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DP Ollie Downey BSC on capturing One Day

By Oliver Webb

Ludovic Robert/Netflix Copyright © 2022 Netflix, Inc.

Based on the 2009 novel by David Nicholls, One Day follows the 20-year relationship between Emma Morley (Ambika Mod) and Dexter Mayhew (Leo Woodall), who meet at a graduation ball at the University of Edinburgh. The two subsequently reunite every St Swithin’s Day. DP Ollie Downey BSC captured four episodes of the 14 episodes mini-series.


*Spoilers below



Where did you train as a cinematographer?  


Ollie Downey: I didn’t formally train as a Cinematographer. I worked my way up through the camera department. Whilst working as a Clapper Loader and then Focus Puller I spent all my free time shooting Low budget promos and Short Films. That went on for about ten years until I was being offered more DP work than assisting. I was a terrible Assistant, but it was my way of getting close to the sharp end where the images are captured.


How did you first get involved with One Day?

Ollie Downey: My agent had sent over the scripts in the Spring of 2022 (which I loved), but I didn’t meet for it because I was headed out to Vancouver for 3 months to complete The Power for Amazon. As luck would have it when I got back to the UK my old pal Director Luke Snellin got in touch to ask if I’d be interested in shooting the final block with him. It was a no brainer, I was a huge fan of the book, and we had some great episodes (the wedding, Paris and Emma’s death). David Nicholls writing is wonderful and Nicole Taylor did a brilliant job of adapting the novel.

Director Luke Snellin behind the scenes in Paris. Image courtesy of Ollie Downey and Netflix

Did you look at any creative references?  

Ollie Downey: We were guided by Molly Manners and Nick Cookes work in the opening episodes and Designer Patrick Rolfes references for the overall feel. Luke had lots of great, more specific references for our episodes. We looked at Before Sunset for episode 10 in Paris, for example.


Outside the Paris apartment set. Image courtesy of Ollie Downey and Netflix

Which camera and lenses did you select, and why?  

Ollie Downey: The Alexa Mini LF and Moviecam lenses chosen by opening block DP Nick Cooke. It was a great choice: beautiful, sympathetic vintage glass in robust modern housings.



What was the most challenging shot to complete?


Ollie Downey: Emma’s death was the trickiest by far, the coverage was relatively simple, and Luke was keen that the sequence didn’t become too cutty, but we needed 7 or 8 plates for the wide. One plate for the rain, one for the stunt, one for the Emma’s approach etc... It was made more difficult by shooting in January and losing the light on a very dark wintery day by 4.30pm. Shooting a show set in Mid-Summer through the British winter was challenging! We owe Gaffer Paul Joy and colourist Gareth Spensley at Company 3 huge thanks.


What was your approach to capturing the different time periods throughout the show?   


Ollie Downey: I think we decided pretty early on that we didn’t need to differentiate the time periods with any camera or lighting gimmicks. Patrick Rolfes Production Design, Emma Rees Costume Design and Juliette Tomes Make up design did the heavy lifting and as with all period pieces I think there’s a danger of lapsing into parody if you push too hard.



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


Ollie Downey: In terms of lighting approach, I generally subscribe to the idea that the audience should be unaware of the lighting if possible. That said it’s still a love story and we wanted it to be soft and sympathetic, but not over lit. The only time we veered away from this approach was in the Maze in Ep 10. It’s scripted that the lights go out and Dex and Em are bathed in moonlight. Going with (a slightly heightened) blue moonlight gave us such lovely colour contrast that we indulged ourselves!

Overall we used a mix of HMI and LED. Sky Panels and Lite Matts were our go to units.


The Maze set Episode 10. Image courtesy of Ollie Downey and Netflix

How long was the duration of the shoot?     

Ollie Downey: Our 4 Eps were shot over approximately 6 weeks.



What did you enjoy most about working on the show?


Ollie Downey: The cast and crew were a lovely bunch, as are Roanna and Jude from Drama Republic and it’s always an absolute joy to be reunited with Director Luke Snellin, so it was an enjoyable experience all round. I think the most satisfying element though was playing a small part in giving such a beloved book the adaptation it deserved.



One Day is available to stream on Netflix.

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