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Lighting Spotlight: Gaffer Andy Cole


With a long list of beloved major motion pictures and indie films on his CV including Gladiator and Fish Tank Andy Cole's most recent project is now an Academy Awards behemoth with a total of 10 nominations, including Best Cinematography. We wanted to know how it was working on The Favourite, if his perspective on the film has shifted now it's been so fervently lauded by fans and critics, and how his approach to the job has changed over his career.

The (Oscars) FavouriteAfter initial pleasantries and graciously accepting a well deserved congratulations on the many Oscars nominations, Cole describes how, despite not anticipating it during filming, having reached this level of recognition is a pleasant surprise:

Yeah, its amazing isnt it? We didnt know we were going to get there so its very, very nice. People have come and said how much they enjoyed watching it and asked me questions about how we did it and its very nice to have that. People are very interested, and its really spread worldwide as well Ive had friends from other countries enquiring about how it was [filmed], so yes, its quite an amazing thing. It feels great, its amazing.

On the aesthetic of The Favourite, which is defined by wide angles and a natural feel, something not easily achieved by traditional methods:

It is a unique looking film and the whole concept from the beginning was to make it as realistic as possible.

[For] most of it, we used a lot of candles as lights. I built some candle holders, which reflect off the back which would then push the natural candlelight onto the artists; that was to give it a very natural look. We did use some other lights as well, but not on the day interiors, only on nights just to make sure we can see something.

The main rooms [on main location day interior], had very big windows. With that wide lens, we did try in the very early stages to put some light in when the light starts to fade at the end of the day, but it wasnt working out because it wasnt as natural. You couldnt make it natural, and then, obviously, wed see the lights. Yes, we stopped doing that. Then if we did lose the light, we just stopped filming usually. One way to solve that problem.

Cole shares a memorable moment from filming:

Running all over Hatfield House with candle lights, trying to catch-up with the camera on a dolly, that was memorable.

Collaborating with Robbie Ryan, BSC, ISCCole and cinematographer Robbie Ryan, BSC, ISC have worked together over the last ten or so years, building a prolific portfolio of films such as Philomena, Slow West, and Fish Tank a fruitful working relationship which has evolved over the years.

Our relationship and how its evolved lovely. We had some long stints together, then Robbie would go away which was great because wed have a little break. Just like any relationship.

We know each other very well, so he knows that Ill have what he needs ready for him, and I dont have to get surplus stuff in, its that kind of relationship. We can easily talk to each other so its quite [nice] that way.

I think we must have done more than ten films by now; [we've built a rapport], without a doubt.

Their films together are evidence of a successful working relationship which allows for collaboration from the beginning.

We both start at the very beginning reading the scripts and then have a little chat. I suggest some things and we test [some options]. We did that on The Favourite, not every kind of light would work on that, so we had to work together to get the right feel.

Working with Panalux and the Advantages of New TechnologyAnother working relationship that has evolved is Coles with Panalux:

My relationship with Panalux is great. Ive known Sinead there almost as long as Ive been working; a very long time and I always go there. Panalux would do anything for me, if they possibly can. I phone them up and something will happen, theyll come out with what they can. I have a very trusting relationship with them, they can phone me and say, We havent got that, can we try something else?' and youll go Yes of course. Lets make it work.' I had some big set-ups, they supplied what I needed and it all worked very well.

Theres a plethora of choices now with so many different lighting products.

This world we live in now, everything is based around how quickly we can get things done. If youve got an LED light that would change its colour, its colour temperature, and its output at the touch of a button, that saves time. Early days you might have half hour turn-around on a film set just to do your lighting set-ups, but that doesnt seem to happen anymore, on smaller jobs anyway; it has to be ready. With the LED world we live in now, I think its amazing. We can really move the day along as quick as we need it to move along.

In the last few years the stuff thats come out is amazing you know. You've got Litemats which you can stick to the ceiling with some gaffer tape, they dont fall down, and that would really save a lot of time and energy and rigging. And then theres more time to shoot, more time for the director and the DOP to get what they need.

Before, in a similar situation, youd be trying to put up some kind of bar, rig some tungsten lights off it and soften them down, and it all took a very long time. And youre always worried that its going to fall down as well. It wouldnt be very good if it hit the actor or anyone else!

Things have definitely come a long way. Im a big fan of LED lights that we can use on set really quickly, rig it really fast, and be able to adjust it from the ground. Weve got a lot of control.

On technology affecting style and approach:

I think every film is different if youre working with different DOPs. [Working] with some Korean DOPs [who are] very stylistic, theyre really [into] lighting. Then you go to a minimal film; like sometime
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