Distinguished cinematographer Brian Tufano worked on many notable BBC television dramas before going on to build a reputation for nurturing the talents of rising directors on key British films such as Quadrophenia, Shallow Grave, Trainspotting, Billy Elliott, East is East and Kidulthood. Film City profiles his brilliant career.
The most important thing that you have to remember is that you need to go out and make films.
Brian Tufano’s fascination with the workings of the film industry began when he was still a young boy.
He was a regular visitor to the cinema with his mother throughout his childhood, and when he was nine he saw some photographs showing what went on behind the scenes on a film set. Trying to make the connection between the films he saw on screen and the work done by the camera crew opened the door to a world that enthralled him.
Living in Shepherd’s Bush, he was close to the Gainsborough Studios at Lime Grove which were responsible for popular British films such as The Lady Vanishes and The Thirty Nine Steps. Tufano would wait outside the studios watching the comings and goings which fuelled his interest even further.
After leaving school he got a job as a BBC projectionist and eventually worked on Sports View (the forerunner to Match of the Day). This led to a post as a trainee assistant cameraman, and Tufano’s career developed from there.
He worked at the BBC for over 20 years, building an outstanding reputation as a cinematographer, especially during its golden period of dramas during the 1970s. Tufano then went on to enhance his standing even further within the film industry where his credits include Quadrophenia, Billy Elliott, East is East, Kidulthood and several films with Danny Boyle including Shallow Grave,Trainspotting and A Life Less Ordinary.
In 2001 he was awarded a BAFTA for Outstanding Contribution to Film and Television, and in 2002 he won the Special Jury Award for Outstanding Contribution to Independent Film from the British Independent Film Awards.
A recurring thread throughout Tufano’s career is his willingness to work with and nurture young and inexperienced filmmakers, either as colleagues or students. For the last 13 years he has worked at The National Film and Television School, where he is Head of Cinematography.
In a recent article by British Cinematographer magazine, director Alan Parker recalls making his directorial debut while working with Tufano on the BBC drama The Evacuees. “He was a hard taskmaster – both tormentor and teacher. What he taught me was that however little time there was (and there’s never enough time), everything – every scene, every performance, every lighting set-up could be a little better if you didn’t settle for what was easy and obvious.”
Tufano also receives high praise from Danny Boyle in his biography: “He was brilliant for me: my first proper movie cameraman. I’d express an idea, and he just got it…He is brilliant with first-time directors. He’s so experienced and yet gracious about passing on his skills and letting you benefit.”
For the last three years Tufano has also been a patron of Brighton Film School, renewing his connection with the city that began over 35 years ago when he worked on Quadrophenia.
He regards Brighton as a terrain of contrasts – the sea, high density of housing and striking Regency architecture, alongside the South Downs – that makes it visually distinctive. “It is also the people that make the city so great; they are the heart and eyes of the place, making Brighton really interesting as a whole.”
So what does he consider to be the key attributes required when striving to build a career in the film industry?
“Knowledge, drive and passion for the discipline you’re interested in is the key to success. But the most important thing that you have to remember is that you need to go out and make films. No matter what the size of the production is, you just need to make films.”
Better is Best by David A Ellis: British Cinematograher magazine Issue 067, January 2015