Gerry Fisher, a great man and a great professional

par Richard Andry La Lettre AFC n°249

[English] [français]

I first met Gerry Fisher in 1975 on the set of Joseph Losey’s Mr. Klein. At that time, I was 2d AC in Pierre-William Glenn’s team, who was operating on this film. I admired his work on Accident, Secret Ceremony, The Offence, A Doll’s House and Man in the Wilderness, and was shadowing him on the set, trying to learn his cinematography.

Armed with only his viewing filter he was sculpting the light and his meters box stayed most of the time on the shelves in the camera truck. I particularly remember an anecdote. We were shooting a sequence planned in a moving steam train with very restricted time slots but, by the whim of a movie star, we started three hours late. It was winter and the daylight was short so we had to shoot the scene in total darkness. When I saw Gerry looking preoccupied in front of the dark countryside running behind the windows of the narrow corridor, as a good little soldier I asked : “What can I do for you Sir ?” His reply was : “Jump ! ”. I was witnessing his sense of humour. Typically British, indeed.

On the set we invented a secret code : when he blinked his right eye, it meant : special development push one stop, the left eye : please bring me a cup of coffee, and both eyes… a glass of champagne ! This code was used again during the part of Billy Wilder’s Fedora shot in France. We had the opportunity of drinking champagne a number of times as I had the luck to work with him very often and over time reach out in friendship.
With him I started my first 1st AC job then my first feature as an operator and I replaced him on a commercial in Tunisia when he was badly suffering with Crohn’s disease. I remember him in a remote hospital, suffering with courage waiting for an ambulance to rescue him, through a flood of water which covered the area at this time, to Tunis airport.

He was a great man and a great professional, demanding on the set, talented and special, inventive, tireless and generous. I have always considered him as one of the best cinematographers of the second half of the twentieth century. He was my mentor.

When he retired with his wife Jean, in their house by the River Thames, I visited them some times and called him monthly. He wanted to practice his French, which he spoke fluently and revise the Parisian slang I had taught him during all these years. The last time I saw him in Glebelands, where Nigel drove me, he did not seem to have lost any of his French slang vocabulary.

He was beloved by a lot of French technicians, actors and directors. A number of my colleagues of the AFC were his assistants on a number of commercials he shot in France, Gerry was our friend. We are sad. And our thoughts today are for his son Carey.

Gerry Fisher BSC was a recipient of the Medal of Knight of Arts (Chevalier des Arts et Lettres)

Au revoir Gerry. Salut mon pote.