Meet the New Wave / Tom Turley
Meet the New Wave / Tom Turley
Filmography so far: Long form - Art of Political Murder (2020), As Dead As It Gets (2020). Selected shorts - Unsaid (2019), Skeletons (2019), The Overcoat (BAFTA longlisted 2019), Evil’s Evil Cousin (2016), Good Luck (2018), Freeze Frame (2014)
When did you discover you wanted to be a cinematographer?
I think it might have been when I watched The Man Who Wasn’t There (2001, Coen Bros and Roger Deakins ASC, BSC).
Where did you train?
In the nether regions of the upstart digital revolution of ’07 as a runner, kit room monkey, 2nd AC, Red One chaperone, DIT, focus puller, DP.
What are your favourite films, and why?
Boogie Nights (DP Robert Elswit, ASC) - all of life is in this film; it’s so fun to watch and so sad.
American Beauty (Conrad L Hall, ASC) - a near perfect movie that opened my eyes to what film could achieve.
Twin Peaks season one and a half (Frank Byers, ASC) and season three (Peter Deming, ASC) - David Lynch makes the hairs stand up on my neck and I get so lost in his world. I love it so much.
In each case the cinematography enriches a beautifully conceived world.
What’s the best advice you were given, and from whom?
“Make use of what light is available simply through your positioning of the camera - and the subject, if you are controlling what you are shooting,” Roger Deakins.
Who are your DP/industry heroes?
Among my contemporaries, I’ve seen David Procter graft from day one to build a fantastic body of work and I love Stephen Murphy BSC, ISC and Erik Wilson’s style. Seamus McGarvey ASC, BSC’s work is always brilliant. In my cinematography DNA is the work of Dean Semler ACS, ASC (Dances with Wolves was a powerful early inspiration, before I even had a clue what a DP was), Conrad L Hall ASC, and Roger Deakins BSC, ASC (is he the Roger Federer of cinematography? I don’t know).
Have you won any awards or received any nominations?
Short film The Overcoat won many plaudits and reached the BAFTA longlist in 2019. Kano - This Is England was nominated for Best Urban Video at MVAs.
What’s your proudest moment?
Maybe my debut feature doc screening at Tribeca 2020 which was cancelled thanks to Covid.
What’s been your worst knock-back/rejection?
Maybe it’s more the grind of a thousand smaller ones over the years. I feel revitalised by my recent enforced sabbatical. There’s a lesson in there somewhere.
What have been your best/worst moments on-set?
Best: When I’m in sync with the director and the crew and everything just flows.
Worst: When I was a focus puller, completely losing my temper with the producer over the treatment of my 2nd AC four weeks into one of the most grueling shoots I’ve ever done.
What's your most hilarious faux pas?
Trying to blag an invite to an exclusive ARRI release event from someone at Panavision. I realised what I was doing halfway through.
Away from work, what are your greatest passions?
Outdoor adventures of all forms.
What was your biggest challenge on your latest production?
This year I filmed As Dead As It Gets - an interactive film (yes, a la Bandersnatch), shot 9:16 aspect ratio with a concept that involves half the cast submerged to their thighs in the floor at all times. This required raising the sets two feet off the floor, removing and replacing sections of the floor for multiple passes of shots for VFX, on an indie film budget and schedule. I felt incredibly restricted with where I could place lights because of the 9:16 frame and how I could compose frames because almost any time we saw the floor it made it a VFX shot which could take hours to complete.
What one piece of kit could you not live without?
My extensive collection of old lenses that I hardly use.
Which films are you most proud of to date?
I love certain projects where there’s an honesty to the camera work that comes with the shared, lived experience of a particular project. I find it easier to be proud of documentary work and work that bleeds across into documentary. My short doc with World Wildlife Fund for Nature, promo for Kano - This is England, and Transport For London ad campaign last year are some highlights.
What’s the hardest shot/thing you’ve had to light/frame?
Trying to make a rubbish corporate video in a deathly cheerless office in an industrial park off an A road look half decent with a Sony Z1 and a set of Dedos.
More recently, I was lighting an extremely high key scene of a white product hanging on a white ribbon from a white balloon in an entirely white room. That had its challenges too.
In the history of filmmaking, which film would you love to have shot?
I think I would have had a lot of fun shooting Pale Rider. Or There Will Be Blood must have been a trip. I adore the intense experience of filmmaking in unusual environments.
What are your current top albums?
Amadou & Mariam's Dimanche à Bamako and Benjamin Clementine's At Least For Now.
Can you tell us your greatest extravagance?
Tell us your hidden talent/party trick?
What’s the best thing about being a DP?
When you’re flying purely on instinct and it just works. Close second is the breadth of unusual life experiences.
What’s the worst thing about being a DP?
Never knowing where I’ll be in a month’s time.
What are three adjectives that best describe you and your approach to cinematography?
Calm, instinctive, versatile.
If you weren’t a DP, what job would you be doing now?
I would make a passable hermit or a second rate worker in any job that occurs outdoors in scenery. Honestly, stay-at-home dad. I don’t think there’s another job out there I could love as much as this one.
What are your aspirations for the future?
Features, both drama and doc. If it’s got a good narrative, I want a piece of it.