If you haven’t been exposed to the Brooklyn Rules butcher shop scene, I won’t give away what brings it such infamy. This’s an abbreviated clip and serves well to illustrate the points I want to get across.
The premise is innocent enough. It’s after closing time and some, let’s say, acquaintances, of the main character (Freddie Prinze, Jr.) suddenly appear at the store. Things go downhill quickly as the angry visitors adjudicate a disagreement with a visitor from down South.
In terms of lighting, the obvious choice would’ve been to simply replace the overhead fluorescents with daylight balanced KinoFlo fixtures and maybe add a little edge with an HMI from outside the big window. This would’ve sufficiently lit up the entire place and was a perfectly valid path to follow. But it also would have been the coward’s way out. The onscreen result would’ve been too flat and completely devoid of drama…boring, in other words.
Keeping in mind the context of the narrative – in this case, gangsters who want to hide what they’re doing – it was decided to lower the security gate that protects the window. This caused an appreciable decrease in the ambient light. Then, as the bad guys enter, we had Scott Caan’s character of Carmine douse the house lights; this plunged the room into semi-darkness. The question now was how to create a dramatic, compelling look – essentially from scratch. While this may seem a bit intimidating at first, it’s always a good place for a cinematographer to start.
The top of the window’s solid security gate was broken up by vents and was perfect for cutting the hard source (in the form of a 6K HMI PAR) that I placed on the street. And that took care of the lighting for ninety-eight percent of the scene. The only other lamp that came into play was a small HMI Joker used to highlight a shot of the cold cut slicing machine later in the action (I’ve left that part out…but you can imagine what it was used for).
The door and big window were covered with 85 daylight correction gel; this allowed me greater control over the printer lights. The PAR was further warmed by with a sheet of Full CTO. I also used a 4’x4′ frame of Lee 216 diffusion to attenuate the light hitting Freddie Prinze, Jr. as he stands frozen to the wall. Everything else was left alone. The white enamel walls provided enough bounce from the PAR; there was no actual fill light used at any time.
One light for many shots. It doesn’t get simpler than that. The trick is in knowing how to stage the action, expose the light you use…and where to place the unit.