Gaffer Jonny Franklin on Phantom Thread

We recently caught up with Jonny Franklin, gaffer on Paul Thomas Anderson’s much talked about new movie Phantom Thread, and learnt how he solved some key lighting problems during the production.

“We faced many challenges on Phantom Thread: one of the trickiest locations was the Georgian property on Fitzroy Square, known in the film as ‘The House Of Woodcock’, where we shot a majority of the film.

As the Grade I listed property was going through renovation, the first challenge we came up against was the fact there was no power or cabling throughout the building. This meant we had to re-wire the whole five-story house, although the benefits of doing so quickly became clear as we were able to wire every electrical socket and bulb back to our lighting desk.

We needed to get a vast amount of light in the building, especially shooting on 250D Kodak film stock. Usually I would have used machines with large lamps on. But, the problem was we were not allowed to occupy any of the space outside the footprint of the building, and had to remain within the property’s railings – which was only a distance of 4ft 6” away from the property. Additionally, the location was specifically chosen because Paul wanted to be able to see out of the windows. So we had to carefully plan a rig that would not only fit within the railings, but also couldn’t be visible from within the house looking out.

Building such a narrow rig, at such a height, and without being able to bolt into the walls, took a lot of careful planning. To light it, I had two ladder beams per window, with five vertical Sky Panels on each – they were on runners so we could roll them in and out of shot. Then for any hard sun we had a few 2.5KW HMIs rigged. Usually it’s more ideal to have your lamps further away from your subject, but on this occasion we had no choice and had to adapt to Paul’s specifics requirements. Fortunately, the system I employed turned out to be really successful.”

Issue 99 – May 2020

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