Luc Drion, my friend, my partner in crime

By Eric Guichard, AFC

par Eric Guichard La Lettre AFC n°225

[English] [français]

Belgian cinematographer Luc Drion, SBC, left us on 2012 October the 25th, during the shooting of Nicolas Vanier’s feature Belle and Sébastien, in French Alpes ; a wasp stung him. Eric Guichard, AFC talks about his friend Luc.

My wonderful friendship with Luc revolved around the cinema. We hit it off right from the start, when we worked together for the first time. I immediately recognized in Luc a rigorous professional.
Along with his friend and accomplice Benoît Theunissen who was still a key grip at the time, I watched them design shootings with Yves Cape, who was a focus-puller at the time. They were showing off their INSAS education with their know-how and their devotion to the film. Then Luc became a director of photography on feature-length projects, but from time to time, out of friendship, he would join me to operate the camera on projects like Himalaya by Eric Valli.

Luc and Cigarettes !
Luc had promised that he would stop smoking in honour of the new facility’s 5000 square meters ! Two days later, he discovered an unlikely local tobacconist and he was never again seen without his cigarette…Maybe we should have made it 7000 square meters ! Our birthdays ? While working on the same film, on the evening of April 24, 1998, two birthday cakes were placed on the table under the tent that we used as a dining room, and that was how we discovered we were born not only on the same day of the same month, but also the same year. That was a coincidence that perhaps made us understand why we felt so close to one another.

Luc behind the camera !
Luc behind the camera meant incredible precision, fierce determination to get the shot just right, and dexterity with the cranks.

Luc and lenses !
Luc was the man of long focal-length lenses. How many times we argued over switching from 32mm to a 25mm lens. And then while working on Belle et Sébastien one October morning, he said to me : “I saw the dailies with the shot we did with the 18mm.” At 57 years old, it was one of the first times he had ever used that lens… “The shot wasn’t bad !” he jokingly told Nicolas Vanier. He had a good sense of humour about his own foibles.
Amongst the many things I learned from Luc : he was an expert on reverse shots, he always looked at the place of the counter shot before installing the regular camera. But woe to the grip who didn’t have his measuring tape and chalk handy…It was to be a lesson to me.

Luc and flying machines !

The art of the technique, and technique in the service of art ! That is how Luc might be summarized, the implacable technician that never let anything slide, always engaged in the pursuit of perfection. For Jacques Perrin, from Le Peuple migrator to Oceans, and down to the last shot in Christophe Ruggia’s last film, Luc expressed his know-how and his artistry. Our partnership wasn’t only affectionate, and every time that he came along with me, I realized how unique a perspective he brought to every film. Lately, we had been speaking about our status, our place in today’s world when journalists (see the article in Le Point magazine) crudely criticize us without knowing anything about our situation and make us out to be a privileged elite. We argued over the new collective agreements and the future of Imago, which were subjects dear to our hearts.
Luc was a mix of anarchy and rigour. He fought injustice and compromises, he was proud of what Belgian cinema was producing, and of the “new wave” that was forging itself a place in spite of economic hardship. “Those who struggle are not sure of winning, but those do not struggle have already lost,” he often said to me, citing Bertold Brecht.
He was a brother to all of the battles we are fighting to make sure that cinematic photography continues to exist as an art form. His upstanding nature and his tenacity made him an extraordinary accomplice.

Luc at the end of the day !

After a hard day’s work, Luc never strayed from his rule, “a beer at the foot of the truck,” he always said. Every evening, I would get behind the wheel and Luc would tirelessly rehash the days events while I drove. With a cigarette in his mouth, drinking beer straight from the bottle, he would always open the window and I would ask him to close it because I was cold. Luc would tell me stories from shooting Oceans, the hours he had spent on a Zodiac looking for whales, the danger of the wild sea with up to seven hours of sailing to get back to land. A stupid wasp did him in. Now I will always drive with the window open in order to remember his presence.

To my friend Luc, with affectionate regards to all of his loved ones, his family, Chantal, the mother of Raphaël, his wife Edna, their daughter Manon, and his son, Raphaël.

Luc Drion et Eric Guichard
Sur le tournage de Belle et Sébastien, de Nicolas Vanier (dans les Alpes en 2012) - Photo Eric Travers