Andrew Gough is a cinematographer, a twin, a man of the people and more recently, a man of leisure. In recent years, Andy has worked on projects across the globe, from Bosnian coal mines, to the harsh Mexican desert, and the friendly waters of South Africa. With some time up his sleeve to sit still and let it all percolate, he found a moment to chat with us.
Desert Hog. How are you? Let’s get serious.
Oh god. This is all too much.
Where did you grow up, and were you surrounded by creativity from a young age?
I grew up in Brisbane, and my mum and dad both worked in the film industry and that sparked an interest for me. And some guys like my cousins—I used to go and see them all the time. They lived in Thirroul, south of Sydney. There were a few guys like Simon Perini and Aaron Hughes that I always looked up to, I always thought their films were cool and they had such interesting work.
And your mum worked on Totally Wild?
With Steve Irwin. Yeah, Mum produced kids TV before I was born. And I think I was on What’s in the Box? I remember being on the show and crying.
How has this current time made you look back and reflect on the opportunities you’ve had to see the world, make films and create with friends?
I definitely feel super lucky being able to travel and work with an awesome bunch of people and really get embraced by them. I probably took it almost for granted, sometimes I’d almost feel like it was the norm to be travelling and shooting. And you come home and then after a few days, you’d kinda go away again. Home one minute then a day and a half later, strapped to the bonnet of Mikey February’s car with your own belt and using a Cine saddle as a hard mount for your camera. And then we’d think, ‘What are we doing?’
But always get the shot.
Yeah. You gotta get the shot, everything to get the shot. But yeah definitely, for me I’ve had a lot of time to look at that work. Looking back at past work and appreciating it more and appreciating what we got and the effort we put in. Away jobs, you’re up against a lot more challenges; you don’t have the comforts of a local job or crew, or whatever it may be. When you get used to that, you kind of forget. Also the beauty of some of the places we went to and just the simple things we did outside of filming, those experiences are the biggest thing. Being able to not only experience that, but to do it with a bunch of your really good friends is a rare opportunity. It’s pretty crazy because we’ll go to a place and be working, but it never really felt like we’re working. You might be grinding it out at sunrise or sunset kind of vibe, but the length of the day was never even considered. Purely everyone working towards doing something really beautiful or cool. And then outside of that, experiencing a new culture, talking to people or exploring and going surfing, you know. I remember we finished [a project] in Samoa, Kai [Neville] had just left, and that local guy took us into the village to show us how to cook local food.
Yeah, he showed us how to cook taro, fresh coconut cream, marshmallow coconut and we smoked his homegrown tobacco leaves. Fuck my lungs nearly exploded. But it was so good.
Yeah, it’s just stuff like that I sometimes took for granted, but then when I reflect on it, it’s so lucky.
Why are you such a patron of the 16mm celluloid world?
I did a digital job for the first time in ages and it was so good, much less stressful. Nah, I love shooting film. There’s definitely an aesthetic and a look that helps tell the story, but it also helped me become a better cinematographer, helped me hone my craft. And there’s a real romanticism to film that I can’t ever get away from. When you’re looking in the viewfinder, it’s such a unique feeling… It’s hard to describe. And your focus puller and working with the crew the lab and making decisions alongside the director, it’s different to digital. You’ve got to analyse and be certain, but also free to get those little moments. It changes your approach. I personally shoot better when I’m shooting film.
Alright, let’s go through a few of your images and some frames in here too. Tell us the story behind this lord next to the fire.
That’s a photo of my friend Forres’s dad, Mike. We were living out on their property. They call it a compound but it’s like a little village of old motorbikes and caravans and surfboards and everything. This was a few months into shooting a film, my first feature. It’s a documentary about a bunch of dirtbike riders and theyir journey to race the Baja 1000, this psycho 24-hour desert race. We were on the road from a couple of months between Cali and Mexico and this is about one month in. Every morning I’d wake up super early—we’d always be shooting first light—and it was so beautiful. Every morning we’d break for coffee and Mike would have this hazelnut coffee, I was pretty much addicted to it. It was the only thing keeping me alive. Every morning he’d sit in that chair and watch a Bruce Brown film. It was freezing cold in the desert and he’d have the fire going. Eventually I got this shot after seeing it for weeks on end. I kind of forgot about that.
And tell us the story behind the photo of the father and son?
All these things happened in the course of a few months, which was cool. This is with two of my really good friends, Quinn and Woody, and they’d been going to Haiti for a few years doing a photo series and they really wanted to shoot some film. So we took my 16mm camera and went to Haiti. It was really… it was really hectic. We were kind of in over our heads a little bit. They pretty much had a full coup, they were trying to overthrow the government when we were there. And there were riots in the streets it was pretty wild. No fuel and not really any food, it was awesome.
What about the frame from your next project?
This one is from a short film that’s not released yet with another good friend Matt Thorne. We were driving to the dead centre of Australia. That’s Derrick Lynch, the film’s about him going back to country. Derek is a performer and singer and it’s exploring him going home, reconnecting with the land, community and his family.
You have a twin brother who is some crazy world-famous sailor, though I’ve never seen any evidence of him. Does he exist and who would cook a better fish dish?
I was about to say definitely me, but I actually lived with him for the past couple of months for the first time in like five years. And he’s definitely a better fisherman. He caught more fish than me. Yeah, he’s definitely real. He’s super competitive and we’re competitive with each other. When I think ‘this is tough’ on a job filming, I definitely compare myself to things that he’s done. He’s done way more gnarly things than me, and he’s way smarter and better and taller.
And what is the ‘Shark’s Den’ I’ve heard you mention before?
The Shark’s Den can be any zone or ocean zone, but it really is in South Africa. Anyone shooting in the water over there, you know what the Shark’s Den is. That is all, you know. Get out of there!
What would you say to your future filmmaking self?
I don’t know what my future holds man, could be anything, I might not make it. Nah I think just embrace people and different cultures and take different jobs and keep taking random opportunities that probably don’t pay or don’t have all things that might make you comfortable, I guess. That’s like a lot of experiences I’ve had. I just sign up and then I learn. And I guess that’s kind of what’s fascinating for me. Human beings are fascinating. I’d love to experience that more in the future and make documentaries, there’s just so many cultures and people, and there are so many untold stories. I want to use film as a channel to experience new things and to share those new perspectives. I’d tell myself all of those things… And drink more water.