Cinematographer Greg Middleton traces his roots back to Vancouver’s small art-house film scene of the early ’90s. Today, he finds himself lensing the most successful TV series on the planet: Game of Thrones.
“I was an overnight success that took 20 years,” Middleton says with a laugh, back in his home base of Vancouver after flitting from Northern Ireland to Spain to shoot the epic HBO hit. “I pinched myself every time I went on set the last three years,” he adds, admitting he was a big fan before joining director Jeremy Podeswa and the rest of the team. “I describe working on it as both terrifying and super exciting. You want to make sure you live up to the high bar that’s been set and do your best work possible.”
Middleton will relay some of his experiences—most recently, he and Podeswa shot both Season 7’s premiere and its Wall-crashing, blue-fire-spitting finale—at the Vancouver International Film Festival’s Creator Series talks. Among the highlights of the past few years on Thrones, he tells the Straight, has been shooting in the misty hills of Northern Ireland and at Seville’s spectacular 13th-century Alcázar (a.k.a. the Water Gardens of Dorne). Prepping for a shoot on the balcony, Middleton recalls being told they would have to get approval from the king of Spain himself. “He owns it,” Middleton marvels. “Usually when you’re shooting, it’s a homeowner or the manager of a factory you’re dealing with.”
Yes, it’s a surreal experience, with a punishing schedule that finds the crew shooting Thrones in blocks because of its far-flung locations. That kind of scale is a long way from 1996’s Kissed, fellow UBC film student Lynn Stopkewich’s necrophilia-themed breakout indie—the movie where Middleton started getting noticed. It drew the attention of Podeswa, who was looking for a cinematographer for his second film, The Five Senses. The rest has been a steady climb for Middleton, who’s left his visual signature on everything from TV series The Killing to Paul Gross’s Passchendaele.
A genuinely nice guy, Middleton has this basic advice for those dreaming of a similar path: “The best thing is to do the best work you can and always be the happiest person on the set.”
Greg Middleton and Jeremy Podeswa join the Creator Talks series at the Vancity Theatre on September 30.More