Russell Boyd - Writer




Cinematographer. Nationality: Australian. Born: 1944 in Australia. Career: Worked at Cinesound, Melbourne; shot commercials for Supreme Films, Paddington, late 1960s; first feature credit as director of photography for Between Wars , 1974; cinematographer for dozens of Australian and American films; television credits include A Town Like Alice , 1981. Awards: Australian Cinematographers Society (ACS) Cinematographer of the Year, for Between Wars , 1976; British Academy Award (BAFTA) for Best Cinematography, 1977, and Academy of Science Fiction, Horror and Fantasy Films Saturn Award for Best Cinematography, 1979, for Picnic at Hanging Rock ; Australian Film Institute (AFI) Award for Best Achievement in Cinematography, for Break of Day , 1977; AFI Award for Best Achievement in Cinematography, for The Last Wave , 1978; AFI Award for Best Achievement in Cinematography, 1981, and ACS Cinematographer of the Year, 1982, for Gallipoli ; AFI Raymond Longford Award for significant contribution to Australian filmmaking, 1988. Address: 52 Sutherland Street, Cremorne NSW 2090, Australia. Agent: Smith/Gosnell/Nicholson & Assoc., PO Box 1166, 1515 Palisades Dr., Pacific Palisades, CA 90272–2113, U.S.A.


Films as Cinematographer:

1974

Between Wars (Thornhill)

1975

Picnic at Hanging Rock (Weir); The Man From Hong Kong (Wang and Trenchard-Smith); The Golden Cage (Kuyululu)

1976

Summer of Secrets (Sharman); Break of Day (Hannam)

1977

Gone to Ground (Dobson); The Singer and the Dancer (Armstrong); The Last Wave (Weir)

1979

Just Out of Reach (Blagg); Dawn! (Hannam); The Chain Reaction (Barry and Miller)

1980

. . . Maybe This Time (McGill)

1981

Gallipoli (Weir); A Town Like Alice (Stevens—for TV)

1982

The Year of Living Dangerously (Weir); Starstruck (Armstrong)

1983

Tender Mercies (Beresford); Phar Lap (Wincer); Stanley: Every Home Should Have One (Storm)

1984

A Soldier's Story (Jewison); Mrs. Soffel (Armstrong)

1986

Burke & Wills (Clifford); "Crocodile" Dundee (Faiman); The Perfectionist (Thomson)

1987

High Tide (Armstrong)

1988

The Rescue (Fairfax); "Crocodile" Dundee II (Cornell)

1989

In Country (Jewison); Blood Oath (Wallace); Sweet Talker (Jenkins)

1990

Almost an Angel (Cornell); Prisoners of the Sun (Wallace)

1991

Turtle Beach (Wallace)

1992

Forever Young (Miner); White Men Can't Jump (Shelton)

1994

Cobb (Shelton)

1995

Operation Dumbo Drop (Wincer)

1996

Tin Cup (Shelton)

1997

Liar Liar (Shadyac)

1998

Dr. Dolittle (Thomas)

1999

Company Man (Askin)



Other Films:


1997

Oscar and Lucinda (Armstrong) (additional camera)

Publications


By BOYD: articles—

"The 'New Vintage' Cinematographers of Australia Speak Out," interview in American Cinematographer (Hollywood), September 1976.

On BOYD: articles—

Bachmann, Gideon, "Films in Australia," in Sight and Sound (London), Winter 1976–77.

Dawson, Jan, "Picnic Under Capricorn," in Sight and Sound (London), Spring 1976.

Murray, Scott, editor, The New Australian Cinema , London, 1980.

Chase, Donald, "Russell Boyd," in American Cinematographer (Hollywood), December 1984.

McCarthy, Todd, "Speed of Light," in Film Comment (New York), September-October 1989.

O'Regan, Tom, "Australian Film in the 1970s: The Ocker and the Quality Film," in Oz Film: Australian Film in the Reading Room , http://kali.murdoch.edu.au/continuum/film/1970s.html , February 7, 1997.

Australian Film Commission and Australian Film Finance Corporation Limited, "Report on the Film and Television Production Industry," http://www.ffc.gov.au , November 5, 1999.


* * *


Australian cinematographer Russell Boyd came to prominence in 1975 for lensing Peter Weir's Picnic at Hanging Rock. He was part of the New Wave that revitalized the Australian motion picture industry by introducing the "quality" film, a hybrid of art cinema and classic Hollywood conventions. Technically skilled and imaginative, Boyd and his peers—producers, directors, screenwriters, and cinematographers—had their first features in the can before their 30th birthdays. These productions dominated Australian screens and received international acclaim.

Boyd was an overnight sensation whose career had started unassumingly years earlier. He first became interested in the production of television commercials, news, and documentaries while working at Cinesound in Melbourne. After moving to Sydney in the mid-1960s he started his apprenticeship as a cameraman at Supreme Films in Paddington: there he shot commercials every day for five years. Boyd's feature film break came when director Michael Thornhill hired him as director of photography for Between Wars (1974), and the effort earned him the Cinematographer of the Year award from the Australian Cinematographers Society (ACS). Boyd made his worldwide mark with Picnic at Hanging Rock , while he was still making a name for himself. Along with many young and talented filmmakers, he continued to work throughout the 1970s on domestic productions, promoting the growth of "an authentic Australian cinema." Part of the Australian film drain of the early 1980s, Boyd journeyed to Los Angeles to work on features helmed by Aussie directors Bruce Beresford ( Tender Mercies , 1983) and Gillian Armstrong ( Mrs. Soffel , 1984). Unlike many of his compatriots, he also continued to shoot films Down Under. With smash hit " Crocodile" Dundee in 1986, Boyd proved that an Australian production could have the same slick look as its American competition. His craftsmanship put him in demand behind the camera on both continents, but his choice of projects grew more commercial. In the 1990s, for example, he shot the Australian film Turtle Beach and then a number of mainstream American movies including White Men Can't Jump , Tin Cup , Liar Liar , and Dr. Dolittle.

Pinpointing Boyd's personal style is difficult. He is the first to admit "the contrast between one picture and the next can be extraordinary" for a cinematographer like himself, who tailors different looks for different films. In addition, depending upon the demands of a scene, he shifts back and forth between the British and the American system. If the lighting design is complex, Boyd adopts the British "lighting cameraman" model: he concentrates on the lighting, while the camera operator works more closely with the director to set the shot. When working in the American style, Boyd collaborates more significantly with the director to determine the camera angle, composition, and choreography. Although many of Boyd's credits have come from collaborating with the same directors (Peter Weir, Gillian Armstrong, Norman Jewison, Ron Shelton), he has achieved considerably different looks on each of their projects.

Boyd distinguishes between a "cameraman's picture" and a performance piece. He earned lavish praise for his conspicuously artistic photography in Picnic at Hanging Rock , a "cameraman's picture" with a lyrical style intrinsic to the drama. He based its look on the Impressionist period of Australian art, covering his camera lens with a yellow-dyed net to simulate the golden light in the turn-of-the-century paintings. He created the hallucinatory, hypnotic feel of the picnic sequences by shooting at different camera speeds. To enhance the romantic image of the Victorian schoolgirls, Boyd backlit their hair and used longer focal-length lenses to capture them in the middleground, surrounded by wildflowers and grass rendered out of focus in the foreground and background planes. His tight framing and extreme angles convey a sense of claustrophobia and impending doom when the girls start winding their way up Hanging Rock, the site of their puzzling disappearance. Boyd's pictorialism greatly contributed to the drama's mystery and atmosphere.

When shooting a performance piece like Norman Jewison's A Soldier's Story (1984), based on Charles Fuller's Pulitzer Prize-winning play, Boyd uses conventional compositions to support the acting and direction. In a 1984 article, Boyd explains, "To me, A Soldier's Story is pretty much performance and the director's choreography of the scenes. It doesn't have—and can't support—a very strong visual style." He subordinates style to the needs of the theatrical piece, often making the camerawork disappear so that nothing detracts from the acting.

Regardless of the project, Boyd's working methodology remains the same. Valuing creative collaboration, he has studied paintings and period photographs with directors and production designers to help determine the appropriate look for a film. His favorite tools include adjustable Fresnel spotlights and color-compensating filters placed at the camera lens rather than at the lamps. Boyd is known for his exceptional night work, which includes the evening murder sequence that sets the plot of A Soldier's Story into motion, and his flair for photographing scenery in movies as diverse as Tender Mercies and Tin Cup , both shot in Texas.

Except for winning a British Academy Award for Picnic at Hanging Rock , Boyd has never collected a major cinematography award outside the Australian film industry. Several factors contribute to the lack of recognition. Boyd adapts his style to a film's shifting modes and moods, an approach that affords him less visibility than those cinematographers who constantly capture beautiful pictures or select projects on the basis of showcasing their talent. During the last decade, while feature film production and budgets have remained static in Australia, Boyd has accepted more and more work on mainstream American projects. Often he adjusted to new crews containing personnel with little experience working together. As a result, his 40 films as director of photography are a mixture of notable outings and average, impersonal jobs. Instead of developing into the visual artist promised by his earlier work, Boyd has become a hardworking, accomplished craftsman.

—Susan Tavernetti



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