Shining a light on...
Gaffers 'R' Us / Andy Long
Shining a light on...
Gaffers 'R' Us / Andy Long
Born: Gloucester, West Country, UK
Education: Electrical qualifications at local Technical Colleges as part of apprenticeship
Hobby: Watching movies, of course, plus reading, travel and cooking
Selected Filmography (as gaffer unless otherwise indicated)
The Crown (TV series) (2017 – 2019)
Red Joan (2018)
Dark River (2017)
Black Mirror (TV series) (2016)
Bridget Jones's Baby (2016)
The Program (2015)
The Lady In The Van (2015)
Wolf Hall (TV mini-series) (2015)
Effie Gray (2014)
Mr. Turner (2014)
Hello Carter (2013)
Closed Circuit (2013)
The Hollow Crown (TV series) (2012)
One Day (2011)
Jane Eyre (2011)
Inception (gaffer: UK) (2010)
Another Year (2010)
It's A Wonderful Afterlife (2010)
Last Chance Harvey (2008)
Me And Orson Welles (2008)
The Boy In The Striped Pajamas (2008)
In Bruges (2008)
Death Defying Acts (2007)
The History Boys (2006)
The Queen (2006)
Riot At The Rite (TV movie) (2005)
Kinky Boots (2005)
The Constant Gardener (2005)
Alfie (chief lighting technician) (2004)
Chasing Liberty (2004)
Young Adam (2003)
What A Girl Wants (2003)
Morvern Callar (2002)
Happy Now (2001)
The Secret World Of Michael Fry (TV mini-series) (2000)
Births, Marriages And Deaths (TV series) (1999)
A Rather English Marriage (TV movie) (1998)
Welcome To Sarajevo (1997)
The Tenant Of Wildfell Hall (TV mini-series) (lighting gaffer) (1996)
Restoration (1995) (best boy)
I left school and completed an electrical apprenticeship with a Gloucester company. My uncle who knew a guy that ran a small lighting company (Wilson Film Lighting) in Bristol who was looking for new people. I got in touch and started on a six-month trial.
At Wilson Film Lighting we did a great variety of work. In any one week you could be working on a feature film, a natural history shoot, an outside broadcast, documentary, TV drama or a commercial. When WFL became Lee Lighting this meant an even greater range of work. So I was very fortunate to get work with a lot of different people in different situations and learnt a lot.
Becoming a gaffer...
I was quite happy as a production electrician, but then began to work as best boy on some productions. I enjoyed the extra responsibility and being more involved in the whole process. This led to working as a gaffer on a small BBC drama shot in Bristol that went well.
Looking back, it was really was about getting experience, stepping-up to run the floor when the gaffer was needed elsewhere or unavailable – a case of sink or swim. Once I realised I could do the job, it turned into a career.
My best boy, who I have been lucky to have for the last four years, is Paul Brewster. We have kept a regular crew together, which can be quite hard to do in this day in age, because people need to work and move onto other productions.
My regular team also includes generator operator Mike Parsons and electricians Wailoon Chung, Simon Beach and Josh Green, and my good friend and rigging gaffer Ian Franklin, who has saved my bacon on many occasions! Film lighting is very much a team effort.
Without trying to sound clichéd, all shoots have their challenges. The smaller productions have obvious budget constraints that mean you have to be very resourceful. I really enjoy these – finding solutions to lighting problems on a restricted budget can be very satisfying.
On bigger productions, the bigger locations and sets are well supported, so problems are easier to solve. Having said all that it was a big production, Christopher Nolan’s Inception, that proved the most technically demanding.
Working on Inception...
Wally Pfister ASC was the DP, and his US gaffer, Cory Geryak, came over from the States. The UK leg was based in one of the old airship hangars at Cardington, near Bedford. I had heard about the size of the hangars and when Ian Franklin (rigging gaffer), Mark Hanlon (best boy) and myself all walked in on our first day we were blown away – the sheer scale was breathtaking.
We had some amazing sets to work on. There was a lift shaft built on its side, an aircraft interior, a huge bar area that tilted to a 45-degree angle, a large hotel room that revolved on a gimbal, a vertical hotel corridor, and the famous 100ft hotel corridor that turned on its axis around and round. Luckily we had a sensible prep period, but construction was well under way when we started. We had a tour of the sets and were supplied with a pile of drawings by the art department.
Our biggest headache was how to get a power supply to the revolving sets, the corridor and hotel room. It was Ian who had come across a device called a ‘slip ring’ previously. We found a company that made slip rings for naval guns and wind turbines, so ordered two three-phase 400 Amp devices with connections for 16 data channels built-in. The data channels were for the camera techs to be able to control the camera. I cannot recall the price of the slip rings but they were very expensive!
The special effects team, led by Chris Courbold had done an amazing job constructing the framework on which the sets were built. Outside the set but on the rig we had to install our distribution gear, many Avo rack dimmer packs, and the set lighting. The lighting for the corridor set was led by the on-set practicals, and along the length of the corridor we had recesses in the ceiling with opaque acrylic sides. We rigged nook lights outside the acrylic to push more soft light into the set.
The action in these revolving sets involved a lot of fighting with cast and stunt performers bouncing off the walls, ceiling and floors. We were concerned about what would happen if somebody were to crash into one of the wall lights. Electrically we were protected by RCDs, but the glass envelope on a practical bulb could cause a nasty injury. I found a company that could cover the bulbs in a silicone film that did not dim the output much and meant that there would be no cuts if the bulb were to break.
I believe that there is behind-the-scenes footage of the revolving rigs on YouTube, they are quite impressive.
These would have to include The Constant Gardener (2005), an adaptation of the John Le Carré thriller set and shot on location in Kenya. I am very proud of working on this film and think it's a great movie. The director, Fernando Meirelles, and DP César Charlone both live in Brazil and have a unique view of life. It was particularly memorable because we worked in some great locations with quite a small core UK crew who bonded well. When you bump into any of them now it's always a great moment and a lot of reminiscing follows.
I have also been very fortunate to work on three Mike Leigh productions with Dick Pope BSC – It’s A Wonderful Afterlife (2010), Mr Turner (2014) and Peterloo (2018). Mike’s films are always a positive experience and his way of working is so different to normal shoots.
I love watching the actors performing in an environment that the director, designer and DP have created. Sometimes when all the elements come together it can be really inspiring. Many years ago I worked on A Rather English Marriage (1998, DP Gavin Finney BSC). One of the final scenes was very poignant, with Tom Courteney and Albert Finney dancing together in a room. When we had shot the first take I looked around the room and all the crew had tears in their eyes!
It is always amazing what a well-placed poly or shiny board can do as a reflector. Just subtle little things make such a big difference in lighting. But technology is racing ahead and there are some terrific LED units available now. Recently on The Crown we have been using the Hudson Spider with the Stealth box fitted a lot, quite often with a silk diffusion layer in front of it. I also like the Astera Titan and Helios tubes, very quick and easy to rig, with built-in batteries so they are cable free. And the ARRI Sky Panel range is a new favourite, in particular the 360. The ability to control colour temperature so easily is very useful.
Words of advice...
My advice to aspiring gaffers would be to enjoy your work and remember that what we do is very much a team effort.
Cinematographer Dick Pope BSC says...
"Andy is a truly genuine guy, one of the nicest people one could ever hope to meet, and there’s nobody I’ve ever come across who thinks otherwise. The intense DP/gaffer collaboration we put ourselves through on any given film is always a pleasure with him. I’m proud to call him a friend and have been very fortunate to work with him over the last 15 years.
He’s a people person, always ‘up’ and that attitude is infectious. So on any given film, as well as maintaining a close working relationship with production, he sends out the same vibe to all other departments and individual crew members and especially to his own team who, hand-picked and carefully trained by him, are always instilled with this same positive approach.
They say there’s nothing you wouldn’t do for a good ‘guvnor’ and as far as his team’s concerned, Andy is the living proof of that. He’s also an avid cinemagoer, and like me sees everything, which immediately helped cement our relationship when we first worked together.
He has exemplary lamp, lighting and lift knowledge, terrific organisational skills, a very sensitive eye and we share a passion for very soft bounce and big Tungsten sources.
But, if I could pick out just one of his main attributes I would say he’s a really great listener. Me on the couch explaining the feel and mood of how I see it, and him in the white coat sitting quietly in the big chair, hearing me out, never too quick to interject or dismiss my ideas but instead, carefully considering all options before making his play!"
Cinematographer Andrew Dunn BSC says...
"I've known Andy for a long time and whenever possible I try to work with him. The trouble is that – like essential items in a pandemic – everybody wants him and loves to work with him.
He's very resourceful, extremely knowledgeable and has a terrific sense of humour. He looks after his crew and the DP, understands what's required and will move heaven and earth to achieve it. If the budget doesn't permit one lighting solution he will find another clever way to achieve the same look by making a virtue of necessity – whatever we have available, he will work with you on ideas to make it work within the confines of time and money.
On The Lady In The Van he was great at that; somehow finding quick, economic solutions by cutting corners in a humorous, joyful and creative way to achieve our goals."
Cinematographer Adriano Goldman BSC says:
"When I first came to work in the UK in 2010, I called my friend César Charlone and he suggested Andy Long as a gaffer. I liked Andy’s attitude and energy right away, plus, of course, the fact that César recommended him!
Since then I have worked with Andy on Jane Eyre (2011), 360 (2011), Closed Circuit (2013), Dark River (2017) and season 2, 3 and 4 of The Crown. I made the right choice.
I'm not necessarily looking for a super-technical gaffer – although Andy is. My conversations are more about mood, story, the episode or the character in that moment. He runs a very funny, very experienced crew. I love them, and they obviously love working together. They bring an energy which lifts the mood of the whole set and Andy is responsible for that."
Photo credit: Des Willie Photography.