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                                           Like, for example, Susanna White, Lucy Blakstad and Dan Reed.
In what he called his “In The Wild” mode, Eley was often to be found closeted on eye-catching loca- tions with big stars and various wildlife. Such as Julia Roberts, with orang-utans in Borneo and horses in Mongolia, Holly Hunter, with chee- tahs in South Africa, and, in a BAFTA- nominated production, John Cleese getting up close and personal with cuddly lemurs.
Dealing with actors in less starry fashion proved to be just around the corner thanks to a little help from fel- low DP, Barry Ackroyd BSC for whom he shot second unit on a curious Macedonian-based Western called Dust. He was then successfully “put up” by Ackroyd for Ken Loach’s typi- cally polemical TV drama, The Navigators, about the rail industry.
Lemurs to Loach? “Like a lot of people I thought I knew how Ken made a film, but when it actually came
to it, I didn’t. The popular notion is that it’s somehow hand-held and ‘busked’. But it isn’t.
“As far as the actual shooting is concerned he has a very particular way – Barry forewarned me – and on the first day I remember suggesting a track or something. He humoured me for about three minutes and then told me what he wanted.
“It was a matter of falling in with his system, and after a while I began to won- der why everybody didn’t make films that way.” A kind of “structured free- wheeling” is how he’d characterise it.
Mike Bassett – England Manager, director Steve Barron’s droll mocku- mentary about the unlikely elevation of a journeyman soccer boss (Ricky Tomlinson) to the top job, was shot entirely hand-held on High-Definition. “With a huge monster of a camera which I physically couldn’t pick up myself so someone had to put it on my shoulder for me,” Eley recalled wearily.
And it was the High-Def approach too for the initial part of a remarkable assignment which would eventually become this year’s Alexander Korda Award winner for Best British Film at the BAFTAs.
Eley hadn’t even heard of, let alone read, Touching The Void, mountaineer Joe Simpson’s astonishing 1985 tale of survival in the Peruvian Andes, when he first signed up for the production. Together with Oscar-winning director Kevin Macdonald, they first filmed interviews with Simpson and his one- time climbing partner Simon Yates, who had originally cut him adrift.
“The interviews on High-Def felt so immediate; it was almost like telling a story that had taken place last year rather than 17 years earlier. They convinced Kevin he had the bedrock for a riveting story. He now had to build the reconstruction on top of that. We took Joe and Simon back to Peru and did a lot of stuff with them there that was going to be in the film but, in the end, wasn’t.
“By the time we went to Peru we knew we were going to the Alps [on the Italian side across the border from their Chamonix base] a couple of months later to do the actual recon- struction. The real vertiginous shots were done by Keith Partridge, our sound recordist/climbing cameraman and, of course, we also cheated a lot.
“Like me and Kevin, most of the crew [including Eley’s regular focus puller Dan Shoring] weren’t climbers but the production employed a team of guides and safety people who some- how managed to instil faith in our abil- ities and convince us to do things we’d have never dreamed of doing.”
Eley may be no climber but the prospect of ice and snow still contin- ues to fascinate him as he revealed his plans to direct again.
His first directing stint was a Modern Times documentary, The Garden, about a idealistic council housing officer and his intriguing ini- tiative on a tough estate in Bacup, Lancs. “What appealed to me about it was the small idea having wider reper- cussions. It actually asked quite big questions about society, neighbours and social responsibility.”
What has got him all fired up this time round is a true story set in the Canadian Arctic. “After I did The Garden, I thought I’d like to have another go although I’m still not quite sure whether it’s a good idea shooting and directing. But I knew I had to be really passionate before I committed myself again and this subject ticks quite a lot of boxes for me.
“I went to Greenland to do a docu- mentary in the 80s and as far as I’m concerned it’s still the most beautiful place I’ve ever been. Yes, the Arctic is a real draw.” ■ QUENTIN FALK
Both, He Knew He Was Right, to be aired on BBC1 in the Spring, and Love Again, were originated on 16mm Fujicolor F-400T 8682 and F-500T 8672 Motion Picture Negative
Photos main: Julia Roberts in In The Wild; (photo Alan Sheldon © Tigress Prods 1998)
Top l-r: Mike Eley shooting Touching The Void; a scene from Leopards Of Zanzibar on which Eley did additional photography;
Ricky Tomlinson in Mike Bassett - England Manager; Holly Hunter in In The Wild
(photo Alan Sheldon © Tigress Prods 1998);
opposite page l-r: Laura Fraser with Bill Nighy, Anna Massey in He Knew He Was Right and on location in Italy; Mike Eley; (photos © BBC)
Fuji Motion Picture And Professional Video • Exposure • 5

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