The First Musketeer: Athos and Marion

A clip from The First Musketeer has been released. Taken from episode three, it shows the first meeting between Athos and the mysterious Marion.

Rocamadour. Crazy, huh?
Rocamadour. Crazy, huh?

This was shot at Rocamadour, a medieval town carved into the side of a gorge. (Read director Harriet Sams’ blog for more on the locations of The First Musketeer.) And I think this may have been the night when gaffer Richard Roberts quite literally got a shock as the 1.2K HMI ballast packed up. His arm was numb for 20 minutes. Fortunately this happened after he had executed some nice steadicam work for the early part of this scene.

Come to think of it, it was probably also the night he knackered “the donkey”. Take a moment to come up with your own jokes. Done? Okay, so the donkey was his van. Yeah, not so funny, but at least I let you dream for a bit. Anyway, you can imagine how steep the road was to get down to this place. Now imagine it’s also incredibly narrow. And that the van is quite small but loaded full of generators and other heavy kit. Like I say, Richard knackered his donkey.

Richard avec le steadicam. Photograph de Jessica Ozlo
Richard avec le steadicam. Photo: Jessica Ozlo

My recollection is that this was our first big night exterior, and I remember being shocked at how long it took just to cable everything. Often we were throwing cables over balconies to someone else below – to avoid running the cable through shot. When it was unavoidable, the wonderful art department – Amy Nicholson and her assistant Denise Barry – would come in and hide the cables with straw. It really felt like 30% of the set-up time was planting the lights, and the other 70% was running the cables, hiding the cables, siting the generators, checking we weren’t overloading either of them, discovering we were even though the generators were rated a full kilowatt above what we were drawing, deciding to run some stuff off the mains, blowing a fuse because the electrics are old, failing to find the fusebox, etc, etc.

When lighting night exteriors, I tend to start from the back and work my way forwards. Backlight lets you see everything without really seeing it, and then you can add in pools of light from the sides when you need to see more. So for the wide shot at the start of the scene, the first lamp to go up was a 1.2K HMI (before it died), right at the back. There was some debate about whether we could site it there, because it was on some steps which were used occasionally during the night by the resident monks. Yep, monks. In the end we said “screw it” and put it there, leaving as much room as possible for the monks to get past it. Once smoke was pumped in, that HMI gave us the nice blue ambience in the background.

Nicole O'Neill as Marion De Lorme. Photo: Jessica Ozlo
Nicole O’Neill as Marion De Lorme. Photo: Jessica Ozlo

Opposite the door of the tavern were a couple of Dedos creating pools of light around the candles – more on that in a future post. In the foreground I placed a Kinoflo on the floor to the left of frame, dimmed right down and diffused, just so characters wouldn’t be complete silhouettes going under the arch.

The conversation between Athos and Marion is backlit by a Dedo boomed over their heads, behind them (from the camera’s point of view). It wraps around Marion’s face enough to make out her profile, which is about all you want in a mysterious scene like this. There’s some bounce on Athos which I think was just coming off the surrounding stone. The only other lamp was a 2.5K HMI, lighting the background. For Marion’s close-up, I aimed the Dedo at Athos and let the bounce off his shirt and jacket light her face.

If you want me to rationalise it now, I’d have to say that this Dedo represents a particularly bright moon, and the HMI represents starlight. Frankly this was one of those cases where making it look good seemed more important than making it look realistic.

Visit the for all the latest news on the series. For more on the cinematography of the series see my on-set vlogs on the official website and my Period Cinematography blog from last year,  and stay tuned for more as the release approaches. Also check out the advertorial that Blackmagic Design did on the series recently.

The First Musketeer: Athos and Marion