Making The Magic Happen #3 – Mike Eley BSC (Cinematographer & Director of Photography)

Welcome to the third instalment in our behind the scenes interview series, MAKING THE MAGIC HAPPEN.

We continue the series this month with the BAFTA and Primetime Emmy Award-nominated Cinematographer & Director of Photography, MIKE ELEY BSC.

A member of the British Society of Cinematographers (BSC) since 2010, Mike began his career shooting and directing documentaries before moving on to work on a number of high profile features and television dramas including TOUCHING THE VOID (BIFA for Best Technical Achievement), UNITED 93, GREY GARDENS, NANNY MCPHEE & THE BIG BANGPARADE’S END, THE DIG, and THE DUKE.

Mike was elected as the President of the British Society of Cinematographers in 2017.

1. What are your favourite career moments to date, or favourite films you have worked on?

Every project contains moments that stay with you, for good or for bad. I was lucky to work on many documentaries during the 1990s, travelling around the world with a small crew and a 16mm camera. I look back on those days with wonderment and bewilderment at what we were allowed to do, or get away with. One feels privileged to work in the film & TV industry anyway but there’s nothing to match the privilege that comes from being invited into someone’s life, their home, their story. 

2. How did you get started in the industry?

After leaving college (Leeds Polytechnic) where I was introduced to filmmaking, I got a job as an assistant film editor with a small independent company based in Soho, London. I soon switched to the role of camera assistant (for a while, I was doing both jobs at once – happy to be exploited) and dug in to do years of loading film mags in the most unlikely and uncomfortable of places, lugging a tripod across all sorts of terrain and learning that you must stay with the dogs when crossing sea-ice.

3. What was the movie that made you fall in love with cinema?

Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kid. I went to a matinee screening one hot summer day when I was about 12 years old. The auditorium was empty except for me and the usherette selling Kiora Orange and ice-cream. It was glorious. 

4. What are some essential films for anyone wanting to start a career in your field?

Anything and everything!

Benedict Cumberbatch and Rebecca Hall in Tom Stoppard’s adaptation of Ford Madox Ford’s Parade’s End. Credit Nick Briggs/HBO

5. Can you tell us a little bit about your creative process? How do you get started on a project?

I read the script. I talk to the director and start sharing images, references and have “what if we….” conversations that we can enjoy before the harsh reality of budgetary restraints kick in.

6. What’s a guilty pleasure movie you won’t switch off if it’s on TV?

Die Hard; or anything where Earth is imperilled by something from outer space. 

7. Can you tell us a little about your upcoming projects?

I wish I knew myself!

8. How do you switch off from work? What are your hobbies?

Reading. Writing. Flaneuring. Pretending to learn the guitar.

9. What’s one piece of advice you wish you’d been given when you were first starting out in the industry?

Take it all in, because you probably won’t pass this way again.

10. If you had to submit a ballot for the Sight and Sound Greatest Films of All Time poll, what are some films that would be on your Top 10 list?


The Red Shoes


Once Upon A Time In The West

Singin’ In The Rain

For more information on Mike, please visit:

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