creative, theoretical, practical, scientific, aesthetic, artistic and philosophical. The audience consisted of the public, MA and BA students, professionals from Bristol, the UK, and around the world, and international visitors.

Patrons of the festival are Nigel Walters BSC (former Imago President and Honorary Member of the BSC and IMAGO) and award winning cinematographer Billy Williams OBE, BSC. Sponsors include UWE (University of West England, Arts Council England, Panalux, Panavision, Imago, Dolby, The British Cinematographer Magazine. Others include Aardman, Evolution, Films@99, Cinelab London, The Bottle Yard, Illumatrix and Reel Angels. Media sponsors are The American Cinematographer Magazine,

In it’s second year, Cinefest exists on a shoestring budget with only a handful of volunteers that make it all happen, but still is able to attract world class talent. The festival kicked off on Tuesday evening with The State of Cinematography panel included Billy Williams BSC, Nigel Walters BSC, Ula Pontikos BSC, Roberto Schaefer AIC,ASC and David Heuring. Wednesday morning, everyone was excited about Billy Williams’ lighting workshop which, by all accounts, was varied and elaborate. Wednesday afternoon, BAFTA winning Director Philippa Lowthorpe and cinematographer Matt Gray BSC reviewed their collaboration and showed excerpts from ‘Swallows and Amazons’.

Bristol 3- Light workshop w Roberto Schaeffer AIC ASCThe Cinematography & Art panel put artists, academics, and cultural figures alongside cinematographers to discuss a variety of topics: the artist filmmaker, the cinematographer as artist, aesthetic strategy, art as an existential intervention, etc. Filmmaker-anthropologist Cathy Greenhalgh moderated the lively, thought-provoking discussion with Roberto Schaefer AIC, ASC, Rob Stoneman, (ex commissioning editor of Channel 4 and Head of Irish Film School), Debbie Lander of FORMA and Terry Flaxton. “This kind of discussion rarely happens in bringing art and industry together. The students found it a particularly helpful session as the future will bring new types of collaborations with artists and artists interest in the professional and aesthetic expertise of cinematographers” says Greenhalgh.

Dave Alex Riddett of world famous Aardman Studios based in Bristol, home of the beloved Wallace and Gromit characters took us through the process of stop motion photography, effects, and techniques they use in their award winning animation films. We all loved it.

The lighting workshops and masterclasses were particularly popular and most days the 200 seat auditorium was full to capacity. World famous, well loved (Welsh farmer when he’s not filming), Chris Menges ( ‘Kes’, ‘The Killing Fields’, ‘The Mission’, ‘Michael Collins’, ‘The Reader’, ‘A World Apart’ ) guided us through excerpts of his work. Chris showed sections of one of his favorite films, ‘Michael Collins’ and discussed the lighting and atmosphere and how he carefully achieved the look they were after for 1916 Dublin, (he mentioned that work often gets distorted when studios re-grade it for television broadcasts or dvd sales).

Roberto Schaefer ASC AIC (‘Quantum of Solace’, ‘Kite Runner’, ‘Monster’s Ball’) presented a lighting workshop while simultaneously fielding audience questions. Later on with David Heuring he methodically deconstructed his work on ‘Miles Ahead’, (Don Cheadles’ labor of love that he co-wrote, produced, directed and starred in) and explained why he mixed Super 16 with Alexa Raw, and the Canon C500 to achieve certain looks. “What you’re seeing is NOT what you’re getting, don’t trust the monitor, it must be calibrated” says Schaefer.Bristol 4

The informative pre-recorded presentation about the Academy Colour Encoding System (ACES), developed so that cinematographers can control their images, was talked through via Skype by Geoff Boyle FKBS, cinematographer and originator of the Cinematography Mailing List who also conducts the CML camera and lens test for CMIR/UWE. The conversation is a bit too long to tackle here but… “ACES” is becoming the industry standard for managing color throughout the life cycle of a motion picture or television production. From image capture through editing, VFX, mastering, public presentation, archiving and future re-mastering, ACES ensures a consistent color experience that preserves the filmmaker’s creative vision. In addition to the creative benefits, ACES addresses and solves a number of significant production, post-production and archiving problems that have arisen with the increasing variety of digital cameras and formats in use, as well as the surge in the number of productions that rely on worldwide collaboration using shared digital image files.”

The Women in Cinematography panel covered topics like getting work, getting established, getting an agent and possible career obstacles with panel members DPs Rina Yang, Caroline Bridges, and Lulu Elliott (Reel Angels) chaired by CineFest Producer Sarah Sparke. Later on, Rina Yang showed excerpts of her work and discussed her training and career at a panel called ‘Emerging with Established’ with Roberto Schaefer.

In his lighting workshop, Nic Knowland BSC recreated a scene from ‘Whistle Down the Wind’ using an Alexa camera while fielding technical and aesthetic questions on the studio set and used HDSLR to take pictures during the set ups. He later showed clips and with Terry Flaxton discussed his recent work on ‘Berberian Sound Studio’, ‘The Duke of Burgundy’, ‘Institute Benjamenta’ and his early iconic music video work with John Lennon and Yoko Ono.

The relatively new technology of High Dynamic Range/Wide Color Gamut (HDR/WCG) display is becoming more interesting to the industry and more important to understand. Marc Price (formerly of BBC R&D and Bristol Vision Institute) made a scientific presentation on the techniques used to reproduce a greater dynamic range of luminosity than is possible with standard digital imaging such as Rec 709 for HD-TV (8 F Stops) compared to 20 stop HDR images that have been created by CMIR. CMIR’s HDR team lead by Flaxton and including Jonathan Smiles (Digital Safari Technology) and a group of PhD’s demonstrated HDR imagery on the Dolby Maui 2,000 nit (cd/m2) monitor discussing the creative possibilities of HDR/WCG with DP Nic Knowland BSC.Britsol 2 - Light workshop

After long concentrated days, we gathered at the Prince Street Social Club bar for relaxed conversation, but there were also discussions about ‘true blacks’, RAW, Pro Res, Quad 4, the DIT, Log C, digital menus, LUTS, Log C, Codex, ACES, HDR, data wrangling, calibrating your light meter to the monitor, the wave form monitor, clipping the highlights etc.

Saturday’s panel ‘Why Shoot Film?’ examining the advantages and disadvantages of digital versus film and is still engaging as the arguments are growing, changing, evolving. The panel included: Esther May Campbell, (BAFTA-winning short-form film-maker), John Mahtani (CFO at CineLab London), Richard Wallace (Research Fellow at University of Warwick) and cinematographer Nic Knowland BSC and Andrew Spicer (Professor of Cultural Production, UWE). With the renewed demand for photographing on film (celluloid) and the need for photochemical film production, the audience participated in a spirited discussion challenging the claims of both sides in the digital acquisition versus film debate. Archiving still seems to be the major issue that has not yet been resolved. Awareness of ecological and environmental damage from both film and digital disposal has weighed into the discussion.

Cinematography & ‘The Black Poetic Voice’ was the concluding panel on Saturday afternoon with local filmmakers, artists, and academics from different ethnic backgrounds participating. Richard Herrin, Marcus Brown, Karen Alexander, Adam Murray, Simon Jenkins, and UWE Professor of Photography Shawn Napthali-Sobers addressed the ‘legacy of being Black and British’. The filmmakers and artists described how their work in film and art can turn around the lives of young black youths and lead to a better future. The discussion was just getting interesting when the session had to close….

Before flying back to Los Angeles, Roberto Schaefer said “Cinefest is a small gem of a gathering for practicing and would be cinematographers that should continue to grow, as witnessed by the quality of the workshops and the enthusiasm of the attendees.”

Madelyn Most September 30, 2016

Photos by Cathy Greenhalgh