The Gentlemen

Posted on May 9, 2024

Up to snuff

DOP Callan Green describes his four-episode stint on The Gentlemen, Guy Ritchie’s latest blood-soaked action-comedy

Words Katie Kasperson

From the mind of Guy Ritchie comes The Gentlemen, an eight-episode series that’s spun off Ritchie’s 2019 film of the same name.

In a highly stylised fashion, the show follows the aristocratic Horniman family as they navigate the ins and outs of running an underground drug empire – and the troubles they face along the way.

Ritchie sets the stage, directing the first two episodes, with the following six split evenly between Nima Nourizadeh, Eran Creevy and David Caffrey. DOP Callan Green, who joined the project halfway through, watched an early cut of those initial episodes for inspiration. “The bar was set so high, we freaked out a bit,” he admits. “We obviously had a lot to do to bring ours up to scratch.”

Packing a punch

Green brought with him an accomplished background, with a motley collection of credits including music videos for major artists as well as early-career work on the Lord of the Rings trilogy. When his agent pitched The Gentlemen, Green was more than hooked: “I was like, ‘Oh, that sounds absolutely awesome’.” After securing the gig, he did five weeks of prep, shooting at various locations across the UK – including Greenwich Peninsula’s Magazine London.

“This location has a massive window that overlooks Canary Wharf and has the sun setting in the background, but there’s nothing in there whatsoever,” Green describes. To capture the boxing sequence in episode 6, he and his crew built a set from the ground up. “We had to put all the rigging in and all the lighting, just to get it up to the scale of what a large boxing performance would look like,” Green explains. “It took a while to get all the lights and kit; the guys were rigging for a couple of days, then we prelit for a day and then shot for two or three.”

For Green, it was essential to get the lighting right. “It works well if you can side-light or backlight as much as possible, so you can feel the punches, the sweat, the blood coming off the boxing gloves and people’s faces,” he details. “To do that, I spoke to my gaffer Jack Powell and desk operator Charlie Stallard about how to keep it backlit or side-lit as much as possible, even when the boxers and my camera operator Alex Bender were dancing around. Charlie came up with some ingenious creation on his dimmer board, allowing us to dim the background lights separately, so they could rotate. It sounds easy, but it was apparently very tricky for him to do.”

Green took several creative liberties when bringing the scene from script to screen. “On paper, that [sequence] read as, ‘Jack Glass (Harry Goodwins) is having a fight, he’s winning and then we cut to Susie (Kaya Scodelario) and Eddie (Theo James) watching it, and they’re excited’,” he shares. To make the whole thing more lively, Green and his crew ‘decided to shoot it at 1000fps, then speed it down to 24 when [Jack] hits the canvas, then whip off that and push into Susie and Eddie’. He concludes: “We were always trying to keep the camera moving,” with the result a fast-paced montage of grit and glory.

Class act

The Gentlemen excels at feeling flashy and high-octane, with each scene operating like an elaborate dance.

Like Green, Creevy came with a few music videos under his belt – this background lending itself to the show’s visual language. “You learn so much on music videos; you get to be super creative and generally have to do it fairly quickly,” explains Green. “This helped [us make] more off-the-cuff creative decisions.

“Under prep, we would definitely talk about what we were going to do creatively, but generally that was just written down on a bit of paper,” Green continues. “Many of the decisions were made on the day. Between myself, Tammo van Hoorn, the camera operator, and Terry Williams, the grip, we would come up with some pretty fun, stylistic ways to approach each scene.”

The Sony FX3s proved critical for this task. “You can stick them on anything, and we managed to get them on all kinds of things – guns, whisky bottles, we even got one in a pigeon cage, we chucked them on cars and all over the place,” enthuses Green. “It helps you feel like you’re there, that’s for sure.” Impressively, most of the show’s effects were done in-camera, whether on an FX3 or a VENICE, paired with Tokina Vista prime lenses.

On-set, ‘life got pretty fun’, admits Green. Being a New Zealander, he was impressed by the show’s old-school English locations, including Badminton House, which served as the Hornimans’ own Halstead Manor. “On top of that, everyone was great and having a lot of fun. If you have the chance to work with a fun, professional crew, you can’t lose.”

This feature was first published in the May 2024 issue of Definition.

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