Erik Alexander Wilson on Cinematography

As part of the 2012 exposures festival, Erik Alexander Wilson visited Cornerhouse to talk all things Cinematography. A sold out audience of hopeful film makers enjoyed a fascinating look at Wilson’s career at the final BAFTA Masterclass. Cornerhouse Digital Reporter Ben Williams was one of the lucky crowd…

‘I don’t know much about making films, all I know is just the few things I know’ Erik Wilson says with a likeable modesty. Wilson asks who in the audience is involved in film making and nearly everyone puts up their hand. He seems pleased, probably reminded of himself 13 years earlier – after finishing film school, Wilson was part of a not-too-dissimilar audience hanging on the words of Three Colours Red Director of Photography, Piotr Sobocinski.  ‘At that point, I knew what I wanted to do with my life’, he recalls. However, making the transition from knowing you want to make feature films and actually making them isn’t easy, ‘It takes about 10 years to make it (in the industry), and making it only means less stomach cramps!’

Wilson insists he’s only on the first step of his way to reaching the likes of Sobocinsk, but how has he got this far? ‘Shoot a lot’, he insists. Wilson shot everything from corporate videos and webcasts to cooking shows and low budget horror movies. ‘You learn things from shooting, there are no big breaks, just lots of tiny little ones’ he says, ‘there will always be someone telling you that if you’ve not done something before, they won’t let you do it, but through the people you meet (on other projects) you will get your small breaks.’

One of these came in the shape of Diarmid Scrimshaw, who Wilson met whilst working in television. Scrimshaw introduced Wilson to Warp Films, an offshoot of the legendary record label and already home to some of Britain’s most exciting cinematic talent. It was here Wilson would realise his ambition of making feature films. First he made short films with Julian Barratt and then, crucially, began working with director Richard Ayoade.

Wilson and Ayoade worked together on Arctic Monkeys: At The Apollo as well as music videos for The Last Shadow Puppets and The Yeah Yeah Yeahs. In Ayoade he found a like minded film maker, their next project would be Submarine, Ayoade’s feature film debut. Wilson enthuses about the production and it’s clear that they made the film they wanted to make. There is something encouraging in this. In an industry often viewed with cynicism, it’s good to hear a film made with such passion was so successful.

Wilson’s next project would be Tyrannosaur, and again he cannot hide his enthusiasm. ‘It was a wonderful, magnificent script, there was no doubt I wanted to do it.’ Coincidentally, he would again be working with a director making his big screen debut, Paddy Considine. ‘Paddy isn’t interested in any bullshit, if it works, it works.’ And how it worked, Tyrannosaur was a critical success and one of last year’s most unforgettable films. Considine won the Best Newcomer Award at this year’s BAFTA’s and Erik Alexander Wilson was the first person thanked in his acceptance speech.

13 years on from attending Piotr Sobocinski’s inspirational talk, I couldn’t help but wonder if one of the film makers in tonight’s audience would be repeating the pattern.

In Conversation with Erik Alexander Wilson (mp3)

Erik Alexander Wilson’s work can next be seen in Now Is Good released in the UK on the Fri 25 May