#1: Photo by William Kallay

#2: [Right] - "I Am Legend" [2006]

 

   


  ANDREW LESNIE

 

Born: 1 January 1956, Sydney, NSW, Australia.

Died: 27 April 2015, Sydney, NSW, Australia.

Education: TAFE NSW [Technical and Further Education Commission]; Australian Film and Television School [AFTS; now AFTRS] [graduated in 1979].

Career: Studied film and television before joining ABC-tv as a camera assistant. After going freelance, he divided his time as a professional assistant and shooting low budget short films and music videos. He assisted on documentaries, several feature films and hundreds of commercials. He also spent 18 months on 'Simon Townsend's Wonder World!', a children's afternoon magazine style show [on Network 10] where he was able to experiment and pioneer some new photographic techniques.

Ph news, current affairs, commercials [dir by Paul Middleditch, a.o.] and documentaries. Ph music videos, e.g. 'Cut Your Roses Down' [1993; a: INXS; d: Lynn-Maree Milburn & Richard Lowenstein].

Was a member of the ACS since 1989 and the ASC since 2005.

Appeared in the doc 'A Passage to Middle-earth: Making of 'Lord of the Rings'' [2001].

Awards: ACS 'Milli' Award 'Australian Cinematographer of the Year' [1995] for 'You Seng'; ACS 'Milli' Award 'Australian Cinematographer of the Year' [1996] for 'Babe'; AFI [Aus] Award [1997], ACS 'Award of Distinction' [1998] & Film Critics Circle of Australia Award [1998] for 'Doing Time for Patsy Cline'; ACS 'Hall of Fame' [2002]; 'Oscar' AA [2002], ASC Film Award nom [2002], BAFTA Film Award nom [2002] & CFCA Award [2002] for 'The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring'; BAFTA Film Award nom [2003] & CFCA Award nom [2003] for 'The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers'; ASC Film Award nom [2003] & BAFTA Film Award [2004] for 'The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King'; AFI [Aus] Award nom [2004], Film Critics Circle of Australia Award nom [2004] & WorldFest Houston 'Gold Award' [2004] for 'Love's Brother'; ASC Award nom [2006] for 'King Kong'.


Obituary: The cinematographer Andrew Lesnie, who has died aged 59 of a suspected heart attack, was a key part of one of the most formidable, even foolhardy, projects in modern cinema: Peter Jackson's innovative adaptation of four novels by JRR Tolkien into almost 18 hours of cinema. Lesnie won an Oscar for his work on the first installment, 'The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring'. He happened to be available to shoot it only because he had quit 'Mission: Impossible II' three weeks into production following artistic disagreements with that film's director, John Woo.

Jackson retained Lesnie's services for 'King Kong' and 'The Lovely Bones'. When he came to give the three-film treatment to Tolkien's 'The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey', 'The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug' and 'The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies' - there could be no other choice for cinematographer.

Lesnie's achievement in the Tolkien films was to bring both grandeur and intimacy to Jackson's vision. He benefited from the novelty of a New Zealand landscape that had been largely unexploited in cinema, but his work cannot be dismissed as just pretty pictures. Crucial to the movies was the tension between a gloomy, churning underworld of orcs and uruks, dragons and ringwraiths, and the bucolic idyll that the hobbits and elves were defending - a metaphor in landscape form of the inner conflict for which the struggle for the ring was the catalyst.

Jackson knew from Lesnie's sophisticated work on 'Babe' (1994) and its darker sequel, 'Babe: Pig in the City' (1997), that he could bring human warmth to footage that would be heavily reliant on complicated digital effects. "I thought they looked amazing, the way he'd used backlight and the sun and natural light to create a very magical effect," said Jackson. "'Babe' had that larger than life feel about it that I wanted."

Despite working predominantly in movies steeped in effects, Lesnie kept his images rich and painterly. He also displayed organizational aplomb, marshalling nine camera units across the 'Lord of the Rings' films.

Born in Sydney, he landed his first job in the Australian film industry as a runner on 'The Getting of Wisdom' (1977). While studying at the Australian Film and Television School, he worked as a camera assistant on 'Patrick' (1978), a fondly remembered horror movie from the grungier 'Ozploitation' end of the market.

In 1981, he shot an on-set documentary about 'Mad Max 2 [: The Road Warrior]'. George Miller, director of the 'Mad Max' series, was impressed enough to hire him again when he came to make the 'Babe' films, and to ask him to oversee the live-action unit for another CGI-animated family entertainment, 'Happy Feet' (2003).

Once Jackson snapped him up for the 'Lord of the Rings' series, his career came to be dominated by large-scale, big-budget blockbuster projects. These posed a variety of technical challenges, the most pronounced of which was the use on the three 'Hobbit' films of cutting-edge digital cameras specially made for the production.

Jackson's decision to create heightened visual immediacy in the second three-parter by shooting in 3D at 48 frames per second, rather than the standard 24, remains controversial. To most eyes, the 48fps version looked eerily overlit; the actors appeared to be within touching distance. After a negative early reaction from critics, previews of the remaining films tended to be in 24fps, though Jackson made 48fps versions available as well. Whatever the future for 48fps, Lesnie was the first cinematographer to have worked so extensively in the format.

No matter what the size of the production, Lesnie never lost his taste for playfulness. "There was a lot of room for improvisation on 'The Hobbit', in both performance and coverage," he said. "Even with the huge amount of preparation we'd done, it was important to remain open to a good idea or a happy accident." [From obituary by Ryan Gilbey in 'The Guardian', 29 April 2015.]


 

 FILMS AT THE AFTS

1976

In Search of Ben Hall's Boot [Andrew Lesnie] c; doc/16m; ph: Andrew Jackomos, Peter Duller, Mario Andreacchio & Denny Lawrence

1977

Chakola - a cinematography workshop exercise/Chakola 1 [John Tweg] 16mm/c; doc/18m; cph: Steve Arnold, Kim Batterham, a.o.

1977

Chakola - a cinematography workshop exercise/Chakola 2 [John Tweg] 16mm/c; doc/14m; cph: Steve Arnold, Kim Batterham, a.o.

1977

Excerpts [Andrew Lesnie] 16mm/b&w; ?/11m; ph: ?

1977

Asylum [Martin Rooke] c; short/8m

1978

Stella [Denny Lawrence] c; cred as lighting; short/28m

1978

Give It All Back [Stephen Knapman] c; mus perf/?m

1978

Anything (Legal) Considered [Michael Harvey] pilot ('Getting It All Together'; 22m) for sitcom; cred as lighting + film cam; studio cam: Stephen Arnold

1978

"Shelter from the storm" [Geoff Bennett] c; short/27m; cred as film cameraman; ph (cred as doph): Steve Arnold

1978

The Outing [Denny Lawrence] c; short/23m

1978

The Way She Moves [Geoff Bennett] c; short/25m; cam + title efx: Kim Batterham

 

 FILMS

1980

The Comeback/Total Rebuild/Pump Action [Kit Laughlin] 16mm/c; doc/44m

1981

Before the Flood/The Same Stream [James Bradley] 16mm/c; short/26m

1981

Mad Max 2/The Road Warrior/Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior [George Miller] p/b&w-c; doc cameraman; ph: Dean Semler

1981

The Making of 'The Road Warrior' [?] ?; doc/?m

1981

Stations [Jacki McKimmie] c; short/23m

1982

Double Concerto: A Film About the Pianist Roger Woodward/Roger Woodward in Concert [Hugh Piper] 16mm/c; doc/53m; or ph Steve Arnold

1982

Artreach [Genni & Kim Batterham] 16mm/c; doc/20m; cph: K. Batterham

1982

Early Frost/Something Wicked [Brian McDuffie] c; co-addph; ph: David Eggby

1983

Night and Day: The Festival of Sydney [Terence McMahon] 16mm/c; doc/26m; cph: Tony Wilson

1984

The Man You Know [Steve Jacobs] 16mm/c; short/36m

1984

Fantasy Man [John Meagher] c

1984

The Making of Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome [Charles Lamprell] c; doc/35m; co-addph; ph: Jerry Brookman & Michael Ewers

1985

Unfinished Business [Bob Ellis] 16mm/c; + small part

1985

Starship/Lorca and the Outlaws [Roger Christian] p/c; 2uc Australia; ph: John Metcalfe

1985

Fair Game [Mario Andreacchio] c

1985

Emoh Ruo [Denny Lawrence] c

1986

Dead-End Drive In/Dead End [Brian Trenchard-Smith] scope/c; addph; ph: Paul Murphy

1986

Australian Dream/Outrageous Party [Jacki McKimmie] c

1987

Inside Pine Gap: Top Secret (Place Without a Postcard)/Journey to an American Spy Base [Robert Plasto-Lehner] c; doc/50m; 'Journey to an American Spy Base' is the international version

1987

Dark Age [Arch Nicholson] c

1987

Around the World in Eighty Ways [Stephen MacLean] c; 2uc; ph: Louis Irving

1987

Farewell to the King [John Milius] c; 2uc; ph: Dean Semler

1988

The 13th Floor [Chris Roache & (add scenes) Adrian Carr] c; ph add scenes; ph: Stephen Prime

1988

Boys in the Island [Geoff Bennett] c

1988

Encounter at Raven's Gate/Incident at Raven's Gate [Rolf de Heer] c; 2uc; ph: Richard Michalak

1989

Tripe [Greg Woodland] b&w; short/22m; prod AFTRS

1989

The Delinquents [Chris Thomson] c; add camera crew: Richard Merryman, Steve Arnold, Ivan Johnston, Anna Howard & Ben Nott

1989

The Shrimp on the Barbie/The Boyfriend from Hell [Alan Smithee (= Michael Gottlieb)] c; ph Australia; ph New Zealand: James Bartle

1990

It's Not Easy [Judy Rymer] c; doc/21m

1990

The Girl Who Came Late/Daydream Believer [Kathy Mueller] c; 2uc: Ian Jones; addph: Roger Lanser

1992

The Kangaroo Kid [Dean Semler] unfinished

1993

You Seng/Temptation of a Monk [Clara Law] c

1993

Fatal Past [Clive Fleury] c

1994

Spider & Rose [Bill Bennett] c

1994

Babe/Babe, the Gallant Pig [Chris Noonan] c; addph: Ken Arlidge

1995

Two If by Sea/Stolen Hearts [Bill Bennett] c

1996

Dark City [Alex Proyas] s35/c; co-addph; ph: Dariusz Wolski

1996

Doing Time for Patsy Cline [Chris Kennedy] c

1997

The Sugar Factory [Robert Carter] c

1997

Babe: Pig in the City [George Miller] c; addph: Ian Jones

1999

Mission: Impossible II/M:I-2 [John Woo] left prod less than a month into filming; replaced by doph Jeffrey Kimball

1999

The Australian Ballet [Barrett Mitchell] c; perf/unedited

1999

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring [: The Motion Picture] [Peter Jackson] s35/c; 2uc: Alun Bollinger, Simon Raby, John Cavill, Allen Guilford, Nigel Bluck & Richard Bluck; vfx ph: Tony Anderson & Brian Van't Hul; vfx miniature unit ph: Alex Funke; aph: Phil Pastuhov; uwph: Murray Milne

2000

The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers [Peter Jackson] s35/c

2000

The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King [Peter Jackson] s35/c; all 3 'The Lord of the Rings' films were filmed back-to-back during 1999 and 2000

2002

Love's Brother [Jan Sardi] c; addph: Russell Bacon

2003

Happy Feet [George Miller, Warren Coleman & Judy Morris] dv-to-35mm scope (+ 70mm)/c; anim + live action; ph live action unit

2004

King Kong [Peter Jackson] s35/c; 2uc: Richard Bluck; aph: David B. Nowell; vfx ph: Alex Funke

 

"I Am Legend"

 

2006

I Am Legend [Francis Lawrence] p+s35 (+ IMAX-70bu & D-Cinema)/c; action unit ph: Brian Pearson; aph: Hans Bjerno & (uncred) David B. Nowell; vfx ph: Mark H. Weingartner

2006

Shine a Light [Martin Scorsese] HD (Genesis)+s8+s35-to-35mm (+ 70bu)/b&w-c; mus doc/122m; co-c.op; ph: Robert Richardson

2007

The Lovely Bones [Peter Jackson] s35+RED+HD (Iconix)-to-35mm scope/c; aph: David B. Nowell

2008

Resistance [Andrew Dillon] announced as doph, but left prod due to a scheduling conflict; prod (only the trailer ?) was ph by Ashleigh Carter; the film will also serve as a pilot for a 26-part children's tv-series, but the prod of the series was delayed (not November 2011, but 2012 or 2013) and the number of episodes was cut down

2008

Bran Nue Dae [Rachel Perkins] s35+ts-to-35mm scope/c; Aboriginal musical/88m

2009

The Last Airbender/The Legend of Aang [M. Night Shyamalan] s35 (+ D-Cinema [also 3-D version])/c; 2uc: Patrick Capone; plate unit ph: Phil Pastuhov; vfx ph: Martin Rosenberg

2010

Rise of the Planet of the Apes/Rise of the Apes [Rupert Wyatt] s35 (+ D-Cinema)/c; 2uc (+ 2ud): Mark Vargo; Golden Gate unit ph: Larry Blanford; aph San Francisco: Larry Blanford & Phil Pastuhov

2011

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey [Peter Jackson (replaced Guillermo del Toro)] RED Epic-to-35mm scope (+ IMAX-70bu [also 3-D version] & D-Cinema [also 3-D version])/c; 2uc: Richard Bluck; aph: David B. Nowell; replaced ph Guillermo Navarro; filmed March-October 2011

2011

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug [Peter Jackson (replaced Guillermo del Toro)] RED Epic-to-35mm scope (+ IMAX-70bu [also 3-D version] & D-Cinema [also 3-D version])/c; 2uc: Richard Bluck; aph: David B. Nowell; filmed October 2011-July 2012

2013

Healing [Craig Monahan] HD (ARRI ALEXA)+RED Epic (scope)/c; aph: Warwick Field

2013

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies/The Hobbit: There and Back Again [Peter Jackson] RED One MX & Epic+HD (Sony DVW-790)-to-35mm scope (+ D-Cinema [also 3-D version] & IMAX 3-D)/c; uses footage from the first two films + new footage; filmed 2011-12 (see above) & May-June 2013 (new footage)

2013

The Turning [seg (12m) 'Reunion' dir by Simon Stone] c; 18 seg/180m, 107m & 90m (for tv)

2013

The Water Diviner [Russell Crowe] HD (ARRI ALEXA XT)+RED Epic-to-D-Cinema (scope)/c; 2uc: Ernie Clark; filmed 2013-14

 

 TELEVISION

1979

Simon Townsend's Wonder World!/WonderWorld: The Original Series [ep #1 dir by Howard Scrivener] 2,000+ part series, 1979-86; for Network 10

1980

Stages [: Peter Brook and the C.I.C.T. in Australia] [exec prod: Brian Adams] doc/53m/16mm

1984

Bodyline [Carl Schultz (ep #1 & #5-7), Denny Lawrence (ep #2-3), George Ogilvie (ep #2-4) & Lex Marinos (ep #5 & #7)] 7-part miniseries; 2uc; ph: Dean Semler

1984

Winners [ep (48m) 'On Loan' dir by Geoff Bennett] 8-part series/16mm, 1986

1986

Cyclone Tracy [Donald Crombie & Kathy Mueller] 3-part miniseries

1986

Melba [Rodney Fisher] 8-part miniseries; other ph: Dean Semler; in USA 4-part ep of PBS-tv series 'Great Performances' (1989)

1988

The Rainbow Warrior Conspiracy [Chris Thomson] 2-part tvm

1989

How Wonderful! [Lynn Hegarty] tvm/55m

1989

More Winners [ep (48m) 'Mr Edmund' dir by George Whaley] 6-part series

1990

The Saint in Australia/The Saint: Fear in Fun Park [Donald Crombie] tvm

1994

House of Fun [Rebel Penfold-Russell] 13-part children's series, 1994-95; for Network 10

 

 MISCELLANEOUS

1977

The Getting of Wisdom [Bruce Beresford] unit runner; ph: Don McAlpine

1978

Patrick [Richard Franklin] c.asst; ph: Don McAlpine

1981

The Killing of Angel Street [Donald Crombie] clapper-loader; ph: Peter James

1982

Dead Easy [Bert Deling] focus puller; ph: Tom Cowan & Mike Molloy

1982

Now and Forever [Adrian Carr] focus puller; ph: Don McAlpine

1993

Shotgun Wedding [Paul Harmon] thanks to; ph: Kim Batterham