Jamie Whitby: A Few Of My Favourite Things
UKMVA-nominated Agile Films director Jamie Whitby tells us how sitting on set helps actor interactions, why classic cameras never need updating and that his highly-conceptual approach might come from his father's LSD fascination.
I don’t own much. When it comes to chucking stuff out I am generally quite brutal, so the objects that remain tend to be pretty dear to me.
I like the idea that all of my possessions can fit into the back of a hatchback, so if I needed to I could get up and leave wherever I am at the drop of a hat.
With that being said, here are my current top five items:
With things like old cameras, there’s a plethora of choice, so it can be very satisfying to stumble across what feels like the perfect iteration.
The Canon EOS 3 35mm film camera gives me the same feeling as a Technics 1210 turntable, one of those objects that was designed too well. It will never be bettered, so you never have to replace it.
I got it on eBay for £100 and it is absolutely brilliant.
It shoots film, but it takes modern Canon lenses, and features all the lovely useful things like auto-focus and auto-winding. It’s secondhand, but I’ve owned it for seven years and never had a single problem with it.
It also features eye-tracking technology that knows where your eyeball is looking and focuses automatically to that spot - a hilarious piece of over-engineering.
I have no idea how it works, and it’s a bit hit-or-miss, but it’s pretty impressive for a camera released in 1998.
I find that sitting down on set gives you space to think amidst the chaos. It creates a miniature oasis of calm.
At some point, I started bringing a small three-legged camping stool with me to every shoot, because people would keep accidentally stealing my chair.
Now, I love giving notes to actors from my camping stool, because it makes things more intimate, and less hierarchical. As an actor there’s nothing worse than the sense of a director’s ego looming large in the room, so sitting comically near to the ground seems to mitigate mine.
My DoP friend Spike Morris spent years ribbing me for my camping stool, and eventually bought me this high-tech collapsible one as a replacement.
Apparently, it’s very popular with grips.
It reduces down to the size of a frisbee and features a USB charging port!
The Leslie Nielsen Poster
I find Leslie incredibly comforting.
When I was little I would watch The Naked Gun series on repeat. For me, it represents a time when things were much simpler and more innocent.
Later I discovered Police Squad - the TV show that inspired The Naked Gun. This poster is a still from that.
It’s very different to the films, in a good way, as it’s much more surreal and subtle.
Apparently, the network cancelled it because they were worried the audience had to give it their full attention in order to understand most of the humour.
It's rammed to the brim with brilliant ideas and visual jokes (that I’ve cribbed from endlessly in my music videos).
My Dad [Max Whitby] was a documentary maker at the BBC.
One of his great fascinations, which I have found myself inheriting, was the world of psychedelics.
This is him at about the same age I am now, during the making of his film, The Beyond Within.
The man he’s with is Albert Hoffman, the inventor of LSD.
As a filmmaker, I am very interested in our perception of reality, and I think this photo is probably a big clue as to why.
The Big Red Toolbox
If filmmaking never worked out, I planned to become a plumber.
I often do my own plumbing, and once flooded Greggs after I forgot to turn off the mains water supply in my bathroom, which was one floor up, directly above their front counter.
This toolbox contains a lot of niche plumbing items, like my brass olive puller and a pair of very nice lock groove joint pliers.
It is also big and red, as all toolboxes should be.
When a production is stressing me out, I look at my toolbox and fantasise about another life, out in the sticks, descaling someone’s central heating... without a camera or manic producer in sight.