Harrison Ford’s character Rusty Sabich and John Spencer’s cop Dan Lipranzer watch a political concession speech in a hotel ballroom. Find it at 0:47:38…
Large space, minimal lighting…yet completely appropriate to the action as described in the script. And despite the size of the room (100’x60′) and large number of extras, it was very fast to put together.
Unique among all cinematographers, Gordon Willis took as much time as he wanted while lighting a scene. While no power on earth could make him speed up the process, he was hired not just to deliver a usable exposure but to bring a specific vision and level of craftsmanship to the production; giving him a wide berth was part of the buy-in. Though his process caused occasional migraines for line producers, this freedom allowed him to execute things precisely the way he saw fit.
But this is not to say he was profligate or reckless with the company’s resources as he strove to create the appropriate mood. This scene is short, a momentary breather before things really start to boil. In no way pivotal to the story as a whole, it establishes a minor plot point and reaffirms something we already know about one of the secondary characters.
Starting with this in mind, Willis’ didn’t waste any time on a scene that could easily have been left on the cutting room floor. Note the simplicity of the overall lighting plan. A maximum of four units, two camera angles and – bang! – on to the next bit of business.