Behind the scenes with the assistant to Barbie's Director of Photography
03 August 2023
When it comes to cinema in 2023, it doesn’t get much bigger than Barbie. So, when Falmouth Film BA(Hons) graduate Faith Glenister got the call to assist the Director of Photography (THE Rodrigo Prieto) for the film, it was a dream come true.
Since graduating from Film BA(Hons) at Falmouth University in 2015, Faith Glenister continued to pursue a career in camera, supported by the lecturers on her course. She cut her teeth in the industry working with Falmouth’s Head of Film & Television, Dr Kingsley Marshall, as a camera operator on the 2018 film Backwoods (directed by Associate Lecturer Ryan Mackfall), and then securing a placement through Falmouth University's Sound/Image Cinema Lab on the BBC Films feature film Make Up. From there, Faith went on to work as a camera trainee on high-end TV dramas including Danny Boyle’s TV mini-series Pistol and moving to the A-camera on House of the Dragon.
This experience laid the foundations for the call that came in 2022 – the offer to assist Director of Photography (DOP) Rodrigo Prieto on Barbie (2023). Known for his work on Wolf of Wall Street and Taylor Swift’s music videos, Rodrigo Prieto is a three-time Oscar nominated DOP.
Greta Gerwig’s storytelling prowess, with its theatricality and heartwarming anecdotes, humanised the experience, especially as I felt somewhat starstruck by my position.
This was the big break Faith had been shooting for, and it was also a new role for her in the film industry. “Despite being a newcomer to this role, I embraced the challenge eagerly and sought guidance from Jack Mealing, a DOP who gathered his knowledge through assisting DOPs on several feature films. Jack generously shared insights and lighting diagram examples.”
Faith played a crucial role in both pre-production and production of Barbie – creating detailed technical breakdowns of the script, consolidating relevant camera, lighting, and grip information, coordinating Rodrigo’s availability for VFX Previz sessions and set visits, and ensuring the script and storyboards remained up to date.
Explaining her responsibilities in more detail, Faith says: “Throughout pre-production and production, I embraced a sense of responsibility, serving as a point of contact for Rodrigo while creating a comprehensive catalogue of diagrams and imagery to assist him.
“Detailed notes were crucial, particularly for the lighting of the mountainous background in the Barbie cul-de-sac. In pre-production, Rodrigo conducted tests to explore different colour temperatures and lighting tones against the backdrop and horizon, whilst considering the desired time of day and tone.
“During production, I focused on tracking lighting through detailed diagrams. During pre-lights, I created diagrams based on Art's drawings, scaling them and providing key information on the lights used for each set, as well as colour temperature and light intensity. The film's most challenging aspect was that the sets were being built whilst shooting. We would pre-light on the weekend to be ready for Monday mornings.”
We place large numbers of students and graduates on professional film and television productions to build their confidence and credits – ultimately accelerating the careers of our graduates.
Getting the chance to work closely with gaffer Lee Walters (Jurassic World Dominion (2022), Bohemian Rhapsody (2018)) offered daily learning opportunities for Faith, as she explains: “Lee was incredibly supportive of my role and helped establish a relationship between me and his team. His team would often double check pictures I’d taken on set to ensure we were matching the lighting as accurately as possible.”
Of course, Faith also got to work with groundbreaking director Greta Gerwig (Ladybird and Little Women). “During storyboarding sessions with Rodrigo and Greta, I would enter relevant information into the technical breakdown. Greta's storytelling prowess, with its theatricality and heartwarming anecdotes, humanised the experience, especially as I felt somewhat starstruck by my position.”
Dr Kingsley Marshall, Head of Film & Television at Falmouth University, was thrilled to learn that Faith had secured this role on the Barbie film. “The experience working with Rodrigo Prieto and Greta Gerwig is unparalleled – an incredible achievement and testament to her skill in the camera department, and her always professional and thoughtful approach to her own role and consideration of those she’s working with.
“Faith’s incredible success ratifies our work in the Sound/Image Cinema Lab, where the team in the School of Film & Television places large numbers of students and graduates on professional film and television productions with staff and external partners to build their confidence and credits – ultimately accelerating the careers of our graduates.”