I had the good fortune to work on The Flamingo Kid as an additional assistant cameraman and – as usual – took detailed notes of most every camera and lighting set-up I encountered. A recent rummage through an old filing cabinet revealed an unexpected trove of diagrams and information, the benefits of which you’ll begin to enjoy below.
Directed by the legendary Garry Marshall and shot by James A. Contner, The Flamingo Kid is a sweet little movie of the kind that has almost completely gone out of style. Contner was a significant figure in New York’s cinematography community at the time, having served at a very young age as focus puller on a number of high-profile features (Jaws among them) and as camera operator on a slew of others. He enjoyed success for years as a DP before moving on to even greater notoriety as a director of episodic series. I recall him as a smart, quick, creative leader and found many important lessons in observing the way he did his job.
An interesting side note: For years, his father – J. Burgi Contner, ASC (also a cinematographer) – owned the vaunted Mitchell BNC #2 that Gregg Toland, ASC used to film Citizen Kane. In 2010 James graciously donated it to the ASC Museum Collection. Fully restored to its original condition by Steve Gainer, ASC, it’s presently on display at the Clubhouse in Hollywood – and we once again thank James for the privilege!
In this scene, the Willis family settles down for a meal in their kitchen. The lighting scheme is pretty simple: the 4’x8′ bay light rigged above the table provides a soft, overall illumination while smaller units are used in-close to sculpt and fill the faces.
Note that a 1\4 Double Fog diffusion filter is taking a slight edge off the image while a CC (color correction) 5Y (yellow) is added behind the lens to provide some baked-in warmth. This was a consistent combination throughout the shooting schedule and went a considerable way in setting up the early-1960’s feel for the viewer.