By Nathan Phan
From across the pond, David Stafford is our featured creator for the Pass the Mic series. David is a UK-based Director of Photography at the production company Lambda Films, and he has a passion for telling human interest stories with a narrative or docu-style approach. During the 2020 lockdowns in the UK, David and the rest of the Lambda Films team worked on “Rising Tide,” a short film which focuses on the themes of ocean pollution and the symbiotic relationship between humans and nature.
Read on to learn more about what inspired the “Rising Tide” and how he and his team filmed during lockdown.
Tell us about yourself, where you’re based and how you first got your start as a filmmaker.
I’m based in Norfolk, UK but currently working wherever the jobs take me. Over the last few years, it’s become increasingly common to be traveling further afield for my work.
I was part of the generation when DVD ‘Behind the Scenes’ featurettes had just come about, and I remember being hooked on them, quite often watching the BTS segments over and over again, much more than I’d watch the film. From there making films and playing with cameras just became ingrained in who I was. My friends and I were always filming or coming up with various ideas to film in our spare time.
After graduating from the Film and Moving Image Production course at Norwich University of the Arts, I continued to make short films wherever and whenever I could. It wasn’t too long after I found myself at Lambda Films, a company full of like minded individuals. The creative freedom within the company has enabled me to continue to experiment and explore my love for lighting and cinematography. 10 years later and that drive and passion, or obsession as some might call it, to create is still very much alive.
How would you describe your filmmaking style?
I don’t know whether I would say that I have a distinct style as a filmmaker. I think as creatives, we are forever evolving, trying new things and pushing our own boundaries, always developing our ‘style’.
The style of work that I produce or lean towards is very much led by the script or the director’s vision, whether it is a high end commercial or something that’s a little more sombre in tone. Currently the type of work that resonates with me and I try to infuse into projects is full of rich shadows and considered camera movement. There’s so much more happening in the shadow of an image that allows the audiences to be drawn in and let their imaginations free. I’ve always been drawn to the idea that you ‘feel’ good cinematography more than you see it. It should enhance the mood and tone of a project rather than making the audience sit up and go ‘Wow look at that camera movement’ – by that point you’ve already distanced and taken the audience out of the story you’re trying to tell.
What inspired you to make “Rising Tide”?
I’ve always had a strong connection with the coast and it seems that everywhere you look at the moment, we’re bombarded with news about another natural disaster. All too easily we can become desensitised to it and fob it off as it’s something we, as individuals, have no control over or that it’s happening elsewhere rather than where we live.
So the idea of creating a bit of a visual mood poem that reflected the health of our coast through the health of our protagonist became a story that I was very keen to tell. Being able to visually see how hopeless our main character felt when he sees a coastline he’s lived next to all his life become a barren wasteland, devoid of life and filled with nothing but plastic rubbish and rotting boats was an emotion that the whole team wanted to explore.
Rising Tide was filmed between the first and second lockdowns of 2020 in the UK. What was your filmmaking process like during that time?
In some ways the lockdown helped. It’s hard to say whether time would have allowed us to create this film if we hadn’t had a lockdown, having that time to focus on a passion project became more and more important to us as a company.
The production itself had to have a little more time and consideration paid to it, with casting happening remotely. Keeping the crew size to a bare minimum was also something that we tried to stick to, especially in the interior scenes.
Can you tell us about a current project that you’re excited about?
Currently we’re just finishing off a narrative based commercial for a luxury hospitality brand, which has been a really fun project to be a part of. Being able to work with a script and focus on how the visual language of the film will inform the story has been a real highlight.
In general I’m just happy to be back on location or onset filming whether it is a short film, a commercial or anything in between.
If the last few years have taught me anything then it’s that we are incredibly lucky to have jobs that enable us to be creatively fulfilled whilst being able to surround ourselves with a group of inspiring like minded people.
What advice would you like to give to aspiring filmmakers?
Always have a passion and drive for what you’re doing.
If you’re passionate and proactive enough to follow your dreams then anybody is capable of achieving what they set out to do. That, and don’t underestimate how far being kind to your fellow colleagues will get you, we work in a collaborative field and every member of the crew deserves to be respected and valued within their role.