Nigel Walters from IMAGO, Federation of world cinematographers with 53 national associations and over 4300 member-cinematographers, is a regular – and zealous! – collaborator of the Manaki Brothers festival for 12 years now. Mr. Walters was until recently the president of IMAGO, and now that function is taken over by Paul René Roestad.
When Walters became the president of IMAGO a decade ago, the first task they asked from him is to look after the Manaki Brothers festival because it was treated as the oldest one in the world and a very special festival devoted to cinematographers.
-I was at Manaki Brothers 12 years ago for the first time, and I visit it every year since. At that time, IMAGO was a European federation and my first task was to make a world organization, as there are no borderlines for cinematographers. Nowadays, IMAGO is a global federation of 53 associations from the entire world. One of the reasons why I maintained the friendship with the Manaki Brothers festival was the intention to bring together the various cinematographers’ associations. It felt as if they need some kind of a core to organize themselves around. That is why I created a Conference for the cinematographers’ associations – i.e. nine associations – and its goal is to nurture friendship, collaboration and mutual aid, all with the purpose of improving the circumstances in which the cinematographers work and in which the films are done. With no good film picture, there are no good films. Fortunately, with the kindness and generosity of the Macedonian film professionals, and the efforts of people like Tomi Salkovski and Labina Mitevska, who encouraged this idea, and especially Blagoja Kunovski – Dore and Gena Teodosievska, who continued the support, we held the fourth IMAGO conference this year, Walters points out.
Usually, the cinematographers are people “invisible” for the general audience. Still, is it maybe better for it to stay that way, so the cinematographers can keep the peace for creative work?
-An interesting question! The fact that we have festivals like the Manaki Brothers doesn’t mean we can’t work in peace. The importance of the gatherings at the two big festivals devoted to cinematographers – one here is Bitola, and another one in Poland – is to communicate amongst ourselves, and my struggle is for us to have peaceful working conditions. However, if that means 16 hours a day worth of work, 7 days a week, then that is not peaceful working conditions at all! Cinematographers are a vulnerable category of people, self-employed, have to meet the demands of the producers, and the fact that they are not in the focus of the public and media’s interest is fine. Last year, there was a case of a cinematographers that passed away during the shooting of a stuntmen scene, and that happened simply because the security regulations weren’t respected. Hence, to have a “peaceful life” on a film set and to lose your life during the shooting of a stuntmen scene is bad for our profession and for the production. The most reasonable working conditions are here in Europe – the best ones are in Denmark – which means that good films can be done without long shooting hours during the whole day. The Manaki Brothers festival is helping the cinematographers as it brings them together, they can share their struggles… Cinematographers are quite generous and have a great share in the film industry: I know that because I have met a great number of cinematographers, especially here in Bitola! Cinematographers are important since if they have to work 20 hours a day on the film set, then also all the rest have to work 20 hours. If the working conditions of cinematographers are regulated for the better, and if reasonable conditions are met with the producers and directors, then all the other professions in the film industry will have their benefits as well. That is what the importance of cinematographers is, Walters points out.
Following his commitments, leading world-renowned cinematographers from UK have come to Bitola, such as Billy Williams, Roger Pratt, Peter Suschitzky, Chris Menges, and certainly this year’s Roger Deakins.
-Still, it’s not just about these names from the British association of cinematographers: I had the privilege to meet professionals in Bitola who raise the respect for our profession. One example is my encounter here with Vittorio Storaro, who was considered a God of film picture. In this way, the awareness of the contribution of cinematographers in the film industry is elevated. If you saw this year’s Oscars, Roger Deakins got the biggest honors from the attendees in the hall: as he walked up to the stage to be awarded the statuette, he got the biggest applause. That is because everyone respects him, and they all wanted him to win the Oscar after 13 nominations, Walters proudly gives his remarks.