American Cinematographer - July 2015 - 84

In Memoriam
Andrew Lesnie ASC, ACS died from a
heart attack on April 27. He was 59.
Lesnie was born in Sydney, Australia,
in 1956, and he went on to study at Sydney
TAFE and the Australian Film, Television and
Radio School, graduating in 1979. While still
in film school, he began working in
Australia's motion-picture industry, serving
as a runner on Bruce Beresford's The Getting of Wisdom,
then as a camera assistant on
Richard Franklin's Patrick; both
films were shot by Don
McAlpine, ASC, ACS. Lesnie
later assisted cinematographers such as Dean Semler,
ASC, ACS; Peter James, ASC,
ACS; Brian Probyn, BSC, who
taught Lesnie at AFTRS; and
Bill Constable, ACS. He was
also hired by the popular and
irreverent children's television
show Simon Townsend's
Wonder World.
"Andrew and fellow cinematography graduate Steve Newman set up the
production at Wonder World," recalls Steve
Arnold, ACS, who served alongside Lesnie
as one of the show's cinematographers.
"Each crew shot two stories each day: one
in morning and one in afternoon, 400 feet
of 16mm reversal per story. To speed up the
process and add interest to visually bland
stories, Andrew used a 5.7mm Kinoptik lens
- and only this lens - on a handheld
camera. Close-ups of people were
completely distorted, but it was wacky kids
TV, so it was okay. This became a signature
look for the show."
From Wonder World, Lesnie moved
into shooting longer-form projects, such as a
behind-the-scenes documentary for George
Miller's 1981 feature The Road Warrior.
Semler, who served as that production's
director of photography, notes, "I distinctly
remember Byron Kennedy, George Miller's
producing partner, saying, 'This Andrew
Lesnie fellow has something special and will
be a major player one day.'"
84

July 2015

Lesnie then began shooting 2nd unit
on such projects as the Australian miniseries
Bodyline, produced by Kennedy Miller
Productions and again photographed by
Semler. "I was loading for Dean at the time,
and producer George Miller wanted
Andrew to shoot second unit," recalls 1st
AC Colin Deane. "Dean agreed with the

proviso that I be Andrew's focus puller -
and we then made movies together for the
next 35 years." Lesnie and Deane's most
recent collaboration was The Water Diviner,
directed by Russell Crowe. Deane adds, "I
always thought there would be at least one
more, but now that's not to be."
Lesnie also photographed several
shorts, documentaries and low-budget
features during the 1980s, and by the mid'90s he was a regular fixture at the ACS
Awards, where he took home honors for
the features Spider and Rose, Temptation of
a Monk and Babe, and was feted with the
Milli Award - which recognizes the
Australian cinematographer of the year -
in both 1995 and '96. Spider and Rose
teamed Lesnie with director Bill Bennett; the
duo collaborated again on Two If by Sea.
Bennett remembers, "Two If by Sea was
Andrew's first foray into studio production, so he called Dean to ask his advice on
how to handle a studio picture. Dean told
him to ask for three times more gear than
he needed, because no matter what he
asked for, the studio would cut it down.
American Cinematographer

Andrew did as suggested, sure enough the
studio cut it down by two-thirds, and
Andrew ended up with exactly the gear he
needed.
"He was like a puppy dog on set,
bounding around, full of enthusiasm and
energy," Bennett continues. "He was
wonderful with actors - respectful yet surehanded - and they loved him.
Andrew always pushed to make
a shot or a sequence look amazing. He loved a sweeping
camera that used the dynamics
of cinema to full effect. If you
chose Andrew as your cinematographer, it was madness to
shackle him."
Lesnie is perhaps best
known for his long-running
collaboration with New Zealand
director Peter Jackson, which
spanned eight films, including
the Lord of the Rings and
Hobbit trilogies. In an AC interview for The
Fellowship of the Ring (Dec. '01), Lesnie
recalled that at their first meeting, "Peter
was leaning back in a chair with his bare feet
up on the boardroom table. I knew at that
moment we would get on. I like to work
with people who encourage me to take part
in the storytelling; it can do nothing but
encourage you to rise to the occasion."
While discussing the myriad technicalities and logistics of the Lord of the Rings
films with AC, Lesnie always returned to
what he considered the most important
aspect of any project he undertook: the
story. "That's what I love about this trilogy,"
he said. "It's not just one story after another,
after another - they are all inextricably
linked. Trying to bear that out photographically is quite complex; there aren't many
projects that force you to have to rationalize
things as much."
Lesnie was nominated for a BAFTA
Award and received an Academy Award in
2002 for The Fellowship of the Ring.
"Andrew's favorite story about the Academy Award for The Fellowship of the Ring

The Last Airbender photo by Zade Rosenthal, SMPSP, courtesy of Paramount Pictures. I Am Legend photo by Barry Wetcher, SMPSP, courtesy of Warner Bros.
The Return of the King photo courtesy of New Line Cinema.

Andrew Lesnie, ASC, ACS, 1956-2015



Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of American Cinematographer - July 2015

Contents
American Cinematographer - July 2015 - Cover1
American Cinematographer - July 2015 - Cover2
American Cinematographer - July 2015 - 1
American Cinematographer - July 2015 - 2
American Cinematographer - July 2015 - Contents
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