Damián Garcia, the Emmy-nominated cinematographer of Disney+’s Andor, has a great deal of reverence for the work that was done on the critically acclaimed Star Wars series. Here, in an interview with Awards Daily, Garcia describes originally seeing the scope of the script and the world built by series writer / creator Tony Gilroy. He was determined to do justice to Gilroy’s vision. From the intense build-up and battle at the end of the season to the intimate party conversations, Garcia’s skill and detail was on full display in his Emmy-nominated work on the “Rix Road” episode.
Awards Daily: You are nominated for the final episode “Rix Road,” which has that wonderful build-up scene of the funeral procession where we’re also cutting between most of the main cast that we’ve met throughout the show. We know something is going to happen but not exactly certain what. Can you talk about how you did those shots and built that tension?
Damián Garcia: I think the script was such a great blueprint or a map of how everything was happening like a list of events. I think that the challenging part for us was to create that pace and the rhythm of all that flow. When we talked with Ben (Caron), the director, we wanted to have something that could flow throughout that 25 minutes of a big continuous musicality and to keep that place in a build-up towards that climax. We decided to shoot almost all of that with our phones, with just us, the AD and a couple of people. Just to see how it was working with the movement and the pace of the camera. That way we would have time to finesse it and I think it ended up good and worth it.
Awards Daily: After that build-up we get the battle from Maarva’s speech. What was the challenge in keeping track of everything that was happening during that fight?
Damián Garcia: Something that was important to us was that it was a very dirty battle, like a very rough battle. The main reference for Ben and myself that we used was the Gillo Pontecorvo film, The Battle of Algiers. Trying to have that documentary vibe to it, knowing that the camera is always in an awkward place like it is going to be punched by someone. It’s a very rudimentary battle with one side fighting with their fists. The people of Ferrix are in a very desperate battle so we wanted to enhance that with the camera so we shot that in a very grounded and terrestrial way.
Awards Daily: I was curious when the hologram of Maarva is talking, what are the actors looking at?
Damián Garcia: Well, they are looking at a string with a tennis ball. But it required a lot of preparation and a lot of mathematics. The show had the great advantage of Mohen Leo, the visual effects supervisor, who is a genius. The pre-production of those shots was very precise because with a hologram of that size to shoot those plates requires a lot of calculations to make it feel real in the show. The point of view wasn’t that bad because they made a calculation of how big it should be to look good in the center of that square. Then they put up a string with a big tennis ball and that was the point of view of everyone.
Awards Daily: Another episode you shot had my favorite scenes. In episode seven “Announcement,” it happens when Mon Mothma hosts a party, and she starts a conversation with Tay Kolma. We have all these people around and yet we still have this really intense conversation and a kind intimacy. I’m just curious how the crafting of that scene went?
Damián Garcia: That was a very great scene to shoot because it was such a monstrous scene. There were six pages of dialogue for that party and it was the first time shooting in the Embassy, despite that it was episode 7. Ben and I talked and we felt that something to make it feel intimate is to walk with them crossing through the party. We did it with just two shots and it was very choreographed in their movements crossing and sitting down. It was a joy to shoot because that set was beautiful. I really like that scene as well.
Awards Daily: I got to interview Genevieve O’Reilly and she loved that scene too, so I wanted to get more perspective on it.
Damián Garcia: Genevieve is the perfect actress for doing that because she is such a precise actress. I don’t know if you can see it but it was very challenging to shoot. All the camera movements, all the extras, all the creatures, all the outside was LED screens . There were a lot of moving pieces. But it was a cool scene for sure.
Awards Daily: Is there anything I haven’t mentioned, or another part that you just found particularly interesting or challenging in the shoot in Andor?
Damián Garcia: Shooting Andor at all was challenging. When you arrive, you see those sets and that wardrobe. I mean you have to be crazy to not feel like this will be a big challenge. It’s overwhelmingly beautiful because everything was real and everything was there and so beautifully designed and crafted. Shooting and lighting all of that is always a challenge because you want to give justice to great sets and the great script. In episode twelve, the big challenge for me was when you are shooting you can always cut away to a lot of places, but this was like a continuous movement. So keeping it fluid and following the musicality of it was challenging in a good way, and I got to have fun with it.
Awards Daily: Well, it sounds like you will get to continue the fun because IMDb listed that you are doing three episodes in season 2 of Andor. I imagine you can’t tell as much about season two, but is there anything you can tell us? Or what has your experience been like?
Damián Garcia: For sure I can’t say anything in particular. The only thing that I can say is we are already finished except for a tiny piece that we have to do because of the strike of course. But I am very happy with the result and I think that it’s a very good second season. The script was brilliant and is going to be a really nice continuation of season one. I think it’s a very good second season.
Awards Daily: This is your first Emmy nomination and your first time in the Emmy race, so what has that experience been like for you?
Damián Garcia: Well, it’s been and feels great! I mean it was quite a surprise. I was happy for all the recognition that the show is getting. It’s a very special show for me and I enjoyed doing it very much. So if you get recognition for something that you really enjoyed doing it is like getting a double joy. Whatever happens is great, and I’m just happy that a lot of people watched the show and a lot of people really liked it, and that is great.
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