Gerald Feil, a cinematographer who worked on Lord of the Flies, Friday the 13th Part III and the Hal Ashby-directed Rolling Stones concert film Let’s Spend the Night Together, died Feb. 9, 2021, in Montreal after a short illness, a family spokesman said. He was 87.
Feil also served as a lead cameraman and director for Africa, a four-hour documentary that aired on ABC in 1967 and was hosted by Gregory Peck. As part of the project, he directed and shot an anti-apartheid film that got him was banned from South Africa under its old regime.
Feil explored the art of cinema verite with D.A. Pennebaker, Albert & David Maysles, Robert Drew and Richard Leacock and helped design self-contained camera systems that incorporated wireless sync, ergonomic handheld design and high-quality zoom lenses.
That experience was key to his contributions in Puerto Rico as a cameraman, editor, associate producer and cinematographer on Lord of the Flies (1963), written and directed by Englishman Peter Brook.
“My friend Gerry Feil, a skillful documentary filmmaker, had been closely involved in all the preparation of the film, so I asked him to take the second camera, with complete freedom to snatch, grab or follow whatever viewpoint he chose,” Brook once wrote. “In the meantime, I stayed with the principal camera, carefully framing the shots according to my own view of the story and my own pictorial values.
“When we came to the editing, I was fascinated to discover how often I preferred and chose Gerry’s camera’s point of view to my own … I was shown in a striking way how the inevitable directorial act of intervention can be counterbalanced by a viewpoint that is free from tyranny.
“Afterward I learned that Renoir had once said to Matisse, ‘When I have arranged a bouquet for the purpose of painting it, I always turn it round and paint the side I didn’t plan.'”
Later, Feil directed The Empty Space (1973), a documentary about a 1970 visit by Brook and his experimental International Theatre Company to the Brooklyn Academy of Music.
While earning his bachelor’s degree in theater arts years earlier at Antioch College, Feil had become lifelong friends with Rod Serling ’50 and future Tony-winning playwright Herb Gardner ’58 and helped construct the campus radio station.
He also served as lighting designer for four summer seasons of the Antioch Shakespeare Festival and for the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra and shot footage for the NBC affiliate TV station in Dayton, Ohio.
After college, Feil designed the lighting for several Broadway plays, including the Ben Gazzara-starring Traveller Without Luggage in 1964, and in the U.S. Army, he worked as an apprentice on Hollywood-like studio productions and complex shoots in distant locations.
In the 1980s, Feil helped refine and design camera systems, lighting and framing techniques used in the production of such 3D films as Friday the 13th Part III (1982) and Jaws 3-D (1983).
He also taught filmmaking at NYU and restored the celebrated Canadian film Lies My Father Told Me (1975) for a reissue.
Survivors include his wife, Hila, a children’s book author, and daughter Anna.