Gavin Finney BSC
I got interested in cinema when saw my first film, but I never thought that I would work in it, I didn’t even know it was an option. Cinematography grew out of an interest in photography, developing my own negative, making prints, buying my first professional camera (a 6x7 Pentax) and my love of literature and somehow being part of telling a story. That synthesis came together for me at my first (of two) film schools at what was then Manchester Polytechnic in the mid 1980’s. It was a practical course and we were encouraged to try our hand at all elements of production including editing, sound and direction. I clicked with cinematography whilst filming an entry for the Kodak/Lloyd’s Bank film competition, where you had to create a one minute commercial using only one roll of 16mm film. We were very ambitious and decided to make a pastiche of Brief Encounter, complete with steam train, period station, vintage cars and all shot at night. Somehow, we managed to get all these elements together (much to the disdain of our tutors who thought we should do something smaller! As if). I was standing on top of a lorry looking through the camera at a period level crossing, where a vintage car was waiting as a vast steam engine trundled past and all the locals had come out to watch. And it was at that moment that I realised, this was what I wanted to do. I’ve been a cinematographer ever since and I’m still learning
It really started when, in my early teens, I first picked up my fathers Ilford rangefinder camera, loaded it with some Tri X and went off to photograph whatever I saw. I loved having a camera with me and capturing moments. I won a photographic competition in the local paper and part of the prize was thirty six rolls of B&W film. After having to save up to buy and process a single roll, this was luxury! That was the first step on photography becoming part of my life. Cinematography, I fell into, not knowing it was an option, when my initial plan of becoming a great physicist was kiboshed by the absence of the great mind to go with it, and not wanting to be a mediocre physicist, I had to find something else. Hearing that there was such a thing as a practical three year film course I immediately applied. When I received the letter telling me I’d been accepted, I knew I was now on the right track.
After graduating, I worked for 18 months as a loader and occasional focus puller before realising that having tasted being a DoP, I had to get back to that position, so I applied for the NFTS cinematography course. I still remember calling up the school as I hadn’t heard anything. I was in an old style phone box between Soho and Leicester sq (appropriately, the centre of film production and exhibition in London) when the secretary told me I’d got in. The following three years were an incredible exploration and learning curve of what it means to be a professional cinematographer.
My first professional break came on the night we showed our NFTS graduation film (which went on to win at the Student Academy Awards) when I was picked up by an agent and work soon followed. Several commercials led to a ten minute short for Channel Four whose director then hired me for a 90 minute period film for TV. At roughly the same time, out of the blue, I was called by another director to film his first feature. Both directors are still good friends to this day.
Walter Lassally, who was head of camera during my time at the NFTS and who’s critical appraisal of my work showed me how much I still had to learn about the difference between an amateur hobbyist and a working professional. He took apart, frame by frame, one of my early attempts and I was a bit crushed. A while later he viewed a B&W short film I’d made and said he couldn’t have done it better himself. I was floating on air for a week. Also, Billy Williams who ran some masterclasses and taught me how to trust my eye, and work with light on location.
There are a number of directors I’ve been fortunate enough to work with many times, and a lot of them have become personal friends. It is a joy to work with someone you like and have a rapport with. The whole process of making a film becomes easier and far more enjoyable and creative.
Please give a list of any selected awards/nominations you have received.
2019 British Society of Cinematographers
Nominated, Best Cinematography in a TV Drama Award for Good Omens (2019) (tv series)
2017 British Society of Cinematographers
Nominated, Best Cinematography in a TV Drama Award for The State
2017 Royal Television Society, UK
Nominated, RTS Craft & Design Award for Best Photography: Drama for The State
2016 Bafta TV Craft
Nominated, BAFTA Television Craft Award for Photography and Lighting for Wolf Hall
2016 Televisual Bulldog Awards, UK
Won, Televisual Bulldog Award for Best Cinematography for Wolf Hall (2015)
2015 British Society of Cinematographers
Won, BSC Award for Best Cinematography in a TV Drama Award for Wolf Hall
2015 Royal Television Society, UK
Nominated, RTS Craft & Design Award for Best Photography: Drama for Wolf Hall
2013 BAFTA Awards
Won, BAFTA TV Award for Best Photography and Lighting: Fiction for The Fear
2013 British Society of Cinematographers
Won, Best Cinematography Award for Best Cinematography in a TV Drama for The Fear
2013 Royal Television Society, UK
Won, RTS Craft & Design Award for Best Photography: Drama for The Fear
2011 BAFTA Awards
Nominated, BAFTA TV Award for Best Photography and Lighting (Fiction/Entertainment) for Going Postal
2010 Royal Television Society, UK
Won, RTS Craft & Design Award for Best Photography: Drama for Going Postal
2008 British Society of Cinematographers
Won, John Alcott Memorial Award
2007 BAFTA Awards
Nominated, BAFTA TV Award for Best Photography & Lighting Fiction/Entertainment for Terry Pratchett's Hogfather
2000 Royal Television Society, UK
Won, RTS Television Award for Best Lighting, Photography & Camera - Photography Drama for Gormenghast
1995 Royal Television Society, UK
Nominated, RTS Television Award for Best Camera for The English Wife