On Monday 27th April, Screen and Film School were delighted to welcome Stephen Mathie for a virtual masterclass with our students, staff, applicants and alumni.

Stephen is best known for his lighting work on 1917, Rocketman, Fantastic Beasts, Tomb Raider, Blade Runner 2049, Gravity, Skyfall, Captain America: The First Avenger plus many more!
Having worked as practically every lighting role imaginable, Stephen discussed the differences between these crucial roles and how they work together with the rest of the crew, as well as gave a detailed insight into the incredible planning that took place when he worked as Chief Lighting Technician for Rocketman. Stephen also discussed his work on the Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them series, and the future-proofing steps that the industry are taking to ensure that blockbusters can still go ahead with the world the way it is at the moment.

Hosted by Screen and Film School’s Industry and Careers Manager, Fiona Adams- we’ve highlighted some of our favourite questions from the masterclass below, as well as the full video!


What scene in 1917 did you enjoy lighting the most? -Luke (current student)

1917 was all shot in available light- literally no lighting- and so the only lighting on 1917 was the French village at the end and that was a build at Shepperton. It was an enormous site and the walk was all worked along this route that was built- probably about a kilometre long. Because the film was all filmed chronologically as well, the walk is literally walking towards the burning church, so the only lighting was this enormous structure of the church which was 2000 PAR bulbs and was built over six floors. The idea was that the structure lit the entire site, so for me it was really fairly simple, but it took about 6 weeks to build- it really was an enormous structure. It was a strange film actually in terms of the lighting. They were very lucky filming at this time of year and needing overcast skies, and they got it. It could never really be in sunlight, it had to be in as flat lighting as possible, but they still managed it- they really were very very lucky. I thought it looked really good.

What advice would you give to filmmakers who want to create high-standard lighting with very small budgets? -Sara (current student)

It’s amazing what you can shape with light if you know your tools. The use of negatives rather than positives on light; it’s amazing what you can do with black materials to shape light, and what you can do to enhance with bounces and that. So much of the lighting on set on a daily basis for me is all those sort of passive controls anyway. It’s very easy to feel like a kid in a sweet shop with lighting and just feel like “Oh gosh, I need to have this, and this, and this,” and yes, they are helpful, but to understand your sources… there’s always a way to do it on a budget. I think it’s once again having the confidence in yourself to just sort of shape things, and to play with all those passive bounces- just whites or sheen silvers- and to look at kicks and understand kick angles, and the spraying down of surfaces so that they attract light more… Whenever we shoot nights we always spray the roads down just so we’re picking up light. It’s just learning to play with all of those very accessible and cheap things out there.

A huge thank you to Stephen for taking the time to speak to us all!