Shining a light on...
Gaffers 'R' Us / Lee Knight
Shining a light on...
Gaffers 'R' Us / Lee Knight
BY: David Wood
Born: Forest Gate, London
School: Wanstead High School
Early career: Lee Lighting
Lives: North Weald, Essex
Passions: Golf, football and family
Selected filmography (as gaffer, unless otherwise stated):
Overlord (best boy) (2018)
The Foreigner (2017)
The Hatching (2017)
Game Of Thrones (seven episodes) (2017)
The Mummy (gaffer: second unit) (2017)
Beauty And The Beast (lighting technician) (2017)
Alice Through The Looking Glass (gaffer: additional photography) (2016)
Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation (electrician/lighting technician) (2015)
A Royal Night Out (2015)
Avengers: Age Of Ultron (best boy) (2015)
Maleficent (lighting technician) (2014)
Noble (best boy) / (electrician) (2014)
Trance (gaffer: second unit) (2013)
Dark Shadows (lighting technician) (2012)
Sherlock Holmes: A Game Of Shadows (lighting technician) (2011)
W.E. (electrician) (2011)
Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (lighting technician) (2011)
Gulliver's Travels (gaffer: second unit) (2010)
Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows: Part 1 (lighting technician) (2010)
The Wolfman (electrician) (2010)
Quantum Of Solace (best boy) (2008)
Franklyn (best boy) (2008)
Incendiary (electrician) (2008)
Casino Royale (rigging gaffer) (2006)
Harry Potter And The Goblet Of Fire (grip electrician: second unit) (2005)
Bride & Prejudice (best boy) (2004)
Thunderbirds (best boy/best boy: second unit) (2004)
Close Your Eyes (rigging electrician: second unit) (2002)
Vertical Limit (lighting technician) (2000)
Don Quixote (TV movie) (lighting technician) (2000)
In 1998, my dad (gaffer Eddie Knight - read his BC profile HERE) had a job on Hallmark Entertainment's Cleopatra (1999) in Ouarzazate, Morocco. I jumped on as a trainee, travelled out in the trucks with the boys, and started from there. So I suppose you could say I was definitely taught by the best.
What made me want to be a gaffer?
I loved being on the floor, and still do. For me, I would never say, "I'm a gaffer", as I still look at myself as one of the boys. It's just now I can tell them what to do - ha ha! I'm one of those people who always tries to do the best they can in whatever role they take on, so I think I was always going to be a gaffer.
What difference has dad made on my career?
My dad has been in the industry for 40 years, so I've always had him to look up to. I think there's always certain people in your career that steer you in the right direction, and who you look up to. For me, my dad is definitely the one who has made me the person I am today, in and out of work. I do think he'd be the first to say though, that my mum has a big part to play in that too.
How did I learn the trade?
I listened, paid attention and asked lots of questions along the way. It's important not just to listen to who you're working under, but also to everyone around you, take everything in. Obviously dad's always been there for me, but there have been lots of other people too. I did five or six films with Chuck Finch, a great guy and a great gaffer. I learnt a lot from him.
Cinematographers I've worked with:
I've worked with lots of cinematographers on some really interesting projects, and all with very different styles of lighting. David Tattersall BSC is definitely up there with the best. A really nice guy, who's done some really big films, but so down to earth. The cinematographers on Game Of Thrones were all great to work with too - I got on really well with all of them. I'm currently shooting Homeland in Morocco with David Klein ASC and Peter Levy ASC, both great to work with, who are shooting some really nice stuff.
I really believe a gaffer is only as good as his crew, and I have a really good group with me. Obviously, I have the brothers; Jamie does the rigging, and Ben and Joe the floor. I also have some good experience with me too. Ricky Payne, my best boy, and Barry Bellotti, my genny op, have been with me for a long time, so it looks like they're stuck with me now. Between us we've done of all sorts of productions of different sizes, which is good, because as a team we can take on any size of project.
I wouldn't say I'm the hardest of bosses to work with, and I far from rule with an iron fist. I always think it's good to make sure you enjoy coming to work. We're not saving lives here, we're making movies and TV shows, so there's no need to be too serious. Don't get me wrong, we're very professional, and we get the job done well, but we do it with a smile on our faces - which I think is the best way to be.
"The whole LED world is crazy right now. ARRI SkyPanels are great and reliable. At the moment we're really into the Astera Titan tubes - a brilliant bit of kit with eight tubes that are fully-wireless, RGBW, and with a 20-hour battery life."
- Lee Knight
I did seasons seven and eight of Game Of Thrones, which were a big challenge. Big lighting set-ups, both interior and exterior, using lots of negative, as well as lighting the scenes. We shot at some great locations and I really enjoyed the challenge every day. One of the more interesting sets I've shot was the Game Of Thrones' Skull Room set in Seville, Spain with Rob McLachlan ASC. The set was subterranean, so we used par cans to create shafts of light and recreate cracks in the ground above. It looked great. I got on really well with Rob, a gentleman, who was so easy to get on with and a pleasure to work with.
Most difficult to light?
There's many ways to light any set, it's just that some are trickier than others. I did a TV show last year, The Rook for Starz, where the main set was constructed entirely of glass. Glass offices within a glass building. As some of the offices didn't have windows, our main way of lighting the sets was with practicals. We specially-constructed thirteen 8'x 4' LED wirelessly-controlled light boxes, each being comprised of 55m of bi-colour LED lite ribbons. They gave us an output of roughly 1000w per box. They worked perfectly.
I'm pretty much proud of everything I've taken charge of so far. I'd have to say The
Foreigner, a Jackie Chan film, which I did with Dave Tattersall, with Martin Campbell directing, who were excellent, was a joy work on every day. We shot at some great locations, with a really nice crew. So that would be my favourite so far.
Working relationship with cinematographers:
I can't think of any reason not to have a good working relationship with your cinematographer. Sometimes, on bigger shoot days, they can need their space. So, you just need to pick the best time to discuss lighting. I also think it helps when the cinematographer gets to know all of the crew too, not just the gaffer. It's good to know I can rely on my crew to talk to the cinematographer when I'm not on-set.
Favourite bits of kit?
The whole LED world is crazy right now. ARRI SkyPanels are great and reliable. At the moment we're really into the Astera Titan tubes - a brilliant bit of kit with eight tubes that are fully-wireless, RGBW, and with a 20-hour battery life. I do like situations when the LED is mixed with conventional lighting too, and we still get a lot of use out of the traditional lamps, like the Wendy light and the Maxi/Mini Brutes.
One of the worst bits about being a gaffer is having to be away from your family for long periods of time, as I am at the moment. I have my wife Charlotte and two daughters, Molly and Alice, and it really is so tough.
Cinematographer Robert McLachlan ASC says:
Game Of Thrones normally ran two units simultaneously and the five DP/director teams would bounce between the two units. This initially made it rather difficult to get in the sort of groove a DP has with their crew because you weren't all together day-in and day-out. But when Lee and his crew came on in season seven we hit it off - right off-the-bat from day one. I attributed this to the fact I recognised immediately this guy had my back - and that he "got it". Lighting and collaborating is in his DNA. He had my complete trust immediately. Even by the end of a long grueling season, away from home, his terrific, cheerful "can-do" attitude set the tone for his whole crew, and infected everyone on the set. Nothing phased him. His depth as a technician and impeccable taste make him the ideal gaffer. He's a treasure.
Cinematographer David Tattersall BSC says:
I remember Lee as a young electrician hauling 18Ks through the slush and snow in New Zealand and have seen him rise through the ranks to become a top class gaffer. So I was very happy to get the chance to work with Lee on The Foreigner.
This gritty fast-paced thriller was shot mostly in central London. The script is packed with quarter and half-page scenes, which meant lots of location moves, sometimes as many as four in a day. The crew would need to operate like a fine Swiss timepiece to have a chance of making the call sheet.
For Lee and his electrical crew the challenge would be dealing with big city logistics: leapfrogging equipment from one location to the next - generators, cranes, miles of cable! Then devising creative rigging solutions with limited space and time to sculpt the light. Lee's experience as best boy and rigging gaffer served him well. He loves that stuff and, with his devoted crew working like ninja-magicians, the sets were cabled, lit and ready to shoot before the tea trolley arrived!
A great gaffer needs to know the equipment inside-out, but also needs to be an inspirational leader, a manager, a politician, an artist and an endurance athlete. Lee ticks all the boxes and also comes to the set every morning with his 100kW smile.