The StoryBoard Blog

Why Film was the Right Storytelling Choice for 12 Years a Slave

Published on website: February 26, 2014
Categories: The StoryBoard Blog
Sean Bobbitt, BSC on the set of 12 Years a Slave (Photo By Jaap Buitendijk)

With nine Oscar® nominations, two BAFTA wins, and a multitude of national and international praise, 12 Years a Slave stands out as one of 2013’s most memorable films. Director Steve McQueen and Sean Bobbitt, BSC felt film was an obvious choice for telling such a powerful story.


12_Years_A_Slave_1.jpg
Sean Bobbitt, BSC on the set of 12 Years a Slave (Photo By Francois Duhamel)

“It was about 15 seconds of discussion between Steve and me,” says Bobbitt. “It was a no-brainer. I mean, we wanted this to look like an epic film.”

The film takes place in pre-Civil War United States and follows Solomon Northup as he is abducted from New York and sold into slavery. The film seeks to capture the daily realities of slave life during that period of American history.


12_Years_A_Slave_2.jpg
Sean Bobbitt, BSC and Steve McQueen (Photo By Jaap Buitendijk)

“I don’t think the film would look correct if it had been acquired on a digital format,” Bobbitt adds. “It’s a period piece … an epic film, and I think that’s the way to achieve it.”

Bobbitt spent a portion of his career working as a news cameraman before he fully invested himself in pursuing filmmaking. His experience in telling stories of real news events through images has translated into a powerful ability to share a narrative through film.


12_Years_A_Slave_3.jpg
Sean Bobbitt, BSC and Steve McQueen (Photo By Francois Duhamel)

“There’s no doubt a generational thing going on here, where we have generations now that are primarily looking at television sets and computer screens,” observes Bobbitt. “Their perception of quality is very different now, and I absolutely accept that. But as a cinematographer, it’s my job to realize a film, and I’m going do it in the way that I think is best … and I’m happiest doing it with film.”