I first became aware of Ridley’s work at David Dee’s place. David was the premier editor in New York and his partner was editing a spot I had done (16mm) at the agency’s request. David was editing a spot Ridley filmed for BBDO and Schaefer Beer. Schaefer was a touchstone account at the time and did fabulous filmlike commercials.
David was marking film (on a moviola) of a shot of feet pedaling a bicycle, marking edits of several frames. In those days, you had an assistant pull these marks and placed them on a film bin. The shots just hung there, little fragments of the whole.
What blew me away was the amount of film that Sir Ridley used on just this one shot. The cost of the 35mm dailies for that shot was more than I got to film the entire commercial I was doing.
Karl Fischer, the head of production at BBDO was there, and I discussed the costs with him, and he said that the cost was negligible compared to the excellence of the work, and Sir Ridley’s work was excellent, more than excellent, transcendent.
I don’t know where I saw Sir Ridley’s reel, I think it was back in Pittsburgh with Tom, but it was beyond magnificent, astonishing. I later found that the work was so good because the work only played in cinemas since there was no commercial television in England at that time.
My own work had a base in the documentary form, so the elegance of Sir Ridley’s was a progressive contrast to mine but appealed to me because of my ten years in art school. Maybe I always wanted to be Vermeer.
The breadth of Sir Ridley’s work in commercials was breathtaking, Chanel, Schaefer Beer, Benson and Hedges cigarettes (yes, they once advertised), Apple, Hovis Bread, Pepsi…
When I saw the work, I felt that Sir Ridley could change the look of film since his overall visual acuity hadn’t been seen before. BLADE RUNNER established that. It was a futuristic film noir that influenced filmmakers (not just ‘directors’) as diverse as David Fincher and Michael Bay. It was as influential as CITIZEN KANE was before.
David Giler introduced me to Ridley. David was trying to get Ridley to re rescue THE ALIEN franchise that David produced. We then ran into each other a lot on the Paramount backlot as I was editing my film and Ridley was finishing his. We maintained a sorta relationship through the years.
The thing that I was taken with in his works is the unparalleled visualization, that can only be determined by what I call a camera eye. Everything in his work is controlled, imagery, performance (of course), sound, music, everything and he has made four films that have defined their genres, ALIEN, BLADE RUNNER, THELMA AND LOUISE, GLADIATOR.