While growing up in Vancouver, British Columbia, Ian Holliday realized his passion in life: filmmaking. As a child he may not have always known exactly where his life would take him, but he knew what he loved, and now he finds himself as an internationally successful cinematographer.
Holliday’s career took off four years ago when he worked on the viral video Harry Potter in 60 Seconds for the Virgin Fake Film Festival. Since then, audiences around the world have been impressed by his work. He filmed the music video Fool For Love for the popular band Lord Huron, which has over half a million views on YouTube, and he continued his music video success for the band last year on their The World Ender music video, an official selection at over a dozen festivals, and the winner of Best Music Video at the 2016 Orlando Film Festival.
“I like the balance of creative authorship, and artistic collaboration, inherent in the role of a cinematographer. I love the team that builds around a production; I love the feeling that the director and I are working together on the same project, that we have each other’s backs, that we will tell each other openly when something isn’t working out, and that we’ll both push ourselves if necessary to make the project better,” said Holliday.
Shortly after the whirlwind of Harry Potter in 60 Seconds, Holliday’s success on short films continued when he worked on the film Tele. Tele is a symbolic film as the story focuses on a man who regularly, uncontrollably teleports across the world, and yet, the film truly dives into the feelings of isolation and displacement felt by the homeless. It went on the premiere at the 2013 Vancouver International Film Festival, and later screened at the 2013 Vancouver Asian Film Festival where it won Best Canadian Short Film.
“The success of Tele is widely attributed to the immersive sense of realism, an effect that was achieved chiefly through the style of photography I developed with the director,” said Holliday. “We knew we were each putting a lot of ourselves into the project, and trusted each other artistically.”
The director, Gabriel Adelman, had worked with Holliday in the past on the film Revolve and was immediately impressed with his cinematographic skills, and decided to bring him on as cinematographer for Tele. The two have developed a friendship from their work together, and find that they always make a great team, and were eager to work with each other again.
“Ian strikes a great balance between efficiency and friendliness on set, always keeping the momentum up and keeping the production moving efficiently, while maintaining a casual and sociable environment for the cast and crew. This is especially important when approaching intimate, emotional scenes with the talent,” said Adelman. “Ian’s experience and artistic instincts make working with him a smooth and fulfilling experience, from prepping a shoot, all the way through post. He is a very solution-oriented thinker, and always brings a massive amount of value to the productions he is involved with. “
Adelman completed trusted Holliday’s instincts, and they decided on a unique-style of filming. To make such a fantasy-like plot feel like an emotionally troubling look at a real crisis, the film relied heavily on verité, documentary style of filming. For Holliday, that meant making the lighting as naturalistic as possible.
“Trying to subtly accentuate what the light in an environment is already doing, instead of defining the lighting yourself from scratch. You ask yourself ‘what is beautiful about what this location is already giving me?’ and you work from there to emphasize those things, and perhaps minimize some things that are distracting from that,” Holliday described.
In terms of camera, this kind of approach heightened the connection between the cameraman and the actor. Rather than using a tripod or dolly, the camerawork for this type of filming is handheld, allowing for a much much more reactive narration.
“The operator becomes almost another actor in the scene, playing off the actor’s performance, moving in response to their movement, finding subtle ways to accentuate little shifts in the actors stance or tone. There’s a lot of intricacy to that kind of operating which I really love, and this is also at the heart of the trust between the actor and the cameraman in this kind of shoot. In this kind of reactive camera work, you’re dancing with the talent, that you’re working with each other to create something unique together. No two takes are the same,” he continued.
With all of the success that Tele achieved, it was a very small production. Many scenes were just Holliday, Adelman, a camera assistant, and the actor. With such innate talent like Holliday possesses, he can take such a production and work with it in a way that allows audiences to be consumed with what they are watching. They truly are transported to the moment due to his artisty.
“Our equipment package fit in the director’s car. I don’t mind working like that at all – while there’s a time and a place for a big budget, I think the bare-bones style of this production gave the shoot a very intimate feel, and that came across in the final product,” Holliday concluded.