X&HT Spotlight: Simon Aitken

This is the first in an occasional series where I big up, flatter and otherwise encourage you to bow down and worship in front of some of the many talented people that I am pleased and privileged to call my friends. And I mean that most sincerely.

Most of you know Simon Aitken as the director and prime mover behind quirky vampire romance Blood + Roses. (If you haven’t seen it yet: why not? Here’s the Amazon link. Go ahead, treat yourself.)

But he’s also a skilful camera operator and DOP, and I think he’s doing great work as part of the DSLR movement that’s changing the face and look of modern lo-to-no budget film-making.

A little background if I’ve just jargoned you into submission. The current range of high-end digital stills cameras can take full HD video as well, and the sensors they use to capture images compare favourably with video cameras costing two or three times more. They perform brilliantly in natural light, and the range of lenses you can get give a beautiful look with a narrow depth of field. For a minimal investment (in film terms) you can put together a rig that will provide you with gorgeous, painterly images.

Simon’s work with the Canon 7D is showing real flair and imagination. His latest short, Stakeout, is a prime showcase for his abilities. In conjunction with long-time acting and writing partner Benjamin Green, we have a terse little tale of double-cross and betrayal. Stakeout was shot using only available light – the kind of challenge that most DOPs would walk away from. Simon not only proves that it’s possible, but that the results can be gorgeous.

The Fighter, his first tryout with the 7D, was even more of a challenge. A showreel piece for actress Elizabeth Knight, this too was shot without any extra lights and a single zoom lens. The results are striking. I love the way the focus drops off in the background. Killer bokeh, which you’d struggle to get with a much more expensive rig.

Finally, it would be remiss of me if I didn’t mention the first project Simon and I worked on together. Monologue Triptych is a linked series of films based around the idea of confession and reconciliation. Ben Green stars again, and the witty, moving scripts are written by Ben Woodiwiss, with whom Simon would reunite for Blood And Roses.

I’ve chosen to highlight the last film in the sequence, Tercero, as it’s the one of which I’m most proud as a colourist. The films can be viewed in any order, but taken together they are a devastating portrait of a man who has cheerfully ruined his life, and now struggles to come to terms with all that he has lost.

A story to finish with. The screening of Monologue Triptych was a packed room. But it was marred by a projector fault for the first thirty seconds. Hence, just after Simon had specifically singled me out for my hard work on the film, the opening titles came up with an acidic green cast. I nearly sank through the floor, convinced that I’d somehow messed up. Apparently you could hear me whimpering for the rest of the show. (Simon adds: as far away as the projection room!)

Not my proudest moment.

You can see all of the Monologue Triptych films at Simon’s Vimeo page, alongside some of his other work. Please do watch and enjoy the work of a very talented gent.


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Writer. Film-maker. Cartoonist. Cook. Lover.

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