Picking up where I left off last September with the thread on Elaine May’s Ishtar (1987)

            This scene between Dustin Hoffman and Warren Beatty takes place on a high ledge of a Manhattan apartment building.  The first photograph illustrates how it played out with the stuntmen.  For the primary action however, a scaffold was erected around the building to a height just beneath the top floor windows.  It contained a generous amount of space to support the crew and equipment and provided a completely safe environment for the actors.  It took several days to shoot and since it was winter in New York, the weather was consistent – overcast, cold and windy.  Find this scene at the 00:17:54 mark…

            It’s interesting to note that the film’s cinematographer, Vittorio Storaro, ASC, AIC didn’t use an 85 filter for day\exterior work.  Instead, he made all his corrections in the lab.  I don’t know if that was his regular approach in previous and subsequent work, but the onscreen result is indistinguishable from the traditional way of shooting.

            At some point on this morning the level of flat skylight increased appreciably, so half-way through the scene he switched negative stocks from the fast 5294 to the slower 5247.  Later in the day, as the light started to fade, we returned to the ’94.  Watch the movie closely and you’ll see no discrepancy in the look as it cuts back and forth between the different Kodak products.

            For lighting, Storaro used a bank of his favorite 650W 9-light Fay units.  Sometimes he’d shoot them directly through the double-diffusion of heavy grid cloth and Lee 216; other times he’d bounce them into a 15’x30′ sheet of unbleached muslin.  But whichever method he chose, the illumination that reached the actors was barely perceptible – and wholly appropriate.


2 thoughts on “LIGHTING DIAGRAM #30 – ISHTAR”

  1. I saw a photo of Storaro shooting “The Sheltering Sky” outside and the camera was labeled with 5245 50D stock plus an 81EF on the lens, plus he often used Coral grads below (I think with ND or Blue grads above) to warm up the ground further. So perhaps on “Ishtar” he wanted the NYC scenes to feel more wintery by pulling the 85 filter. I’d be curious if he did the same for his Moroccan exteriors.

  2. Hey David – That’s entirely possible. But his approach on Ishtar seemed to be quite simple.

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