Top Gun

Meet the New Wave / Adam Etherington

Top Gun

Meet the New Wave / Adam Etherington

Filmography (so far):

The Seasoning House (2012), The Drummond Will (2010) and Lovelorn (2008), plus numerous commercials, promos, and FujiFilm Shorts winner The World Turns (2011).


When did you discover you wanted to be a cinematographer?

I was at a film festival watching a short called Iota. I was pretty young. It was made by my now good friend Si Dennis. It was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen. I really discovered the contribution cinematographers make to a production, and that everything I cared most about in the films I was making, and watching, is the responsibility of one individual.

Where did you train?

I ran, then I trainee’d, then I loaded. I made the step up to lighting pretty much by accident about five years ago. It was the kind DPs I worked for who gave me my education. I’m not a fan of the golden ticket mentality of film school. It is a little dangerous to give people a sense of entitlement without giving them the perspective of experience to understand the industry. I’m still learning now, the lessons are just a little more expensive.

What are your favourite films?

Perfume (2006, DP Frank Griebe) – I love and am inspired by Griebe’s work on this dark atmospheric story.

Fight Club (1999, DP Jeff Cronenweth) – Fincher just does “cool”. The slick, stylish design and cinematography are incredible.

The Godfather (1972, DP Gordon Willis) – being brave enough to push things as hard as Willis did is impressive, and this is the master of darkness at his finest.

What’s the best advice you were ever given?

Si Dennis once told me to always trust my gut. If something doesn’t feel right there’s a good chance it isn’t.

Who are your industry heroes?

Roger Deakins BSC ASC – he embodies the calm charisma that inspires people to give their lives to this craft. His work is consistently true to its story, whilst exhibiting a reflective appreciation of the beauty of that world’s setting. Very few out there create such gracious storytelling with such an unintrusive, yet mesmerisingly poignant, style. Si Dennis – I drew most inspiration from personally. He was the person that proved to me it was all possible.Gordon Willis ASC – a hero. I’m a fan of pushing things and keeping work dark. He, above all others, pulled this off with incredible style.

Have you won any awards or received any nominations?

I’ve been lucky enough to pick up five awards for best cinematography, with another few nominations. The FujiFilm Shorts award is a massive honour and a real surprise.

What’s the worst knock-back/rejection you ever had?

I’ve had a lot. The industry is changing, and people have become worryingly dispensible. I had over twenty jobs confirm then pull the plug last year, seven in one month.

Tell us your most hilarious faux pas?

The first film festival I ever went to in my teens, I hadn’t a clue about dresscodes. I’d seen photos of an organiser in a tuxedo. So I went along dressed up to the eyeballs, only to find a lot of fashionable-looking people in jeans and T-shirts.

Away from work, what are your greatest passions?

Family, travel and sports.

What one piece of kit could you not live without?

Muslin. I’d be a mess without the stuff… and so would most of the leading ladies I photograph.

What’s the weirdest place you’ve ever shot in?

A milking parlour. We were in the centre of the pit with aMoviecam Compact and cows on either side of us. It was like Russian roulette everytime a tail lifted.

Tell us your hidden talent/party trick?

I’m a pretty mean shot with a rifle, and won a lot of competitions as a kid when I was in the ATC and RAF training.

In the entire history of filmmaking, which film would you love to have shot?

The Godfather (1972) is a masterpiece and epitomises how brave decisions can make something exceptional. The kid in me would love to have shot Battle Of Britain – all that arial work with Spitfires would be like a dream come true.

"The industry is changing, and people have become worryingly dispensible. I had over twenty jobs confirm then pull the plug last year, seven in one month."

- Adam Etherington

What are your current top albums?

Mumford And Sons, The Album Leaf and The Martin Harley Band. Old stuff too – The Rolling Stones, Supertramp, Johnny Cash and Fleetwood Mac are always on my playlist.

Tell us your greatest extravagance?

I’m a lens geek. They have such an influence nowadays on digital, much in the way stocks do when shooting celluloid. I have a set of old vintage Cookes. There is something special about owning old glass – all the things they have seen, the incredible people they have photographed.

What’s the best thing about being a DP?

There are very few jobs where you can wake up full of hope and excitement every day. It’s a world of possibilities and potential, but with an almost nautious fear and acute concentration that keeps the excitement in check.

What’s the worst thing about being a DP?

It’s a dream job, but the fact it swallows your life is a hard thing to get others to understand. Sometimes giving everything means you make incredible sacrifices.

Give us three adjectives that best describe you and your approach to cinematography?

Trusting, prepared and lucky!

If you weren’t a DP, what job would you be doing now?

I come from a military family and spent my childhood years wanting to be a fighter pilot, so I guess I’d probably be somewhere in all that.

What are your aspirations for the future?

I’m happy just doing what I’m doing. I don’t think targets help. There is no ultimate finish line to success, you’ve just got to enjoy the ride.

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