We recently had the pleasure of speaking with Cinematographer Denis Crossan BSC about his experience filming The Love Box In Your Living Room, a new Harry Enfield and Paul Whitehouse 1-hour special celebrating 100 years of the BBC.
Taking inspiration from documentary maker Adam Curtis, Harry Enfield and Paul Whitehouse tell the true story of Britain’s political and social evolution over the last century through the life of the BBC. By turning complete fictions into a staggering array of hard facts, they reveal details about the BBC that have been buried for decades. The Love Box In Your Living Room will air on BBC Two and iPlayer on Thursday 27th October.
Hi Denis. First off, how did you get started in the industry, and what inspired you to become a cinematographer?
I got started in the industry after going to the National Film School in Beaconsfield. I started doing music videos before I finished the course and built up a showreel. My interest in cinematography started when I was a kid. My Dad would take me to the cinema every week and I would watch old movies on TV. I remember watching Cocteau’s ‘Beauty and the Beast’ which amazed me in every way but primarily because of how visually beautiful it looked.
As I got older, I started to realise what was involved to create those images and was influenced by great cinematographers like Vilmos Zsigmund, Gordon Willis and Geoffrey Unsworth.
How did you come to be involved in The Love Box in Your Living Room, and what was it about the project that drew you to become involved?
I wanted to be involved in it because Danny Kleinman was the director. We’ve worked together on many commercials over the years, so I knew it would be interesting. I had also worked with Harry and Paul in the Past on a couple of commercials that Danny had directed, so it was a ‘No Brainer’.
How did you approach creating the look for the show? Did you take any inspiration from previous Harry & Paul sketches?
I didn’t directly although I’m a big fan of their TV and movie sketches. If anyone hasn’t seen them they should check out ‘The Forsyte Saga’ and ‘When Harry met Sally’ along with many others on YouTube.
As the show covers one hundred years of Television and society and had a mixture of archive footage it was necessary to have many different looks which covered the decades from Black and white through to various degrees of full colour. My DIT David Palmer put together a series of LUTS which we applied to various scenes as reference depending on what I was lighting.
Which camera and lenses did you choose to film this project on and why?
I used a couple of Alexa Minis and Cooke S4 Lenses. The lenses are a favourite of mine as I know what I can do with them to get the look I want.
Did you face any challenges while filming, and how were these overcome?
Apart from the usual time and budget restraints the biggest challenge was the amount of sets that had to be lit and shot. We had two stages at Pinewood, both packed with sets some which had to be repurposed for other scenes, so logistically it was just working the best and most efficient way to do that. My Gaffer Dom Seal pre-lit most of the sets to various degrees and added some rigs on sliding tackle to go from one set to the another so that we could move between them as quickly as possible.
How was your experience working with Procam Take 2?
Procam Take 2 were great. They supplied everything I needed and took the time to check that the shoot was going well. I look forward to working with them again.
What advice do you have for the next generation of cinematographers who want to get ahead in the industry?
It’s difficult without spouting off a lot of well-meaning platitudes but get out there and make images collaborating with people that have similar interests. Also, remember you must focus the audience’s attention on what’s important in the frame through lighting and that the visuals have to serve the story to hopefully enhance or heighten the emotion.
When I was younger, I went to the opening of ‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind’ It was a packed cinema and an enormous screen. The lights went down, and John Williams’ music score starts up, a hum that builds louder and louder... It goes on and on, the screen stays dark... on and on building in intensity, then suddenly it reaches a crescendo and on cue, the screen explodes to white.
Every single person in that audience jumped back in their chairs, and from that moment on they were hooked.