Friend, cinematographer, artist, teacher, Scott Ward, who photographed basically everything I made in the last twelve years, from CRY FOR BOBO on, just died. This was the first I’d heard he was even ill. As one friend said, “Of course. That’s exactly what Scott would do.” Part of what made him such an easy collaborator, and such a reliable, efficient creator of elegant, beautiful images was that he avoided fuss.
I had the easiest of relationships with Scott, a collaboration a bit like working with an actor, and I learned every bit as much as I have from the good actors I worked with: Scott’s camera always needed a motivation if you wanted it to move, which was a great lesson to me. He wouldn’t complain, as most actors don’t, but if you saw him looking unhappy he could tell you exactly what was wrong with the shot you were suggesting, and then, only if you asked (and I made it a point to), exactly how you could make it better.
It seemed like we picked up a new catchphrase or running joke together each time we did a film. “That seems like a plan,” was the first, a line we threw around on BOBO every time we arrived on set and worked out what we were doing. The last time we worked together, we found ourselves saying “Sure-sure,” rapid-fire, like Sid Musburger. “Where did that come from?” asked Scott. “The Hudsucker Proxy,” I said. “Yes, but why?” he asked.
I’d never met him before BOBO, and will always be grateful to producer/friend Nigel Smith for introducing us. Scott instantly endeared himself to me by his communicativeness, sensitivity and the gorgeous footage he created every single day. And he was fast, which a director always appreciates. I guess he’s also responsible for the title of this blog, since I asked about noir lighting when I interviewed him for the gig and he said something like “Yes, I flatter myself I’m quite good at shadowplay.” He sure was.
I learned every time I worked with Scott, and when I taught alongside him. He did a devastating critique of Stanley Kubrick’s use of candlelight in BARRY LYNDON — “Of course it’s interesting, but because they’re augmenting the candlelight you can see in shot with huge banks of hundreds of candles out of shot, you lose the flicker, and so what you end up with doesn’t look very much like candlelight at all. Certainly less like what you could get just by faking it with an electric light on a dimmer.” Same for the cab interiors in COLLATERAL, where they coated the whole vehicle with reflective stuff to bounce the light around, resulting in something spectacular but totally unrealistic. Scott could be very funny about the fetish for natural light: “It just seems weird to me that you’ve got all this other kit that you have to bring, but you’re not allowed to use your lights.”
And his greatest tenet, applied to film-making technique of course, but it seems to me applicable elsewhere in his life and ours: “You get rewarded for bravery, always.”
Scott filmed our “reconstructions” for the forthcoming NATAN, and I had no idea he was ill or that it was to be his last shoot. But I’m told by Minttu, his wife, that he was glad to finish his career with something about cinema. He loved cinema.
Scott (left) and me, INSIDE AN UNCLE.