5 MINUTES WITH...a Photographer and Film-Maker

As part of our “5 Minutes With…” series, we spent 5 minutes with Kerry Harrison who has been represented by LPA for just over a year. Kerry is one of a growing band of stills photographers who also shoot moving image, and he has even set up his own film production company The French Exchange: http://thefrenchexchange.com/

An established commercial photographer shooting for clients such as Little Chef and NPower, his documentary and narrative style made it an obvious progression.

Here is his story...

What made you decide to start shooting moving image as well as stills?

Actually I only started working with moving image as I felt a bit pressured into it by much of the photography media a few years ago. There were lots of articles saying that if photographers didn’t provide moving image as well then they’d be un-employable. So I guess you could say that fear led me to it! Anyway I was watching Bruce Weber’s film about the Jazz musician Chet Baker and thought I might try something that was quite documentary in style, black and white and handheld, just as a test. After the first afternoon of filming I looked back at the clips and was just amazed, well actually I’d made a lot of mistakes but I could see the possibilities for being creative straight away.

What do you think photographers who shoot moving image can offer clients?

I  think that as photographers we can offer something a little different for people who commission moving image. The eye and lighting ability of a good photographer will really stand out from the lower end video production companies and actually we can offer a really high end solution often at less of a cost than a film production company.

How does a stills photographer make the move to moving image?

I think it’s literally a case of just starting. Try and film something, anything will do, try to cut it together in iMovie with some music and see if you like it. I think it’ll appeal to some people more than others. I always saw a lot of my photography shoots in a very narrative way and I use natural light almost exclusively so it was an easier transition than if my style had been based on a lot of flash lighting and static framing. Then I think it’s really about finding something you want to say with it. For me I’ve been getting into making really short little documentaries about people and now working on some more narrative ideas as well.

You’ve been known to edit and write the music for your films. How did that come about?

Music was my first job, I worked as a musician for quite a few years, playing keyboards and drums, writing music, going on tours and recording. So it’s been really nice to be able to write some music and record it for these films. Also the benefit is that the music is made specifically for that film so there’s no trawling through stock music for something that’s still not quite right. Still haven’t got the old drum kit out yet though!

The editing came about as I wanted to understand how to shoot for the edit and what better way than to learn to edit! On many of the jobs I work with ‘proper’ full time editors but it’s nice to do it myself on some of my personal work. Actually the editing programmes are like a combination of photoshop and some of the music programmes I used to use so I didn’t find it too intimidating.

Congratulations on the launch of your film company The French Exchange. Tell us more.

As much as I do tend to direct and light things and operate the camera I find moving image to be more of a collaborative thing, I need a great sound recordist, a great editor, musical collaborators and production for it all to work. So I’ve found a group of like minded people to work with and if someone commissions me to make a film then they will have the full package and know that they’re in safe hands.


What advice can you give to a photographer who wants to get into moving image?

I think the best advice would be to just make a start and don’t get bogged down with worrying about the technical aspects. There’s a chance to do something really great by disregarding the rules and now’s the chance to do that before you start having to consider the 180 degree rule, pans, tilts, dolly shots or any other weirdly named things.

Who is your favourite film director?

I like Jean Pierre Jeunet, Jacques Audiard, Wolfgang Becker, Jean-Luc Godard Krzysztof Kieslowsk and many more but really it tends to be individual films I like. So, my favourite film would be a combination of Napoleon Dynamite, Amelie, Taxi Driver, Goodbye Lenin, Mesrine, It’s a Wonderful Life, Manhattan, Kes and Billy Liar. It would probably be a very strange film!