DEFINITION January 2018


SNOWPIERCER Inspired by the 2013 movie of the same name, this 2018 TV pilot had to deliver an innovative lighting design for its post-apocalyptic journey WORDS PHIL RHODES PICTURES ROBERT FINLEY

obert Finley has an impressive production history, and one sufficiently varied that he’s difficult to sum up in a job title. Involvement with Industrial Light & Magic in the early 1980s led to credits on The Empire Strikes Back , Raiders of the Lost Ark , Dragonslayer , E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial and Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan , and Finley has since worked not only in visual effects but also as a DOP on both main and second units, and as a gaffer on productions including the Matrix sequels and last year’s The Jungle Book . Recently, he worked with DOP Anette Haellmigk on a pilot for the TV adaptation of Snowpiercer , based on the feature film of the same name. The production depicts a future in which the last remnants of humanity survive a permanent winter aboard a train endlessly circling the earth. Thus, it’s almost entirely an interior production, although it frequently references the frozen landscape outside the train. Finley and Haellmigk’s professional association began on Spider-Man 2 , on which Haellmigk worked as an additional director of photography and B-camera operator, while Finley gaffed. “She knows my background in VFX,” Finley begins, “which is quite heavy... When



[ Snowpiercer ] came up I had done Murder on the Orient Express . I set up the LED lighting walls for that movie. I’ve done a lot of integrated lighting with movement and such. When she was going to do this and had to use all local crew in Vancouver, she was apprehensive and wanted some help. She asked me to come in and be a lighting consultant, work with the local crew and get them started.” television drama, Finley is happy to describe the 24-day shoot as, “really a movie.” In the end, he went on to stay for the entire production. The technical approach was naturally dictated by the creative intent. Finley continues, “Anette had a particular style, a particular texture that she wanted. She wanted a lot of it very practical, interior scenes... I’d say sketchy and dramatic, low light when appropriate and a lot of influence from what was outside the train when it was appropriate. Maybe half the cars had the influence of some sort of light coming through windows from Given the scale and ambition common to current high-end

outside. It’s post-apocalyptic and it’s a hundred and forty-four degrees below zero outside, it’s a frozen plane and it’s snow, but sometimes it’s sunny, it’s cloudy – we went through a whole weather script of what was going to be outside. There are going to be a lot of shots of the train whistling along the tracks in varying environments of weather, and we wanted that to translate inside.” VANCOUVER STAGE Shot entirely on stages in Vancouver, the production needed to evoke a feeling of a moving train, combined with the unusual situation of bounced sunlight from a snowy landscape which would often be brighter than light from a blue sky. “We had direct sunlight, but the majority of the feel was giving it the [feeling that] sometimes it was stronger from the ground, sometimes it was stronger from the sky, sometimes it was overcast and you don’t feel anything, and it’s just really soft.” This sort of flexibility could only be achieved with programmable

BELOW Replicating changing light on-set caused by movement was a big challenge. temperatures... A still from the original 2013 movie. ABOVE A post- apocalyptic train hurtles across the globe in sub-zero



Powered by