These words of French director Robert Bresson (1901-1999) always resonate with me when I start a new project.  I’ve been on both sides of the equation on innumerable occasions, and the real challenge has often been in convincing others of its truth.

            “Someone who can work with the minimum can work with the most.  One who can work with the most cannot, inevitably, with the minimum.”


7 thoughts on “HE’S RIGHT…”

  1. So true! It’s a point of pride for me to solve a problem with the minimum amount of hassle. I was doing a documentary many years ago with Dan Rather and Norman Schwarzkopf in France among other places. It was about WWII. We were in a French village at a castle that had historical significance to WWII. It was decided to do an interview with Stormin’ Norman. There was no electricity for lights and barely any furniture. I placed the General in a folding chair at the beginning of a long hallway so that he was lit by windows and the composition showed all the windows receding behind him. A simple FlexFill off to the side and out of camera provided the needed fill light. Not sure it even made the final cut.

    On another project there was a scene of a man in a wheelchair entering a church. The camera was inside the church looking toward the front doors. But there was something missing, mainly lighting. I used an inexpensive vertical mirror from Home Depot, secured it to a grip stand and shot a beautiful shaft of sunlight down the cobblestone floor of the church. Man in wheelchair rolled in following the shaft of light. Mission accomplished simply.

  2. Greg! I always said you should’ve come to Hollywood. You would’ve ruled this place!

  3. From your lips to God’s ears. I had some family issues that prevented that kind of move. While shooting CADDIE WOODLAWN for PBS at the Warner ranch folks were encouraging me to come out. Even looked for a crash pad so I could be a local hire. Any way I had fun doing the other projects & spent more time at home in Manhattan with the family.

  4. It’s so true and I love to solve problems or create ways to shoot and illuminate with little to nothing. It’s all about emotions and mood; if you can achieve it with the minimum, you found the core of that feeling you wanted to visually paint on the screen. I think it was 2011 when I shot my first feature movie as cinematographer. It was a thriller/drama and there was a night scene in a parking lot near the water, with a bridge overlooking behind. The production gave me $1,000 for the entire G&E department, so I bought a cheap 3-point lighting setup from Amazon, few dimmers, some sand bags, 2 bounce boards, extension cords, gels and C47 (I was able to squeeze in a beautiful Antique Suede 1 filter I used in some scenes). The lights were advised as 800W, but the bulbs blew after 3 days and I replaced them with 650W. They were not water proof and the night of the parking lot scene it was obviously raining. We were shooting with a RED One (first generation Mysterium, 500 ISO) paired with RED Pro Primes. The scene had two actors sitting on the hood of a parked car and having a passionate conversation. Since I could not use the lights, I parked the gear truck behind the talents, off screen and about 30 feet away, with the high beams on, to create a strong kicker. Then I asked my only G&E to Hollywood a foam, opposite side of the truck, but in front of the talents, to catch the high beams and bounce a key light. In the wide shots I used the producer’s car to illuminate some cars parked in the background, but in the close ups I didn’t have much to work with, so I shot the scene parallel to the water, so the bridge and the cars passing by with the lights on would create a sort of animated background in an otherwise pitch black area.

  5. On another project near San Ysidro CA and the Mexican border, we were documenting immigrants entering the USA. The filming (16mm) took place around 1980. We were in a helicopter a few hours before sunset filming an almost party like atmosphere on the Mexican side. There were taco stands, soft drink sellers and other entrepreneurs all selling their wares to the soon to be immigrants. Since this was only a couple of miles at most from the Pacific Ocean the evening fog rolled in and forced the helicopter to return to base. We were supposed to film horseback riding border agents capturing and arresting immigrants but we now had a dense fog. I lined up two production vehicles just below a ridge so that the vehicles could illuminate the fog as the horseback riders rode left to right and back across the frame in silhouette. The solution was much more dramatic than anything that had been pre-planned. Hats off to simplicity and solving a problem on the run.

  6. Greg – Do you have any access to that footage? I’d love to see it. In my mind’s eye it must be beautiful…!

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