The World At His Feet
Director of photography Adam Etherington talks about filming 2012 FujiFilm Shorts Best Cinematography winner, The World Turns.
You wouldn't think the story of a van driver who hits a cyclist could be described as “beautiful”, but that's what up-and-coming cinematographer Adam Etherington felt about director Nick Rutter's short drama The World Turns.
“The script had this beautiful, fragmented vision of reality,” he explains. “The significance of such a life-changing moment was almost downplayed, and yet the fallout for the protagonist, Kevin (Ricci Hartnett), is enormous. Everything was conveyed in real, human terms, as our character tries to process what has happened.
“Nick and I wanted something that was honest and real, but beautiful at the same time,” he continues. “We wanted to allow the audience to really connect with our character, which is why it was so important to shoot on film.”
That quest for intuitive beauty has certainly paid off, with the film winning Etherington the FujiFilm Shorts Award for Best Cinematography. The young DP knew that film was the only medium that would capture their story of a budding relationship growing from tragedy as Kevin meets a waitress after the tragic events.
“There's something about the chemistry of film that draws you in - it's something human that really lets you connect,” Etherington explains. “Like so much cinematography, it's very much a feeling. Some of the most beautiful things were very much spur of the moment. Nick would spot an angle on the monitor and we'd be off and rolling. Or I might find a little cutaway, a moment of reflection with a character. It's very much a film of moments, the fragments of this guy's life as he comes to terms with what has happened. Having a stock as adaptable as the ETERNA was a massive part of it. We really pushed the stock hard, put our trust in it, working in available light at night at high speeds, but it came through every time, and we got some quite magical stuff.
“We shot on an Aaton XTR Prod,” he says. “I love Aatons - they're wonderful handheld, perfectly balanced. We needed to be able to move quickly with the characters.”
Another important chemistry is that shared by the director and his team, and Etherington found that he and Rutter we were on the same page from the moment they met.
“We both loved Robbie Ryan's work on Fish Tank, which was a key reference,” says Etherington. “Our film has hardly any dialogue, so we needed to make sure the cinematography enhanced the emotional positioning of Kevin. Nick is an incredibly visual director and had some wonderful ideas for ways to tell this story in a very reactive, natural way.
“I was quite lucky to get the nod,” he smiles. “Nick told me afterwards that they'd seen about 30 guys for the job! He was very trusting and gave me the freedom to handle the photography the way I wanted. We really worked together to find the perspective that best captured the narrative.”
Etherington has worked his way up the ranks, choosing on-the-job experience as a runner, camera assistant and clapper loader instead of going to film school.
“I was only 22 when I jumped into full time, and I'm aware I'm very young to be doing what I do,” he acknowledges. “But working in the lower ranks allowed me to develop skills that I apply in my own work. I often worked seven-day weeks when as a runner, shooting my own stuff on weekends with backup kit borrowed from productions I was on.”
And he's pretty clear about what he's learned from all that hard graft. “Prep is absolutely essential,” he says. “On a feature a little more attention needs to be paid to the stamina required to maintain quality of work. On a short, you're working in such an acute environment that the intensity of the experience will often see you through. You've less time but can often experiment more with extreme techniques. On The World Turns we pushed things a lot, trying to feel out the stock and see what we could do with it, but there was also room for a little progression, like working in quite kinetic handheld for the moments immediately after Kevin hits the cyclist.”
So, what now for the newly award-winning filmmaker?
“I've overseen something close to 200 productions now,” he nods. “I've been lucky enough to work with some of the UK's most exciting directing talent, and to shoot major campaigns such as the TV trailers for The Voice with Red Bee and SEGA's new Total War 2 trailer with The Mill. It's nice working with the bigger budgets, but I still enjoy the constraints of short film. It keeps you trying new things, being inventive and making crazy ideas work with little money. I also just wrapped up in the final stages of post on Paul Hyett's debut picture The Seasoning House. The Fuji award is an incredible honour to cap an exciting year so far.”
And long may he continue to find the beauty in the dark.
For more on Adam Etherington, vist adametherington.co.uk
To request a free limited edition DVD copy of all 10 nominated short films for Fujifilm Shorts 2012, please email Jerry Deeney at Fujifilm Motion Picture: firstname.lastname@example.org