Previous (Part One)

Benedict Cumberbatch | “The Great Game” | Sherlock | Hartswood Films

Benedict Cumberbatch | “The Great Game” | Sherlock | Hartswood Films

Commentary - Steve Lawes & Mary Jo Watts
SL: You’ve got the effect of the piece of acrylic to break up the foreground. This is a track side to side, isn’t it? Again, a wide lens so you play with the perspective of the shoe.
Martin Freeman & Mark Gatiss | “The Great Game” | Sherlock | Hartswood Films

Martin Freeman & Mark Gatiss | “The Great Game” | Sherlock | Hartswood Films

Commentary - Steve Lawes & Mary Jo Watts
MJW: Ok, this is Mycroft’s office. It’s not a studio, right?

SL: No, this is a real place. It’s a real place that we had very little time in, if I remember rightly.

Sherlock 1x03 (1762)

Martin Freeman & Mark Gatiss | “The Great Game” | Sherlock | Hartswood Films

Commentary - Steve Lawes & Mary Jo Watts
MJW: The Queen!

SL: You can see practicals lighting the wall, and a bit of real night outside. There’s the backlight on Mycroft, which is also catching John, and then obviously a side light coming in as well. Stuff in the room.

San Shella | “The Great Game” | Sherlock | Hartswood Films

San Shella | “The Great Game” | Sherlock | Hartswood Films

Commentary - Steve Lawes & Mary Jo Watts
MJW: Westy’s flat.

SL: We kept it warm. Trying to make it a bit more interesting.

Benedict Cumberbatch | “The Great Game” | Sherlock | Hartswood Films

Benedict Cumberbatch | “The Great Game” | Sherlock | Hartswood Films

Commentary - Steve Lawes & Mary Jo Watts
SL: It’s one of those situations where you’ve got a practical that you can use in the shot to actually light Benedict, and you get away with it being in the shot because it’s part of the story.

MJW: I like the angularity of it.

SL: It’s great because you have it low enough to cause that shadow across his nose. This shot tracks out from that point, and then Mrs Hudson comes in.

MJW: People have done so much playing around with screenshots, from The Great Game in particular, that sometimes I almost forget we’re talking about a television show!

Benedict Cumberbatch & Martin Freeman | “The Great Game” | Sherlock | Hartswood Films

Benedict Cumberbatch & Martin Freeman | “The Great Game” | Sherlock | Hartswood Films

Commentary - Steve Lawes & Mary Jo Watts
SL: You can see the lamp is lower than it was before. I wanted it in the shot, but I wanted it to look higher, so they can argue with it between them.
Benedict Cumberbatch & Martin Freeman | “The Great Game” | Sherlock | Hartswood Films

Benedict Cumberbatch & Martin Freeman | “The Great Game” | Sherlock | Hartswood Films

Commentary - Steve Lawes & Mary Jo Watts
MJW: The Purple Shirt of Sex, fangirls call it.

SL: (laughing) The Purple Shirt of Sex?

MJW: The Purple Shirt of Sex. Yeah. The neck, the length of the neck. Oodles and oodles have been written about this.

SL: Uh-huh?

MJW: You know, people say, “Oh, well Benedict’s lit in a very feminized way.” What do you think of that?

SL: Yep. If I was ever trying to make somebody look good physically, a man, I would always top light them, because you get shadow from pecs and things like that. So whenever I do a shot of somebody naked boxing, or something like that, it helps if they’re fit anyway, but you can make them look a lot better. It’s the same thing here. Because of the top light, you see the relief down the shirt. You start to see the folds. You get the shape of the shoulders. You get the shape of his neck, you know. I mean, he has got his hand on his hip. I can see the femininity of it.

MJW: This shot has launched thousands of X-rated fan fics!

Benedict Cumberbatch | “The Great Game” | Sherlock | Hartswood Films

Benedict Cumberbatch | “The Great Game” | Sherlock | Hartswood Films

Commentary - Steve Lawes & Mary Jo Watts
SL: Playing around with reflections, getting that double image.

MJW: So where’d the double image idea come from?

SL: It’s just something you sometimes get with certain reflections, and it looks good, so you shoot it. There was no intention to get a double image, but it quite often happens on the bevel of something, or if I use my acrylic.

Benedict Cumberbatch | “The Great Game” | Sherlock | Hartswood Films

Benedict Cumberbatch | “The Great Game” | Sherlock | Hartswood Films

Commentary - Steve Lawes & Mary Jo Watts
MJW: This is a bit different. He’s pinker.

SL: The pink is put there in post. Charlie Phillips, the editor, has taken Benedict’s close-up, and he’s almost vignetteed it with another frame. See the vignette going over his hand on the right? And then you see the same coming around on in the left. It’s almost like a split dioptre shot that Charlie’s done.

Martin Freeman & Benedict Cumberbatch | "The Great Game" | Sherlock | Hartswood Films

Martin Freeman & Benedict Cumberbatch | “The Great Game” | Sherlock | Hartswood Films

Commentary - Steve Lawes & Mary Jo Watts
SL: We used a long telephoto lens, where you get that real flattening-out of perspective. You’ve got the police sign in the foreground, then the police line and that background. It has a wonderful effect because you’ve got all this business going on, all this color and shape. You’re really only looking at Benedict and Martin, but you’re telling so much more story in the frame at the same time.

Steve Lawes on the Dolly | Behind the Scenes of "The Great Game" | Sherlock | Hartswood Films

Steve Lawes on the Dolly | Behind the Scenes of “The Great Game” | Sherlock | Hartswood Films

Benedict Cumberbatch | “The Great Game” | Sherlock | Hartswood Films

Benedict Cumberbatch | “The Great Game” | Sherlock | Hartswood Films

Commentary - Steve Lawes & Mary Jo Watts
SL: That’s one of my favorite frames there. It was probably prompted after being in there and getting bored and kind of going, “Well, I want to mix it up now. I want to get a different frame when I get an angle on him.” It works very well.

MJW: I love how he can be so small, like in these labs you’ve got him so tiny in the frame, but he just commands the whole shebang.

Rupert Graves, Benedict Cumberbatch & Martin Freeman | “The Great Game” | Sherlock | Hartswood Films

Rupert Graves, Benedict Cumberbatch & Martin Freeman | “The Great Game” | Sherlock | Hartswood Films

Commentary - Steve Lawes & Mary Jo Watts
MJW: Lestrade with the car.

SL: It was Arwel’s idea to put the plastic up. And I talked about putting those fluorescent practical lights in because we could see them in shot, and then I’ve also got a light above the car that was kicking on the windscreen, to give us that shape.

MJW: It’s got a bit of a blue cast.

SL: Yeah, I decided to keep it cooler.

“The Great Game” | Sherlock | Hartswood Films

“The Great Game” | Sherlock | Hartswood Films

Commentary - Steve Lawes & Mary Jo Watts
SL: This is where the lights go out. It was luck, more than anything. When we were filming in there, I asked Llyr, the gaffer , to find out how we could switch the lights on and off. Quite often when you go into a place like this, there’s a bank of light switches, and you don’t know what’s gonna come on when you flip a particular switch. But we worked out there were four switches that controlled these lights. So we rehearsed cueing the crew by radio to shut the light banks off one by one as Benedict and Martin walked under them and away from the boom, boom, boom, boom. It took a couple of takes to get it right.

And there’s a wet down in there, to get the kick on the floor.

“The Great Game” | Sherlock | Hartswood Films

“The Great Game” | Sherlock | Hartswood Films

Commentary - Steve Lawes & Mary Jo Watts
MJW: This is a top shot of the desk. It really gives you a sense of the character because it’s just so well-dressed.

SL: It’s nice to do a frame where you can set things up, put stuff in there and play around. From my point of view, lighting-wise, it’s just a practical on a desk. But you’ve got the contrast of the screen with everything else. I’ve spent a lot of time in the past trying to get the blue out of computer screens, because they tend to be daylight-balanced. But then I quite like it being slightly different.

Benedict Cumberbatch | “The Great Game” | Sherlock | Hartswood Films

Benedict Cumberbatch | “The Great Game” | Sherlock | Hartswood Films

Commentary - Steve Lawes & Mary Jo Watts

SL: There’s a key light and then a 3/4 backlight on Benedict to get that shape on his face, and to get that relief on his costume. That sort of lighting works very well on him.

“The Great Game” | Sherlock | Hartswood Films

“The Great Game” | Sherlock | Hartswood Films

Commentary - Steve Lawes & Mary Jo Watts
MJW: The title sequence.

SL: We got access to the top of a building to get a shot of Piccadilly Circus. It’s amazing how much light comes off those screens.

Shots from the Sherlock Title Sequence

There was a film called The Sandpit, which is a time-lapse tilt and shift film of New York, which we saw as a reference before we started shooting. It was a big influence.

Some of the tilt and shift we did with a Lensbaby, some of it we did in camera, and then I think on other frames they just added the effect in post.

Benedict Cumberbatch | "The Great Game" | Sherlock | Hartswood Films

Benedict Cumberbatch | “The Great Game” | Sherlock | Hartswood Films

Commentary - Steve Lawes & Mary Jo Watts

SL: The café, which I didn’t do anything with. I shot available light. I think on their close-ups I might have used a little bit of it, but I really wanted to keep it at the green. I kind of liked the bleakness of it.

“The Great Game” | Sherlock | Hartswood Films

“The Great Game” | Sherlock | Hartswood Films

Commentary - Steve Lawes & Mary Jo Watts
MJW: The old lady.

SL: That was a very difficult shot for the focus puller. The closer you are, the shallower the depth of field gets, so when you’re six feet away, you probably have, say, you might have that much that’s gonna be in sharp. And it always works on there’s a third behind and two-thirds in front sharp. Or it might be the other way around. But it’s a third one way, and two-thirds. So it’s six feet, there might be that much sharp. Three feet, there’s probably that much. 1’5″, that much. So when you get into this sort of close-up, as you can see, her eye look at how out of focus her other eyebrow is. And then the ear is sharp with the eye because it’s on the same plane of focus, but the distance between her two eyes, which is, what, two, two-and-a-half inches? That’s, you know. So she’s moving, camera’s moving, it’s really hard work.

Benedict Cumberbatch & Martin Freeman | “The Great Game” | Sherlock | Hartswood Films

Benedict Cumberbatch & Martin Freeman | “The Great Game” | Sherlock | Hartswood Films

Commentary - Steve Lawes & Mary Jo Watts
MJW: This is available light?

SL: Yeah. If anything, I’ve switched off some bulbs. I still use flags and things like that to shape the light, but it’s available light.

Benedict Cumberbatch | “The Great Game” | Sherlock | Hartswood Films

Benedict Cumberbatch | “The Great Game” | Sherlock | Hartswood Films

Commentary - Steve Lawes & Mary Jo Watts
MJW: This is from the corpse’s point of view.

SL: This is all available light here, apart from the side light you see on him. I really hated this mortuary when we first went in there. Look how bright the background is! I wanted to build little boxes round the lights on the ceiling to make the light more directional, to aim it down. Paul completely overruled me. He didn’t want anything on the ceiling.

I would much rather have kept the light off the background. I mean, the light is designed to go everywhere because it’s a hospital building, but the problem is that it’s very difficult for you to get light on the actors and not everything else.

MJW: So you were stuck with it. But it’s OK.

SL: It works on a shot like that because you see them and their shape, but it was quite difficult to deal with the amount of light that was banging around in there. The only way I could do it was, like in this shot, to add more light to Benedict, to his face, and then try and reduce the amount that’s on his coat. So at least there are pieces of black, or dark bits, in the frame.

Rupert Graves & Benedict Cumberbatch | “The Great Game” | Sherlock | Hartswood Films

Rupert Graves & Benedict Cumberbatch | “The Great Game” | Sherlock | Hartswood Films

Commentary - Steve Lawes & Mary Jo Watts

SL: Just before this, we did the shot behind them and established the frame.

Benedict Cumberbatch & Rupert Graves | The Great Game | Sherlock | Hartswood Films

Benedict Cumberbatch & Rupert Graves | The Great Game | Sherlock | Hartswood Films

When setting up frames, I used to set up a camera at the beginning of the rehearsal, and put a wide lens on it. I did that in the gallery, when Sherlock’s looking at the Vermeer, which was shot earlier than this one.

Paul needed to see it before he could visualize it in his head, so the actors rehearsed it and then played it to or rather just above the camera because when you break the fourth wall, it feels very strange. And it just worked. Paul was like, “I love that.” So that led us to do this shot in 221b. We took the wall out, and put the camera there, and the viewer becomes the wall. Rather than having to sit behind them and look at what they’re looking at, then go on a close-up of them, we get to see them as they’re talking.

MJW: And it just looks great.

Benedict Cumberbatch | “The Great Game” | Sherlock | Hartswood Films

Benedict Cumberbatch | “The Great Game” | Sherlock | Hartswood Films

Commentary - Steve Lawes & Mary Jo Watts
MJW: Those buttons are always under so much pressure.

SL: Yep. Again, just a bit of backlight.

“The Great Game” | Sherlock | Hartswood Films

“The Great Game” | Sherlock | Hartswood Films

Commentary - Steve Lawes & Mary Jo Watts
MJW: This is Connie Prince’s brother’s house.

SL: We were shooting that on the first day. I hated this place. It was ghastly to look at, but that was fitting. There’s light coming and hitting the sofa, but you can see how bright it is in there. And it’s very difficult to get contrast in that frame.

Benedict Cumberbatch, Una Stubbs & Rupert Graves | “The Great Game” | Sherlock | Hartswood Films

Benedict Cumberbatch, Una Stubbs & Rupert Graves | “The Great Game” | Sherlock | Hartswood Films

Commentary - Steve Lawes & Mary Jo Watts
MJW: I just, I love this scene. I love when she starts talking to him about the cerise:
“Drains me.”

SL: What’s nice about this is that you get them foreground, and you’ve got all that texture in the background. You’ve got the window. You’ve got the kitchen. The biggest issue with this is the mirror in the background.

MJW: What did you do?

SL: It has bevelled edges on it, so we used to call it the all-seeing eye. It’s basically tilted at quite an angle so that you’re seeing off the set, but you’re not seeing the camera. Every time we shot this way, there would always be a reflection to get rid of.

Martin Freeman & John Sessions | “The Great Game” | Sherlock | Hartswood Films

Martin Freeman & John Sessions | “The Great Game” | Sherlock | Hartswood Films

Commentary - Steve Lawes & Mary Jo Watts
SL: Again, we’ve got quite wide lenses.
Benedict Cumberbatch & Martin Freeman | “The Great Game” | Sherlock | Hartswood Films

Benedict Cumberbatch & Martin Freeman | “The Great Game” | Sherlock | Hartswood Films

Commentary - Steve Lawes & Mary Jo Watts
MJW: OK, so this is outside.

SL: A Steadicam shot.

MJW: Talk to me a little bit about Steadicam. The Steadicam’s got a different operator, right? It’s a specialised thing.

SL: Yeah, Steadicam is a specialised skill. You don’t generally get owner-operators who own the Steadicam rig. Either your B camera operator is a Steadicam operator who does it when you need it if the production will pay for it, or you get a nominated amount of Steadicam days in a production.

Out of a 22- to 24-day shoot, we probably had Steadicam for about four to five days. You tend to use it for the shots that you couldn’t get any other way. I don’t like using Steadicam, and if you can do a shot on a track, then do a shot on the track. It wouldn’t work on a shot like this because you’d see the track, and your actors would be walking all over it.

If you were doing a side angle of them, walking along, then you could do it on a track, but when you’re doing a lead, which this is, you really need to use a Steadicam. You could do it handheld, but that would be messy because you’re walking backwards, so the camera’s gonna nod.

You’d try to schedule it so you have the most economic use of Steadicam, shooting one main scene on a given day and then using it for another if it was suitable. But Steadicam’s never quicker, which is a fatal mistake that people make. They say, “Oh, it’ll be quicker if we do it on Steadicam.” It never is.

It’s always interesting when you use Steadicam operators because obviously it means someone else is establishing the frame. There are a lot of good Steadicam operators who do different styles of framing. They’re worrying about trying to keep people in the frame most of the time, while carrying this very heavy piece of kit and sometimes walking backwards. So there’s enormous skill involved. Obviously it puts a bit more pressure on the performers— because it’s a long take.

We wanted this scene to be a one-shot, and I can’t remember if the operator cuts into it or not. I think he does when they walk away.

Benedict Cumberbatch | “The Great Game” | Sherlock | Hartswood Films

Benedict Cumberbatch | “The Great Game” | Sherlock | Hartswood Films

Commentary - Steve Lawes & Mary Jo Watts
SL: The police station. Again, the ping in the eye.

MJW: It’s everything.

SL: It is. You’ve actually got the iris of his eye here – it looks like his pupil is really dilated. And you’ve also got out-of-focus bits in the background, and a 3/4 backlight on Benedict to get that rim light on him, and a little bit of top light to pick up on his hand. He’s almost like a panther here.

Benedict Cumberbatch & Martin Freeman | “The Great Game” | Sherlock | Hartswood Films

Benedict Cumberbatch & Martin Freeman | “The Great Game” | Sherlock | Hartswood Films

Commentary - Steve Lawes & Mary Jo Watts

MJW: I like this one. Watching television.

SL: This is about trying to achieve different times of the same day. It’s easy to light a set and think you’ve got it right and then leave it like that for every interior day scene, but I’m a great believer in the idea that the environment should look different over different days. You want it to feel like the sun’s in different positions. This is meant to feel like late afternoon.

I spend a lot of time looking at the time of day in the script and thinking about what scene we’re going to next.

Benedict Cumberbatch & Martin Freeman | “The Great Game” | Sherlock | Hartswood Films

Benedict Cumberbatch & Martin Freeman | “The Great Game” | Sherlock | Hartswood Films

Commentary - Steve Lawes & Mary Jo Watts
SL: This is one of my favorite frames from this episode. This is what I spend my life trying to do! I look at that now, and I believe that’s real sunlight coming through the window. The late afternoon sun’s coming in, hitting a few different things, giving you that highlight. It’s bright enough to feel like sun without being over the top. But what’s important is that everything else is balanced in the frame, like the background, the practicals, the light behind Benedict’s head, the bit of wallpaper, the blue on the floor. And that’s in a shed in south Wales. It’s a studio.

MJW: I don’t believe you when you say that. It’s so real to me. Then I see pictures of the studio, and it’s a complete disconnect for me.

SL: If I get it right, then you don’t think that’s a studio. You think that’s a real building.

Martin Freeman | “The Great Game” | Sherlock | Hartswood Films

Martin Freeman | “The Great Game” | Sherlock | Hartswood Films

Commentary - Steve Lawes & Mary Jo Watts
MJW: Good shot of Martin.

SL: Good shot of Martin. We did lots of low angles where you do see the ceiling. Again, you’ve got an out-of-focus light in the background. It creates a balance of shape. The frame works.

The Great Game” | Sherlock | Hartswood Films

The Great Game” | Sherlock | Hartswood Films

Commentary - Steve Lawes & Mary Jo Watts
MJW: This is the time-lapse thing.

SL: We had very little time on this embankment because the Thames goes in and out very quickly. Paul wanted a time-lapse, so I suggested that we get down there half an hour early, set the camera up in a position and run it for around about 35 minutes. We ran a whole tape, which is this shot.

MJW: And then it takes you a long time while you’re watching the pretty scenery to figure out that there’s a dead body on the beach!

Benedict Cumberbatch | “The Great Game” | Sherlock | Hartswood Films

Benedict Cumberbatch | “The Great Game” | Sherlock | Hartswood Films

Commentary - Steve Lawes & Mary Jo Watts
SL: Apart from the low angle moments, we had Steadicam here because it’s much easier than laying a track on a pebbly beach. Also, we we wanted to have fluidity of movement for this scene. Vince McGann, the Steadicam operator who did this, is my number one choice, but he’s never available anymore because he does all the big films. But he’s got a great eye and can take an idea and make it better.

We talked about wanting to just continually move around them, but obviously there’s the dialogue to consider, and it’s like a piece of music. There really is a sort of chorus and middle eight, and all that sort of thing. We choreographed it as much as we could in the very little time that we had.

The close-ups, the stuff with the body, are all done with the stills. The shots looking up at Sherlock were done high up on the beach because the water had come in. And the camera’s on the deck as if it was the body, and Benedict just plays everything to the lens.

MJW: That’s so cool.

SL: The other shots of the body were done up on the deck. Then all the stills were put together.

Benedict Cumberbatch | “The Great Game” | Sherlock | Hartswood Films

Benedict Cumberbatch | “The Great Game” | Sherlock | Hartswood Films

Commentary - Steve Lawes & Mary Jo Watts

MJW: So whose idea was it to do the thing with the lens?

SL: It was just something that Benedict and I got to play around with. Quite often if I’m doing something like this, I will put a monitor beside the camera so the actor can see what they’re doing and play around as they’re doing it.

Rupert Graves & Benedict Cumberbatch | “The Great Game” | Sherlock | Hartswood Films

Rupert Graves & Benedict Cumberbatch | “The Great Game” | Sherlock | Hartswood Films

Commentary - Steve Lawes & Mary Jo Watts
SL: I definitely see Charlie made the most of the flare in post. This is, like, a nine-minute scene. And it just flows. It works. It always feels like the camera’s on the right thing. This is exactly what they do in Birdman, where they get it right for an hour and a half.
Benedict Cumberbatch | “The Great Game” | Sherlock | Hartswood Films

Benedict Cumberbatch | “The Great Game” | Sherlock | Hartswood Films

Commentary - Steve Lawes & Mary Jo Watts
SL: That’s the same camera, on the deck. We’re playing around here, going “OK, Benedict, you just have a bit of fun.” And I’m probably saying “Why don’t you stand there when…” And he’s probably come close to the lens and I’ve said “Actually that looks interesting, so why don’t you come really close?”
Benedict Cumberbatch | “The Great Game” | Sherlock | Hartswood Films

Benedict Cumberbatch | “The Great Game” | Sherlock | Hartswood Films

Commentary - Steve Lawes & Mary Jo Watts
MJW: More cab. That’s a really cool frame.

SL: Shot in the mirror. Again, it’s kind of a cheat because you’re moving the mirror to get the shot. But the mirror’s not perfect, the texture is slightly degraded, and the contrast is lower. It almost looks like it’s superimposed in there, you know?

The other thing that works is that Benedict’s sharp and the wall’s sharp, but the mirror image behind him is in soft focus because of its distance from the camera.

“The Great Game” | Sherlock | Hartswood Films

“The Great Game” | Sherlock | Hartswood Films

Commentary - Steve Lawes & Mary Jo Watts

SL: Obviously this has an influence behind it. I liked the idea of the light coming from one place – Vermeers are basically about single-source lighting. But with a single source, it’s very difficult because a lot of time the light doesn’t go everywhere you want it to go. In this case, the location is a real house with a cherry picker outside the window. If you go with that approach, you need to accept there are places on the set where the actor’s going to be in the dark if he walks over there, blah blah.

You’re walking the line between being brave and being stupid. It’s the difference between television and cinema – not so much now, because television has become very cinematic. And it can get the producer shouting at you because they think it’s too dark, but hey.

MJW: This is why we’re sat here right now, doing this interview. I just saw this scene, and I was like, “Whoa! I have to talk to the guy who lit this.”

Martin Freeman | “The Great Game” | Sherlock | Hartswood Films

Martin Freeman | “The Great Game” | Sherlock | Hartswood Films

Commentary - Steve Lawes & Mary Jo Watts
MJW: I love the texture in this frame.

SL: There you’ve got a natural reflection off the bed. You’ve got the reflection in the mirror. You’ve got a natural reflection off the bed, bouncing towards Martin’s face.

“The Great Game” | Sherlock | Hartswood Films

“The Great Game” | Sherlock | Hartswood Films

Commentary - Steve Lawes & Mary Jo Watts
SL: This is another killer environment.

MJW: This is phenomenal. What did you do with it?

SL: It’s all white, for a start. It’s got loads of fluorescent fittings, which are difficult to work with. Above the white wall where the Vermeer is, there’s a piece of wood that’s hiding lights. You can just see a little bit of them. I put them there so I could light that panel. I switched off the main lights in the middle section, so only the outside lights were working, so you get that dark environment there and obviously the floor. We used a very wide lens, quite close to the floor, to get that feeling. I’d like the walls at the sides to be darker – then it would almost be like a spaceship launch tube.

There’s also a vignette on it. There’s a grad on the bottom and a grad on the top to make it darker there. And then you’re working on getting the actors to be silhouetted against that white bit. I was working hard to get the white to be even, with a bit more light on the Vermeer.

Haydn Gwynne | “The Great Game” | Sherlock | Hartswood Films

Haydn Gwynne | “The Great Game” | Sherlock | Hartswood Films

Commentary - Steve Lawes & Mary Jo Watts
SL: I talked to Arwel about the text, and he suggested projecting it instead of having a big painted sign. The ‘I-Meer” thing is made out of polystyrene. And then the ‘Hickman Gallery’ is a projection.

MJW: That just looks great. Nice bit of costume, her costume’s great. With the red shoes.

SL: Very good, yeah.

“The Great Game” | Sherlock | Hartswood Films

“The Great Game” | Sherlock | Hartswood Films

Commentary - Steve Lawes & Mary Jo Watts
SL: That’s the roof of a car; I don’t remember which one. I remember when we were doing a rehearsal, standing by it and seeing this striking reflection, because of the amount of sunlight, and wanting to set a shot up there.
“The Great Game” | Sherlock | Hartswood Films

“The Great Game” | Sherlock | Hartswood Films

Commentary - Steve Lawes & Mary Jo Watts
MJW: The stars!

SL: They were put in in post. The shot is a real handheld shot that I did, where we were doing the stuff with the Golem.

“The Great Game” | Sherlock | Hartswood Films

“The Great Game” | Sherlock | Hartswood Films

Commentary - Steve Lawes & Mary Jo Watts
MJW: There’s your trademark lavender!

SL: That’s a generator to get a bit of shape on the background. I’ve got a side light on those stairs, I’ve got a little bit of light hitting those doors there. I’ve obviously got the light of the taxi. I’ve got a wet down going on.

MJW: Why Lavender?

SL: We wanted to create a Victoriana kind of feeling. I don’t know why I thought that lavender specifically would do that, but I thought it would be very interesting to create contrast with washes of colors onto buildings. Because if you take that lavender out of the equation you end up with reality, an almost documentary style reality of London. So by introducing that color you then heighten the situation slightly. You make it slightly theatrical without people going, ‘Why is there lavender in the background?’

Lavender Kicks in Sherlock

SL: It’s about creating contrast through color. If you look at any of Chris Menges’s films then you’ll understand what “contrast through color” is. You take a standard environment and introduce color into it that you wouldn’t normally see. Suddenly the color changes the amount of contrast in the frame.

Chris Menges’s Use of Color
“The Great Game” | Sherlock | Hartswood Films

“The Great Game” | Sherlock | Hartswood Films

Commentary - Steve Lawes & Mary Jo Watts
MJW: Dun dun dun!

SL: This was, again, a wet down. And a case of using the practicals that were in there. I might have put those practicals in, actually. But the lights in there, in the arches, were either already there or I had them put in to create that shape.

MJW: Was this intentionally an homage to The Third Man?

SL: Not intentionally, no.

Benedict Cumberbatch & Martin Freeman | “The Great Game” | Sherlock | Hartswood Films

Benedict Cumberbatch & Martin Freeman | “The Great Game” | Sherlock | Hartswood Films

Commentary - Steve Lawes & Mary Jo Watts

SL: Again, I like the idea of it just being dark. You want it mostly dark, other than seeing them, seeing what they see with their torches.

Benedict Cumberbatch & Martin Freeman | “The Great Game” | Sherlock | Hartswood Films

Benedict Cumberbatch & Martin Freeman | “The Great Game” | Sherlock | Hartswood Films

Commentary - Steve Lawes & Mary Jo Watts
MJW: This is also very famous frame because the ‘Fire exit’ sign and the Golem match each other. Was that on purpose?

SL: No, that wasn’t on purpose. That’s the first time I’ve ever noticed that. That was kismet.

MJW: Come on! I don’t believe you! Maybe it was put on the wall in post.

“The Great Game” | Sherlock | Hartswood Films

“The Great Game” | Sherlock | Hartswood Films

Commentary - Steve Lawes & Mary Jo Watts
MJW: The planetarium scene.

SL: This is actually just a lecture theatre in Cardiff University. We had to project onto the screen, so I also asked for a projector and some strobe lights, and for some other lights to be brought in so that we could create this.

Madame Tussauds in London used to be the London Planetarium, and I went there when I was a kid and fell in love with the place. I can never get over the projector that they had in the middle of the room. It looked like an ant – a really interesting mechanical device.

MJW: It’s a Zeiss projector.

“The Great Game” | Sherlock | Hartswood Films

“The Great Game” | Sherlock | Hartswood Films

Commentary - Steve Lawes & Mary Jo Watts
SL: Mine and Mark Gatiss’s love of horror was kind of prominent in a lot of this, I think. That Hammer House of Horror era of horror films. Salem’s Lot.

Salem's Lot (1979)

Salem’s Lot (1979)

My main reference for Golem was Nosferatu.

Benedict Cumberbatch & Martin Freeman | “The Great Game” | Sherlock | Hartswood Films

Benedict Cumberbatch & Martin Freeman | “The Great Game” | Sherlock | Hartswood Films

Commentary - Steve Lawes & Mary Jo Watts
MJW: Did you see the German silent film The Golem: How He Came into the World? There’s a scene that’s just like this, with an astronomer looking through a telescope at a Neptune. The director, Paul Wegener, hand tinted it. Was this scene intentionally inspired by it?

SL: I mean parts of it were. I definitely saw the film when I was younger. It wasn’t something we talked about majorly.

From The Golem: How He Came into the World
'The Great Game' vs. the Hand Tinted Silent Film, 'The Golem'
John Lebar | “The Great Game” | Sherlock | Hartswood Films

John Lebar | “The Great Game” | Sherlock | Hartswood Films

Commentary - Steve Lawes & Mary Jo Watts

MJW: Lots of fans think it’s a kid fighting the Golem.

SL: No, that’s really Benedict, or probably Benedict’s stand-in, who’s the same height. The Golem, John Lebar, is fucking huge. I am 6’1″, nearly 6’2″, and I was bending my neck to see him. He’s not wearing platform shoes or anything.

There’s a bit of atmos in the air, a bit of light coming from the side, which you can see is being picked up. You can see what the uncoated lenses do. They create these wonderful flares.

We shot the fight scene in an hour. We spent so much time getting the set-up right in the morning we then had to play catch-up in the afternoon.

Benedict Cumberbatch & John Lebar | “The Great Game” | Sherlock | Hartswood Films

Benedict Cumberbatch & John Lebar | “The Great Game” | Sherlock | Hartswood Films

Commentary - Steve Lawes & Mary Jo Watts

MJW: There’s projector on Benedict’s face, right?

SL: Yeah, a projector on the face and flare in the lens.

I wanted to use the projection to mask what was going on and to create this sense of danger. We came up with the idea of using uncoated lenses so that, when we did get to see the projector or a light source in the shot, we’d get these spherical flares.

I suggested that we have this projection of the documentary on the screen and then when we get into the fight with The Golem we’d use the projector both as a light source and to create this cacophony of color and contrast. I got the art department to get me another projector which I could use hand held. We talked about things like timing, like getting the explosion at the end of the film to go off at the same time as the gunshot.

It’s a very good bit of editing from Charlie Phillips.

I actually did a show before, “Place of Execution,” where we used a projector with a half silvered mirror which allows some light to travel through and some light to travel back to reflect back on an actor’s face. It was a wonderful aesthetic.

From Place of Execution

MJW: So did the colorist alter this in any way, or are we looking at the actual color of the flare?

SL: No, the flares are that color because it’s what the projector’s projecting. That’s why it’s so organic. It’s not like you’ve just got one color. You’re projecting different colors, so you’re gonna get that dramatic effect.

Benedict Cumberbatch & Haydn Gwynne | “The Great Game” | Sherlock | Hartswood Films

Benedict Cumberbatch & Haydn Gwynne | “The Great Game” | Sherlock | Hartswood Films

Commentary - Steve Lawes & Mary Jo Watts
MJW: This is magical. I like the focus pulling in this scene.

SL: The reason why this is one was shot is because we didn’t have time.

MJW: No!

SL: It’s primarily driven by the fact that we didn’t have time to cover the scene properly. So I came up with this shot that worked in terms of telling the story with one frame, but with focus pulling.

MJW: This shot is amazing.

SL: It’s one of my favorites. I love it. The pulls are good and right. It just works. And it’s a great example of how, as I’ve said before, sometimes when your hand is forced because of time pressure, you then create something that is better. Because this is better than shooting three close-ups.

MJW: Absolutely! And the way they’ve got it timed. I mean, when she turns her eyes to him, and he rolls his, and the focus goes like a tennis ball.

SL: It’s great.

“The Great Game” | Sherlock | Hartswood Films

“The Great Game” | Sherlock | Hartswood Films

Commentary - Steve Lawes & Mary Jo Watts

MJW: Outside on the tracks. The coloring is interesting.

SL: There’s a grad on the sky. We pulled it down a bit to get more indigo and blue in. There’s a lot to do with the way a Sony F35 records exterior day. It almost has a Kodachrome kind of feel to it.

MJW: Did you choose the camera, or did Production?

SL: I chose it. It was the best camera available at the time. I prefer the Arri Alexa, which I used on Series Three, but it wasn’t available then.

Benedict Cumberbatch | “The Great Game” | Sherlock | Hartswood Films

Benedict Cumberbatch | “The Great Game” | Sherlock | Hartswood Films

Commentary - Steve Lawes & Mary Jo Watts

MJW: This flat.

SL: We decorated this flat, which was good. Part of the problem is the outside. It obviously isn’t right next to the railway, so we couldn’t look outside too much. I decided to put the net on the window and burn the outside of it more, so you didn’t see anything that didn’t work outside there.

I used to do rehearsals with my iPhone. I’d record the rehearsal to show it to Paul, as sometimes he’d need to see what I was talking about before he could get the look into his head. I’ve got the original iPhone shot of when they walk into this flat. They’ve got their costume coats on, stuff like that.

Rehearsal Still from "The Great Game" | Sherlock | Photo by Steve Lawes

Rehearsal Still from “The Great Game” | Sherlock | Photo by Steve Lawes

Benedict Cumberbatch | “The Great Game” | Sherlock | Hartswood Films

Benedict Cumberbatch | “The Great Game” | Sherlock | Hartswood Films

Commentary - Steve Lawes & Mary Jo Watts

SL: That’s actually shot from outside looking in. So you can see a bit of a reflection.

I’ve created that milky shape on the right of the frame with a flag. I could have used a flag on the whole frame to get rid of all the milky part completely, and then you would just see the net curtain. But it’s just nice to have a bit of reflection there because it creates depth.

MJW: Absolutely. It makes the frame more interesting.

Benedict Cumberbatch | “The Great Game” | Sherlock | Hartswood Films

Benedict Cumberbatch | “The Great Game” | Sherlock | Hartswood Films

Commentary - Steve Lawes & Mary Jo Watts

MJW: I love this.

SL: That really happened. It’s a macro shot. The magnifying glass is resting on top of a radiator, with the windowsill behind it. Benedict was looking at something. Because he’s lit from the window, then you get this frame with the concave and convex reflection. A lot of the time you see those little things, but then you don’t take the time to put the macro on and get it.

Doug Allen | “The Great Game” | Sherlock | Hartswood Films

Doug Allen | “The Great Game” | Sherlock | Hartswood Films

Commentary - Steve Lawes & Mary Jo Watts
MJW: The murderer.

SL: Yeah. Close and wide, to be in his face a bit.

Doug Allen | “The Great Game” | Sherlock | Hartswood Films

Doug Allen | “The Great Game” | Sherlock | Hartswood Films

Commentary - Steve Lawes & Mary Jo Watts

MJW: I love this scene.

SL: I’ve shot a lot of disco scenes in my life, being a man who likes a bit of dance music, but I always feel that dance scenes are over lit and too bright. I have a general rule when I shoot bar or nightclub scenes, which is to make sure all my lamps have color on them. Never use a tungsten lamp, and never use a correctly-balanced lamp. Obviously it depends on what sort of bar you’re trying to depict, but I think of bars as dark, with colors and shapes and glimpses of things rather than seeing everything. So that’s what prompted me to do this.

Doug Allen | “The Great Game” | Sherlock | Hartswood Films

Doug Allen | “The Great Game” | Sherlock | Hartswood Films

Commentary - Steve Lawes & Mary Jo Watts
MJW: How is this look even possible?

SL: Charlie’s done a double image in post. If you see the original frame, he’s keyed into a bit of that and then enlarged it and drifted it across.

MJW: Like John Pinkerton did with the skull on the wall in 221b.

SL: Yeah. Exactly.

Benedict Cumberbatch | “The Great Game” | Sherlock | Hartswood Films

Benedict Cumberbatch | “The Great Game” | Sherlock | Hartswood Films

Commentary - Steve Lawes & Mary Jo Watts
MJW: We’re back inside, and it’s dark now. With the boards. Looks like it’s the evening.

SL: Some practicals are on, and there’s a bit of sodium outside. You can see the blueness of the TV.

MJW: Is that a real TV?

SL: No, it’s just simulated. Often we’ll have somebody dancing their fingers in front of the light to make it look like the picture is flickering.

“The Great Game” | Sherlock | Hartswood Films

“The Great Game” | Sherlock | Hartswood Films

Commentary - Steve Lawes & Mary Jo Watts

MJW: The pool scene.

SL: I liked the idea of having the water be a feature rather than just sucking up the light.

One of my main references for lighting the water was Three Colors: Blue.

Juliette Binoche | Three Colors: Blue

Juliette Binoche | Three Colors: Blue

It’s actually quite difficult working by a swimming pool because you can’t physically put anything where the water is. You can’t put normal lights there because of electricity. Normally you can put a light to the side of the subject, but when you’re working next to a body of water it writes off that whole area. You either have to be there, or you have to be the other side of the water. It’s quite testing.

I had underwater lights put in in every corner so that you get that effect from the water, rather than the water becoming dull. The lamp and the cable in the pool are called a HydroPar. It’s like a normal lamp but waterproof.

Bristol South Swimming Pool, Lightened Screencap Illustrating the Vaulted Ceiling | "The Great Game" | Sherlock

Bristol South Swimming Pool, Lightened Screencap Illustrating the Vaulted Ceiling | “The Great Game” | Sherlock

I’d lit the whole pool, and then Paul had turned round and said that he wanted the whole of the top bit to be darker because that’s where the snipers were gonna be. So I ended up switching a whole lot of things off.

Obviously you’ve got the fluorescent lights by the changing rooms, and you’ve got the different colors of the curtains. I liked the exit signs and the colors.

We created that environment, then it sort of just went on from there.

Andrew Scott | “The Great Game” | Sherlock | Hartswood Films

Andrew Scott | “The Great Game” | Sherlock | Hartswood Films

Commentary - Steve Lawes & Mary Jo Watts

MJW: Andrew.

SL: The first take he did of this; he was so out there. By about the third take, I was sold on it, but the first time he did it, I thought it was like a really overplayed version of Graham Norton. Just because you had no idea what he was gonna do or that he was gonna be as big as he was.

MJW: It’s over the top, but it worked!

SL: It works, very much so.

Andrew Scott | “The Great Game” | Sherlock | Hartswood Films

Andrew Scott | “The Great Game” | Sherlock | Hartswood Films

Commentary - Steve Lawes & Mary Jo Watts
MJW: Was it kismet again, with that “deep end’ sign?

SL: Yep. It was already at the location. We’re at the deep end. We shot some pickups for this in the location from A Study in Pink, where the taxi driver takes Sherlock. We shot the close-ups of Martin looking towards Benedict.

MJW: In A Scandal in Belgravia, when Paul and Fabian Wagner came back to continue this scene after the Series One cliffhanger, they change the color of curtain behind Martin continuously.

SL: They had to go back and re-matte all of that.

How do you think they’re gonna bring Moriarty back in Series Four, then?

MJW: (gives the great fandom sigh) They can’t, he’s dead.

SL: He blew his head off.

MJW: Do you know?

SL: I don’t know.

MJW: What do you think of this episode in retrospect?

SL: (smiles) It’s good.

MJW: It’s great.

SL: Yeah! The Great Game.

Credits
Thanks to sunnydisposish whose beautiful gifs illustrate and illuminate this interview, and to the intrepid Jackie DeLeon who has an impeccable ear and transcribed hours of Steve’s and my interviews.

-MJW

Previous (Part One)