The main characters have a night out on the tiles…

I was never much of a clubhound while growing up in New York – for starters, I despised disco music – but I passed through enough of them to have developed a sense of what one should feel like.  Loud, crowded, smoky, low-key but vulgar lighting…we touched all the bases here and the look is as genuine as I recall it from the time in which the movie is set.

For some reason it always seems that you develop a fondness for certain lighting units as you shoot a project.  On this one, my amazing gaffer Michael Burke and I locked in on the time-tested Mole Richardson Nine Light-Fay.  It’s a simple unit consisting of nine separate globes that can be turned on or off individually.  In addition to that versatility, it can be mounted and managed by a single lamp operator.  They provide a lot of pop for their size and I still find uses for them on almost everything I shoot.  For Brooklyn Rules we bounced them into sheets of foam core and used grip nets and flags to keep the spill from going all over the place and ruining the low key effect.

We also used lots of practicals – pretty much whatever was available from the normal disco lighting as well as strategically placed KinoFlo tubes (many of which are visible in the shots).  Each of those were covered in a sheath of Antique Brass gel.  Except for the main lights on the actors, I played it loose as far as color temperature was concerned.  Thinking about it conceptually, in an environment like this it was best to embrace the ‘anything goes’ attitude.

With the exception of the KinoFlo tubes, the dance floor is lit entirely by the house array.  A Source Four unit was fired into the mirror ball and adjusted according to the needs of the specific shots.  This lamp allows you to aim a narrow beam of light in a specific direction and was perfect for the effect.

You’ll notice that the shots that include Alec Baldwin are of a somewhat more conventional lighting scheme.  Though they use less color, they’re still appropriate to the club and definitely have a point of view.  But the illumination is less kinetic, more mature, in a sense.  And why not?  This was where the gangsters congregated and a lot of serious business took place there.

Fill light was kept to a minimum throughout.

The entire scene was underexposed one full stop at the lens.



  1. Holds up very nicely. I admit my biases- I am a fan of Mole as well (and 5218 of course ) Also nice to be able to toggle back and forth between the diagram and the clip

  2. It’s a great scene and seemed to be an important moment in the movie
    as they encounter the gangsters. Your lighting nails it as a disco setting.
    Can almost smell the smoke in the place. The ceiling in the background seemed really low in the opening part.

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