DEFINITION June 2019

FEATURE | WOMEN I N C I NEMATOGRAPHY

BRIANNE MURPHY

New York. It was here she befriended (and later shared an apartment with) Marlon Brando and James Dean. Murphy moved to Hollywood in the fifties and earned a solid reputation as cinematographer on the television series Little House on the Prairie . In 1980, she was the first female director of photography on a major studio movie, Fatso , directed by Anne Bancroft. In 1982, Murphy won an Academy Award for Scientific and Engineering Achievement for the concept, design and manufacture of the MISI Camera Insert Car and Process Trailer, shared with Donald Schisler, which was invented as a safe way to shoot driving sequences with actors driving cars in movies.

When I moved from New York to LA, I met the late Brianne Murphy, a British cinematographer who was a real character with chutzpah. We immediately hit it off and ended up working together. Murphy was the first female director of photography ever to join the IATSE Local, even though the head of the union at the time said: “You want to join? Over my dead body.” Murphy later quipped: “Fortunately, he died.” Born in London in 1933, Murphy attended Pembroke College (later Brown University). She ran away to join the circus (a night performing with Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey) and later studied acting at the Neighborhood Playhouse in

KIM LONGINOTTO

are superior and others are lesser people, so you can do terrible things to them. I’ve watched films about gangsters and the Mafia all my life – look how Scorsese and Coppola glorify them in their films. These are not good people, they are ruthless criminals.” About the current state of documentaries in the UK, she says: “It has always been quite hard to make documentaries and it’s even harder today, because they want so much from you. You need to show them a teaser, then a trailer – you might as well just make the film on your own, especially if you have to make it within a certain time period. I bought my own digital camera – the Sony FS7 – and sound equipment, and I can make a film over a long period of time and not lose time waiting for funding.” I point out that she is established, and it would be impossible for young filmmakers to fund their own films. “Everybody I know is doing it that way right now,” Longinotto insists. “My friend went to Syria and he funded it entirely himself. It does seem to be those making films have trust funds, but the young ones also are getting their own cameras and just making their films. When you have the whole thing filmed, you can apply at different stages. I’m doing it this way because there wasn’t another option, but it’s not ideal. There is very little money. The decision makers are worried about funding the wrong thing and the terrestrial channels don’t provide

If you’ve ever attended Sheffield, IDFA, Sundance, or any other documentary festival, you will have heard of award-winning British director, Kim Longinotto. She photographs her own films in remote corners of Africa, Iran, Europe, the Far East and Britain. Longinotto’s credits include Dreamcatcher , Hold Me Tight, Let Me Go , Underage and Theatre Girls . Known as an observational filmmaker, her subjects deal with women’s oppression, women’s rights, abused children, rape, sexual trafficking, violence, female circumcision, prostitution and transgender issues. She confronts subjects considered taboo, controversial and empowering. “I never make films about victims,” says Longinotto of her documentaries. “My characters are rebels and survivors.” Her most recent film, Shooting the Mafia , premiered at Sundance and is about a female photographer who has taken photos of the Italian Mafia. When I ask what she learned from this film, she replies: “I’ve learned the Mafia are cowardly. They are not honourable people at all. They torture women and children – kill indiscriminately. How can people traffic women when they have sisters, daughters, mothers? They believe they are better than everyone else, they

any support unless it is a reality show, so that’s what we have to do.” I ask her what she would advise young filmmakers to do. “I wouldn’t advise students anything,” she replies. “I love making films. Sometimes I’m haunted by things, but my fear is that I am not doing them justice. I can’t say that making these films makes me happy, but I feel really privileged to be able to do this. My next film is about a pop star, so there’s a bit of levity.” And next for Longinotto? “My hero is Greta Thunberg and I’ve been on some Extinction Rebellion marches. You have to. It’s our survival at stake.”

It has always been quite hard to make documentaries

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