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DP Callan Green ACS, NZCS on shooting The Gentlemen

By Oliver Webb

Guy Ritchie’s latest series The Gentlemen follows Eddie Horniman as he inherits the family estate and discovers the family’s drug empire hidden underneath the property. DP Callan Green ACS, NZCS captured episodes 5-8.



Where did you train as a cinematographer?  

 

Callan Green: After working in New Zealand as a 2nd AC on all kinds of fun jobs, including an almost 3-year stint on the main unit of The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, I decided to apply to the AFTRS - which is the Australian national film school based in Sydney.

 

I made the shortlist and so flew over for an in-person interview, which must have gone well as I was accepted soon after. I spent 2 years full-time learning the ways of the cinematographer along with 3 other successful applicants. This included Nicola Dayley BSC, ASC, who I have recently been working alongside on Gangs Of London S3. We were lucky enough to learn from some fantastic Australian DP’s like John Seal, Dion Beebe, Peter James, Russell Boyd, Roger Lanser and Susan Stitt to name a few.

 

Apart from film school, I used to carry around my camera everywhere I went from about the age of 6 years old.  As I got a bit older, I moved more towards video cameras like HI8 and Mini Dv. I’d make short videos with my mates and edit “in camera”.  That approach was a great way to learn my way around the camera as well as to shoot only what was required to tell the story.

 

 

How did you first get involved with The Gentlemen?

 

Callan Green: I was hired to work on The Gentlemen after having a successful interview with block 3 director Eran Creevy and block 3 producer Laura Jackson in January of 2023. Our first shoot day was March 6th 2023


Cinematographer Ed Wild was the Lead DP on The Gentlemen. He and Guy Ritchie shot eps 1&2 together and so created a base look for following blocks to adhere to. This elegant and quirky style allowed us the scope and opportunity to be as visually outlandish as we wanted to with our own episodes.


Director Eran Creevy is one of the most entertaining and gifted people I’ve ever met, let alone had the chance to work with. Eran has a hugely successful writing background, has shot tons of high-end music videos and some amazing films including Welcome to The Punch and BAFTA nominated Shifty - so he’s clearly exceptionally creative.


His originality, mixed with the writing and his euphoric attitude to life is what I would call a “triple threat director”, someone that everyone wants to work with. Every day is Christmas day when working with Creevy!


As we neared the end of shooting block 3, our series producer Hugh Warren asked if I’d be interested in continuing onto block 4 with director David Caffery which I said yes to straight away. David and I had a tonne of fun with the last block. We wrapped shooting back in early June 2023.



Theo James as Eddie Horniman. Image courtesy of Netflix


What were your initial conversations with creator Guy Ritchie about the look of eps 5-8 and your approach to capturing the latter half of the show? 

 

Callan Green: To be totally honest, I never even got to meet Guy as he had already left to go and film a feature straight after he’d completed eps 1 & 2.

That said, Eran and I had many conversations about how to bring our eps to life in a way that would be visually exciting and yet still give a nod to Guys’ crime genre style when applicable.  Some film references that we paid attention to were:


Sexy Beast, Amélie, The Big Lebowski, Rocky/Creed, Snatch, Lock Stock, and Paul Thomas Anderson’s films.

 


Did you look at any creative references?

 

Callan Green: As mentioned above, yes, but I also like to work with still references. I used to comb the internet for images that I felt a connection to, whether it related to lighting, colour, locations, art dept or just general emotion. I would pick my favourite images and chuck them into a powerpoint document which I’d then share with the director or producers, art dept etc.

 

Now that we have applications like SHOTDECK and PINTEREST, it’s far easier to do this and much less time-consuming. In addition I use the app FILMUSTAGE to get to know my scripts early on and SCRIPTATION as I  move forward with the shooting process.

On location recces I use a 360 stills camera to capture 360 degree images of all the locations for future referencing as well.

 

 

Which camera and lenses did you select, and why?  

 

Ed Wild chose to shoot on the Sony Venice with Tokina Vista primes. He also added a ½ or ¼ Black Satin filter to most shots which gave a lovely soft touch to the otherwise somewhat sharp primes. We also used Sony FX3’s for rigging to all kinds of things like Whiskey Bottles, Guns and even pigeon cages.

 

 

What was the most challenging shot to complete? 

 

Callan Green: There were many, but the standout scenes would be The boxing fight in Ep6 and working around the restrictive and super reflective Travellers’ caravans in Ep 5.

Something that took me by surprise was how difficult it proved to be shooting in their caravans. I mean caravans are hard in general, but these guys were next level. This was mainly due to not being able to cut them up to suit the shots, as they were usually one of a kind and tricky to find on quick notice.  They are also completely covered in mirrors and highly reflective plastic which creates all kinds of nightmares when lighting the night scenes. If the lights weren’t in shot the camera operator almost certainly would be.



Behind the scenes of The Gentlemen. Image courtesy of Netflix

With regard to boxing, I find that the inherently free-flowing and frenetic approach to filming boxing means that you are often in a camera position where the lighting is not exactly how you’d want it. For me, boxing especially - looks best when backlit or side-lit so that you can really feel the punches and see all the sweat/blood being smashed off the fighter’s face and gloves.

 

I wanted to come up with a lighting rig that would allow me to keep the fighters in the best possible light even when they and our action camera operator, Alex Bender, were dancing around the ring at high speed. To achieve this, my Gaffer, Jack Powell, & Lighting desk op, Charlie Stallard, created a programme where we could rotate the % of the dimmable LED lamps to keep the boxers backlit at any time during the fight. This sounds easy, but it was extremely tricky to achieve in the time that we had available to us.

  

 

What was your approach to lighting? Which lights did you use?

 

Callan Green: Generally speaking, my approach to the lighting was big and soft with a nice fall-off, yet still keeping a cosmetic quality to the actors’ faces, especially the female characters, most importantly Kaya (Susie Glass). We used a lot of LED which I love as we can adjust the levels and colours so quickly. My desk Op Charlie Stallard is a wizard at keeping up with my last second requests. Specific lamps included: Cineo’s, Vortex’s, Q5’s and Q8’s, Dash Dots, Aqua batons, Large HMI, Large Tungsten, Asteras in snap bags and SL 1’s & 2’s.



Kaya Scodelario as Susie Glass. Image courtesy of Netflix

Did you create any LUTs with a colourist? And how did you apply these during the shoot?

 

Callan Green: Ed Wild created one show LUT for all the Eps to use.  It was a beautiful LUT indeed. At first, I found it to be super contrasty and heavily underexposed, but after a few days, I got used to it and really enjoyed the challenge of lighting with it.

 

 

How long was the duration of the shoot?  

 

Callan Green: Each block (2 x eps) had around 28 days scheduled for shooting which ended up being around 3-6 pages a day depending on location moves and various logistical scenarios.  I had about 5 weeks of prep for block 3, but as I went straight into block 4, my prep was much shorter for the final 2 eps.   

 

 

What did you enjoy most about working on the show?

 

Callan Green: It sounds cheesy but it would have to be the people that I was working with. Shooting TV is such a full-time undertaking that you really need to be working with the best people around.  If you can also manage to be working with your friends, then you have nailed half the battle. The scripts were so brilliant that even something as simple as watching the actors play around with the dialogue seemed to bring the set to life.

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