Documentary photography on a low budget film

Two production stills? That’s all we took on an 18 month shoot for Cop on the Edge? Two production stills?

Despite being a university filled with photography students, and its own dark-room (photography students today may recall reading about darkrooms in the history aspect of photography) we only managed to get two production photographs taken during the making of Cop on the Edge IX. This is a cause of much annoyance, especially as we had some pretty elaborate set-ups for some of the scenes and the production of the film should have been recorded.

The problem was, as is always the case with students, none of the photography students (even the ones doing documentary photography) could be bothered with turning up for a night shoot that spread over three days. In fact, they couldn’t be bothered turning up for lectures, never mind for something outside of hours. This is a common problem with students, and one that I find today in my career when interviewing graduates for jobs – but I digress.

The university was full of students looking to do commercial photography, fashion photography, becoming a food photographer and, of course, creative photography (where they’d take some photos and then deliberately muck up the development so they looked ‘abstract’ and made up some crap about why they did that) – yet none of these crusaders of the camera were interested in doing a real project.

In fact it wasn’t until the final few months of the year, when Cop was pretty much wrapped, that any photography students began showing an interest in the film department and asked to photograph shoots of final year films. I had one such student tag along on my graduation film, although I never received a copy of the pictures… naturally.

So we only have two production stills to show for an 18 month shoot – and these were both taken on the same night. Let this be a lesson to anyone making a low/no budget movie; have someone responsible for photographing the shoot, you’ll regret it if you don’t.

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