B A F T A 2009
Consider many of the past decade’s most influential and provocative British films, television dramas and documentaries – on occasion, an eye-catching mix of all three – and it’s difficult to sidestep the name of versatile cinematographer, Barry Ackroyd BSC.
From Sunday and Hillsborough – recreations of, respectively, the 1972 Derry and 1989 football stadium disasters – to Nick Broomfield’s searing South African exposé, The Leader, The Driver and The Driver’s Wife and the Academy Award winning Anne Frank Remembered, it’s a roll call to relish.
Then, of course, there have been the collaborations with Dominic Savage (Out of Control, Love + Hate) and Stephen Poliakoff (The Lost Prince, Friends and Crocodiles, Gideon’s Daughter). But perhaps Ackroyd’s name is most associated with veteran director Ken Loach for whom he has shot no fewer than 12 films, including their Cannes Film Festival Golden Palm-winning The Wind That Shakes The Barley, set in 1921 Ireland.
Shooting exactly the same time, to mark the 30th Anniversary of the killings, Greengrass made Bloody Sunday while Ackroyd lit Sunday for director Charles McDougall. However, when they finally got together for the first time on United 93, it was, from Ackroyd’s point of view, more by good luck than judgement.
He explained: “Paul usually worked with Ivan Strasburg who is a great influence on my work. This time around, Ivan was busy, which was lucky for me. We met for the first time only a few weeks before we started prepping but seemed to get on straight away. He’s not a man of many words and like to delegate his work out to people. That way, he gets people to give their most.
“The film happened very quickly and the script was very simple: this happened, then that happened….it wasn’t overcomplicated or full of camera moves.
“It actually took me back to the great days of documentary making when you could take a complete journey from beginning to end with only the vaguest idea of where you were going at the outset.
Despite his long association with Loach, Ackroyd was intrigued to discover that Greengrass has actually singled out Dominic Savage’s Out Of Control as one of the DP’s credits he particularly admired. “He seemed to like the approach and the look of it. When I work outside Ken’s sphere, the key for me is to keep the same signature but to work with other people’s briefs.”
As a film fan with a particular love for the French New Wave, Ackroyd, who switched from the thoughts of being a sculptor to cinematography early on, thinks he remembers seeing Loach’s Kes when it first came out. “I recognised the kids in that film. I’m from a northern industrial town, with a comprehensive school background, exactly the same as the kids in the film.
Quentin Falk, 2012