Thursday, March 19, 2009

Lighting the Stars

When I first arrived in Los Angeles I was visiting the set of "Butterflys Are Free" - Goldie Hawn was a very close friend of my wife and I. The cinematographer - Charles B. Lange - took me to lunch. I of course knew very little about lighting a feature film. One of the pieces of advice he gave me was: "You gotta make the stars look good". That thought stuck with me through out the rest of my career. So...when shooting the film "Class" with Jackie Bissett; Andrew McCarthy, etc. there was a scene where Jackie is waiting in a motel room for Andrew to show up. She was dressed in all that black lacy stuff that some people seem to thing is sexy. Now Jackie had some very peculiar and very, very strong views about her lighting. She didn't want the 'key' light higher than six feet. No matter what! Well, using a standin - I lit the loving hell out of that scene. I mean, it was bloody gorgeous! So, now Jackie comes on the set - the director talks to her a moment and we roll the camera. Perfect take! Let's just do one more, says the director - Louis John Carlino. So, as we're preparing to roll again, my operator - who knew better! - ask Jackie to pick her chin up a little for the key light. That's when she noticed the key was about ten feet in the air. Jackie pipes up - "Ric, would you please lower the key light?" I explain that I can't do that or I will ruin the beautiful lighting I have created for her. She insists. I insist - on not changing the lighting. All this leads to Jackie storming off the set to her motor home and me storming off the set to an exit door. Now we're shooting this in Chicago in Jauary. Chicago is very cold in January. Jackie had her motor home to keep her warm. I had nothing. I'd forgot to grab my coat. I mean, I am freezing. Meanwhile Carlino is running back forth pleading - first with Jackie to return, then to me to relight. Finally, and only because I am not in jeopardy of turing into a block of ice - I return. I turned off all the other lights on the set, placed one huge light directly behind the camera (absolutely the worst place to EVER place a light) and announce that I am ready. Jackie returns, assumes her pose on the sofa and the camera rolls. I mean, the lighting was purely awful! End of shot. The next day the lab had printed both takes. The first one with my lighting and the second one with Jackie's. Jackie was there - in the viewing room. Guess which take is in the picture? You got it. So much for making the "Star" look good.

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