“Andor” director Toby Haynes in an interview: Every episode is a trap

Director Toby Haynes discusses the filmmaking choices that give the latest Star Wars series its galaxy-shattering suspense.

The last three episodes of Andor featured a prison without bars, but part of the thrill and pathos of the latest Star Wars series is that Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) has felt like a prisoner of the Empire the whole time. Everyone on “Andor” is captured, often visually by the sculpted, strong lines of Luke Hull’s incredible production design and always by the eye of the camera, which is directed by director Toby Haynes in the first three episodes and episodes 8-10.

The final full scene of Episode 10, a rare face-to-face encounter where double agent Lonni Jung (Robert Emms) tries to get out of the spy game with his leader, Rebellion mastermind Luthen Rael (Stellan Skarsgård), Haynes and Haynes Editor Simon Smith enjoys jump cuts that snap closer and at slightly different angles to Lonni. With the sick green light of the elevator rattling up the backwater towers of Coruscant, the ride up to Luthan feels like a panic attack.

“This was primarily a series that was about both the inner and outer struggles of the characters,” Haynes said of his philosophy of organizing action and shooting “Star Wars” environments for “Andor.” No matter what a scene is ultimately about, Haynes, along with fellow directors Susanna White and Benjamin Caron, emphasizes the oppression of empire through visual order and the way characters relate to the spaces around them. Even Luthan, who has the situation perfectly under control and sends Lonni back after verbally tearing up his resignation, stands dwarfed by cavernous sci-fi arcs and windswept on a lonely elevator catwalk corridor, on the razor’s edge in many ways that the way the frame is laid out is the least noticeable.

Luthan Rael Andor episode 10 final scene



Higher on the Coruscant skyline, at the literal heights of imperial luxury, Senator Mon Mothma (Genevieve O’Reilly) is no less constrained by Haynes’ camera. “She is someone trapped in a golden cage. This set is literally a kind of proof of how locked up she is,” Haynes said. “So [that was] very much on my mind when filming it and looking for ways to visually summarize where a character is in their arc. [That’s] the challenge of everyday filming.”

The subtle sense that Mon only has inches to maneuver is present in the most ordinary scenes, like the one in Episode 10 where she sits down with Tay Kolma (Ben Miles) and Davo Sculdun (Richard Dillane) to hopefully solve the problem to solve by She hides the funds she raises for the rebellion. The three are seated on a round gold couch set a little into the floor, with Mothma in the exact center and the two men on the far right and left. As Sculdun uses his power to make a terrifying offer (a marriage bond between their two children), Hayne’s camera captures the steely, shocked close-up of O’Reilly’s face. But the final shot of the sequence places the camera at ground level, Tay’s feet obscuring Mon for a few seconds before we see her, alone in the cavernous, white-and-gold space that looks to all the world like she’s about to be swallowed by one very posh Sarlacc pit.

Haynes continues to find new ways to visually emphasize the espionage-infused poignancy of Gilroy and Beau Willimon’s writing. Watch the final shot of Episode 8 towering over Bix (Adria Arjona), wrapped in a metal cylinder while signaling Luthen in vain from the very Imperial cast Ferrix. Two episodes later we see Kino Loy (Andy Serkis) caught in a stream of bodies and already visually drowning as the people he inspired run towards a long abyss and even longer swim to the freedom he knows is he can’t reach her. Andor has a clear thesis and take on the Star Wars universe, to which the camera keeps returning to emotionally explain why the Rebel Alliance will emerge from the soul-crushing, sterile order of the Empire.

Andy Serkis Kino Loy Episode 10 Andor One Way Out end scene



“[Every scene] has to feel like it’s really happening right now, right in front of your eyes, and we’re lucky to be able to see it on camera,” Haynes said. “That’s the feeling I want to get. And when I get to the set I want to get it up and running as soon as possible, see a rehearsal and try to just sit there and see it from as many angles and as many positions as possible and then look for those opportunities, how to use the camera to tell the story.”

This wealth of angles and visual flexibility really helps give Andor its tone and feel, which is why it’s the first in the new Star Wars series that doesn’t leverage ILM’s StageCraft, the LED Volume, the helped make The Mandorian. so transport. “[The way ‘Andor’ shoots] also really informs about the performance. I don’t think we could have done it the same way if we were up to the volume,” Haynes said.

“You see that in prison. They were stuck on this set, in this corridor, all day, and they were all barefoot. I tried it myself. Walking barefoot on that steel floor for the first time makes you feel vulnerable. The studio isn’t a friendly place for someone who doesn’t wear shoes, you know? There are a lot of things that can fall on you. So they felt like they were at the machine’s mercy and couldn’t run away and use their phones or anything. So it’s like they’re stuck there and I think that really shaped the performance.”




The prison sequences on Narkina 5 in episodes 8, 9 and 10 are a case study for all the small ways filmmakers can engage the viewer in making both intellectual and emotional insights into the characters as a scene unfolds. Much of the work of Kino’s change of heart at the end of Episode 9 lies in the silent anger on Serkis’ face but in Haynes’ camera, after a long sequence of tight, stealthy over-the-shoulder angles and the habit of placing Kino left of the frame, goes up and places him on the right – in perfect spacial alignment with Cassian – so it feels like a small moment of triumph rather than surprise when he finally answers the question of how many guards are on the floor.

However, Kino’s speech urging the other prisoners to revolt in Episode 10 is covered with fidgety handheld camera. It gradually smoothes out a bit as Kino finds his inspiration to speak of Cassian, but Haynes keeps Serkis’ close-ups slightly off-center or his entire head off-frame; The visual incompleteness and lack of symmetry, the way the camera has to find his eyes again while his anger helps him build steam, is the perfect visual match for the arc of the monologue itself, the camera and the writing and the performance, all working together to convey the power of cinema’s choices in the moment.

“I wanted to make sure it felt like you knew where you were just by the way the camera was behaving,” Haynes said. “So you’ll see that in Episode 8 the camera is a lot more balletic and cinematic, a lot more Kubrickian in its framing logic, and then by the time you get to Episode 10, it’s a lot more on its feet. It’s on the shoulder. It walks around with the characters. You’re in the trenches with them, you run through them, and you could be shot at just like them. That puts you right in their experience.”

This experiential focus also led to some wonderful additions to the day of shooting. Reporting on the scene in the control room where Cassian cornered the guards and led the officer on duty (Martin Ware) away from the prison’s power supply, Haynes said, “I just thought of saying, ‘Tell him he should be in the program !’ Because these guys were like, ‘on schedule, on schedule’ the whole time. and [Luna] was like ‘on the program motherfucker!’ like that you know? He was just trying to get performance out of him.”

The team loved the moment so much that they actually went back and shot the Imperial side again days later so Haynes could get a picture of the terrified guards holding on.

Andor Epsode 8 Narkina Prison



The “Andor” team constantly finds little moments of visual action to convey the story, and while the prison sequences have an exciting, sombrely bombastic quality, some of Haynes’ favorite work on the series included filming the backstory for Cassian as a boy named Kassa (Antonio Viña) on his homeworld of Kenari. It’s a wonderful exit for a “Star Wars” show, yet it also feels like the franchise should have started a long time ago: a tribe of young adults, all speaking a foreign language with no subtitles. All clues to what is happening come from body language and facial expressions, camera movement and placement and, like the wordless, evocative world-building detail of Ferrix’s darling Bell Guy, the audience has just enough information to want to dive into the story.

“It felt really special,” Haynes said. “There was a moment when Cassian copied the young Alpha Girl (Malini Raman-Middleton) that wasn’t in the script. I needed something to show the connection between her and him. I always wanted them to do some makeup to be part of some kind of hunting party and there was some resistance to makeup because it would slow us down when filming and we knew we were going to be really close, but I was adamant about it this moment. In a way, children don’t act. And so you have to give him something to do and be able to explain to him or somehow show his interest in her.”

Kassa’s warpaint is a wonderful marker both for this initial connection with the girl who dies in the hunting party and for his scenes in episodes 1 to 3. Throughout the day and during the action, in the Maarva Kassa (Fiona Shaw ) back to their ship before the Imperials arrive, the warpaint will fade. As he wakes up and looks out the ship’s window as the world shoots out, punctuated by Luthen’s kidnapping of Ferrix’s adult Cassian, the color and the way Haynes frames these shots so that they are mirrors of one another helps us visually trace all of Cassian Andor’s many heartaches in his life and across the stars. Episode 10 may be titled “One Way Out,” but even if you run to safety, there’s really no way to escape the hands of the Empire in “Andor.” The only way out is through.

Andor is available on Disney+.

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https://www.indiewire.com/2022/11/andor-star-wars-toby-haynes-director-1234781367/ “Andor” director Toby Haynes in an interview: Every episode is a trap

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