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Ken Loach: Sweet Sixteen by Gemma Starkey
Introduction Origin of an idea Casting Directing & Shooting Cinematography Editing
Audience & reception The Politics of Film        

Cinematographer Barry Ackroyd has been working with Ken Loach for over 20 years, shooting 11 of Loach's fiction feature films, including Sweet Sixteen. He spent much of the 1980s shooting television documentaries, and says that he draws on this background to achieve his brand of grainy, naturally-lit, often hand-held realism that is such a distinctive feature of his and Loach's work together.

The use of 'documentary'-style shooting has become more and more common in contemporary fiction films, yet this is a relatively new phenomenon. As a young director working for television - most notably on a number of Wednesday Plays - Ken Loach was at the forefront of a push to bring a new, more realistic visual style to fiction filmmaking. Central to this was the innovation of the handheld 16mm camera, which allowed film crews to escape the studio and roam the streets.

Loach also credits his work with the cameraman Chris Menges, who shot Kes, as influential on the development of his approach to camerawork:

"Chris's point was that it was more important to concentrate on the action in front of the camera, rather than making the camera whizz around and be like a pyrotechnical device. So we moved towards a more observational style rather than a kind of camera being with the action running around, but standing back and observing it."

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Here, Barry Ackroyd and Ken Loach explain the rationale behind their approach to filming and consider whether the wide-angle lens can really be considered 'right wing'...