Awarded to Stephen Keith-Roach
It seems hard to believe that I was really quite nervous when I first spoke to Stephen Keith-Roach. I was just starting out as a director and had somehow managed to book him on a job, which was a quite a scoop for me. My producer had then given me Stephen’s home phone number so I could call him to discuss the job’s ‘look’. This was it – I was calling the man who had shot a pantheon of legendary music videos and commercials, including Radiohead’s Karma Police, Levi’s Kung Fu, and Jamiroquai’s Virtual Insanity. I was intimidated to say the least. My confidence faltered further when a strident, rather refined voice brusquely answered the phone. I meekly introduced myself. It didn’t help that the phone line was terrible – it sounded like he was on a remote farm somewhere. I later learned that this was because he lives on a remote farm somewhere.
I needn’t have worried. Apart from being one of the most talented, tasteful, sure-handed and technically excellent cinematographers out there, it soon became very clear that Stephen was also one of the most lovely and charming collaborators a director could hope
to work with.
I first became aware of Stephen’s work in Jonathan Glazer’s sublime Stella Artois Last Orders commercial (still one of my all-time favourite ads). I was struck by the image of a crow cawing portentously on the windowsill of a rustic peasant house. It felt classic, like a shot from Hitchcock’s The Birds. The ad’s other images were equally beautiful, bold, and elegantly composed.
There is something quietly and confidently timeless about Stephen’s work, no doubt due to his formidable knowledge amassed during a career that spans over three decades. Watching Stephen set up a shot really is like watching a master craftsman at work. He coaxes, sculpts and often seems to charm light into doing his bidding. This calm wisdom seems to infiltrate the set and I’m sure many directors have appreciated his mentorship, counsel and support.
Stephen’s work is just as relevant today as it was when he shot Radiohead’s Street Spirit back in 1995. I’m sure everyone who’s had the pleasure to work with Stephen Keith-Roach will agree that hetruly is a worthy recipient of the Fellowship Award.