$85,000.00 doesn’t buy as much as it used to, but in 1993 it paid for the filming of Federal Hill, my first feature collaboration with the amazingly talented writer\director Michael Corrente. Many favors were called in on the effort and the crew was indeed paid for the twenty day shoot; for Michael and I it was purely a labor of love. Originating on 35mm black and white negative was not just a creative choice, it was the smartest one we made. Though it cost more than color at the time, the unique texture it brought to the film made it well worth the investment.
No-budget filmmaking being what it is, this day\interior scene was shot in the middle of the night on the final day of the schedule – an all-out, twenty-four hour sprint for the finish line. It’s simple, unadorned and relies on the writing and characters to carry the day. The photography matches the rest of the film’s approach: natural and unobtrusive…with some contrast. The idea was to make the viewer feel like an invisible witness to what was happening before the lens. Beyond that, it’s also a powerful lesson in how much a cinematographer can do with so little.
Total number of lighting units in play: five. To use any more would’ve been excessive. It also would’ve been out of our budget range! And they were all units that are available to even the most threadbare of productions – Mole Richardson 1K, 2K and 200W fresnels. As the diagram shows, I also used a 4’x8′ sheet of foam core to bounce some fill light back to the foreground. Because it was nighttime, the windows were covered with Lee 216 diffusion and exposed at two stops over key. The 2K Baby Juniors were further softened by 4’x’4 frames of Lee 250 diffusion.
Editor’s note: though the clip is presented in 4:3 format, the film was originated in 1.85. The reason for the reduced aspect ratio was the ignorance and disrespect of the video distributor!