Brian Tufano

Source: NFTS/Richard Blanchard

Brian Tufano

Brian Tufano, a legendary UK cinematographer whose works included Trainspotting and Billy Elliot, has died.

His career spanned over five decades, during which he nurtured the talents of numerous debut directors and was at the forefront of the boom of UK filmmaking of the 1990s. 

Born in London in 1939, Tufano began working at the BBC’s Gainsborough Studios as a projectionist in 1956. He then worked as a projectionist at the BBC at Ealing Studios, where the film department was based, eventually working his way up from a trainee assistant to a cameraman in 1963.

Tufano worked at the BBC for 21 years, collaborating with multiple directors including Jack Gold, Ken Russell and Alan Parker, who worked with him on the BBC TV movie The Evacuees in 1975.

After the BBC, Tufano had a role as an additional photographer on Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner (1982) and in the 1990s worked on a series of groundbreaking films with Danny Boyle whom he had met at the BBC. Together they made Boyle’s feature debut Shallow Grave in 1994, which led to their further work in Trainspotting in 1996 and A Life Less Ordinary in 1997.

Tufano also supported other rising directors, working on Franc Roddam’s Quadrophenia (1979), Damien O’Donnell’s East is East (1999), Menhaj Huda’s Jump Boy (1999) and Stephen Daldry’s Billy Elliot (2000) among others.

From 2003 to 2016, Tufano was head of cinematography at the UK’s National Film and Television School (NFTS) and continued as a visiting tutor until recently. At the NFTS, he fostered a new generation of cinematographers, and his students included Charlotte Bruus Christensen (The Girl on the Train, Far From the Madding Crowd, A Quiet Place, Black Narcissus) and Vanessa Whyte (Ted Lasso, All Creatures Great and Small, Murdered For Being Different). 

During the course of his career, Tufano received several accolades including the Bafta for outstanding contribution to film and television in 2001. He was also the recipient of the special jury award for outstanding contribution to independent film from the British Independent Film Awards in 2002. At the British Society of Cinematographers, he won the BSC Arri John Alcott Memorial Award in 2015 and was honoured with a lifetime achievement award in 2020.

NFTS director Jon Wardle said: “Brian was a valued colleague and friend and I’ll always cherish my memories of working with him. I was in awe of him and when I first joined the National Film and Television School he was always so generous, supportive and kind.

”He cared passionately about film, the creative process, the school and its students and during his time with us he nurtured a generation of world class cinematographers. He will be remembered with great fondness and will be missed by us all at the NFTS.”

Bafta Scotland paid tribute on Twitter and said: “We are saddened by this news. Cinematographer Brian Tufano shot some of Scotland’s most iconic films: Trainspotting, Shallow Grave and Late Night Shopping.”

East is East director O’Donnell simply wrote: “He was brilliant.”

Tufano died on January 14, 2023. The cause of death has not been revealed. 

He is survived by his wife and daughter.