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Interview: Cinematographer Damián García Discusses the ‘Andor’ Episode “Rix Road”

Andor is one of the best Star Wars titles released in recent memory and the best Disney+ show by a mile. Visually, it’s unlike anything the franchise has ever crafted before, and it gets particularly impressive when it stages massive action sequences.

One of the biggest setpieces of the series happens during the climax in the twelfth and final episode, Rix Road. Awards Radar had the chance to discuss the challenges of shooting an episode like this with Emmy-nominated cinematographer Damián García, who was nominated in the Outstanding Cinematography for a Series (One Hour) category.

Read the full conversation below:

Congratulations on the Emmy nomination. It must feel pretty exciting.

Thank you. Yeah, it is! It feels great. 

First and foremost, can talk about your collaboration with director Benjamin Caron on establishing the look of the episodes that you were going to work on with him and how the both of you wanted to set it apart from anything that had been done in Star Wars before?

I had never met Benjamin before we started the show. It’s challenging because you don’t know if your tastes will match. We were very lucky because we shared the same taste and idea of how we wanted to do this. Ben is a very smart and clever director. It was very easy to follow his lead and to collaborate with him. 

So you were nominated for the twelfth episode of the show, which is the finale. Can you talk about how you wanted to establish the episode’s centerpiece, with the funeral procession and the riot?

First and foremost, Tony Gilroy’s script was brilliant. I had never seen a script written that way before, it was a little overwhelming at first. There was a precise list of things we had to choose from, and it was a great blueprint for the actual episode. We also had the music beforehand, which I had never done before. It’s usually in the opposite direction, but we were shooting the scene according to how the music was paced. But it was such a great reference for us when Ben, myself, and the AD would rehearse the scene with our iPhones two months before the shoot to establish the rhythm and pace of the shots. 

Did the music accompany your visual approach to elevating the on-screen tension during the procession?

Yes, but it felt like an everyday thing. We wanted to shoot the scene as one continuous move. The camera always travels with someone, keeping the pace and energy of all those forces moving toward the town’s centerpiece. We wanted it to feel like a continuous move, and that was something that we kept in mind with the camera all the time. The camera moves constantly and tries to keep the beat of the scene. I don’t know if you can see it if you see the actual show, but it was interesting for us to approach the scene in this way. 

And was it important to ground this scene in reality? Because it’s different from what we’re usually accustomed to with Star Wars, which is more fantastical. This one is more grounded in the espionage/political thriller genre than the Jedis and lightsabers we see in something like The Mandalorian, for example. 

Yeah, and I think that’s one of the most important elements that Tony wanted to do for this show. He essentially wrote a spy movie that happens in the Star Wars universe but could work almost in any universe. I remember that with all the directors, DPs, production designers, and VFX supervisors, the biggest rule for us was to keep it grounded. We always had that in mind. We wanted to do something that you could almost feel the dirt on the ground, and sometimes the camera could only be where you can put it in that environment. I can only think of one shot where the camera is in a strange place. However, in the rest of the episode, the camera is in a place where it could be, and I feel that adds to the realism of the situation. 

Were there any challenges in shooting that riot scene to try and represent a sense of claustrophobia?
The main challenge was to make it feel real. It’s difficult to make it feel real, especially in something like Star Wars. One of our biggest references was The Battle of Algiers, the Gillo Pontecorvo film, which feels very much like a documentary. And that’s challenging, for sure, to achieve that level of reality. It was also challenging to keep the same light feel throughout the scene. We didn’t want to have sunlight for that ominous and violent piece of the episode. Achieving a dark and shadowy vibe was challenging for us as a team. 

I adore a particular shot in this episode – it’s when Vel runs once toward the riot, and the camera follows her from the air as she enters this thick cloud of smoke. Can you talk about how that shot was conceived?

That’s precisely the shot I was saying: the camera is in a strange place. When prepping the episode, we divided it into three parts: the procession, the speech, and the riot. There was a part where we called the smoky riot, which happened right after the explosion of the hotel. At some point, I talked with Ben and said it would be good to have this transition between the riot and the smoky riot. And we thought Vel was a good vehicle for the show to take us to the smoky part. It works. It was difficult because it was an open space, and the smoke was very thick, but it was fun. 

And is there a particular scene you worked on in this episode, or in another episode you contributed that you’re the produest of?

I do feel very proud of the whole episode [laughs]. It was a highly collaborative experience between the different departments. Sometimes, when you work on a show or a movie, everyone follows their lead, and that’s it. But for this one, collaborating with everyone was such a joy. And that could be why some people liked the show because we did it with much collaboration. That’s what I’m most proud of about all of this—working with people like Michael Wilkinson, Luke Hull, and everyone else who contributed to making it such a great series. It’s a show that I felt so proud of working on.

All episodes of Andor are now available to stream on Disney+.  

[This interview has been edited for length and clarity]


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Written by Maxance Vincent

Maxance Vincent is a freelance film and TV critic, and a recent graduate of a BFA in Film Studies at the Université de Montréal. He is currently finishing a specialization in Video Game Studies, focusing on the psychological effects regarding the critical discourse on violent video games.

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