Today I’ll examine another clip from the additional photography I contributed to the spectacular work done on this show by principal cinematographer Cynthia Pusheck, ASC. I only refer to it because it provides an excellent example on how good luck and some spontaneous ingenuity can supersede all the planning in the world!
The location was the vaunted Rosslyn Hotel in Downtown Los Angeles. We had been shooting interiors all day and intended to conclude with an appreciably complex night exterior just beyond the grand old building’s entrance. But as occasionally happens, a number of issues conspired to eat up the time allotted. Further complicating matters was the fact that we had a hard out by 10PM.
Fortunately, the brilliant director Scott Winant was able to think quickly on his feet. He adjusted the scene down to something more manageable that would still give the actor time to deliver the performance. With less than an hour to set up and shoot, I don’t know that there would have been any other way to do it. Though the actual scene goes on for quite some time, the abbreviated clip you’ll see below provides enough information to illustrate my points.
In terms of lighting, I must once again give thanks to the movie gods for inventing the modern digital sensor. Their extreme sensitivity in low light situations can be a life saver at times, and this was one of them.
The street was dark! Lighting it in the normal fashion was out of the question; we were forced to go with what was already there. A unexpected but much appreciated flourish appeared in the form of some festive lights that were strung across the road. The only thing I added was a small LED unit (inside the phone booth that was flown in by the set department). Placed within the plastic covering attached to the booth’s ceiling, it provided enough soft illumination in the right color to compliment the subtext of the performance. In addition, a 2’x3′ LED was set up in the hotel lobby, pointed through the doors toward the street. If you want to split hairs, the flashing lights of the police cars constitute another added source but they had no effect on the exposure. Ditto for the period cars that drive past the phone booth, although their undulating headlights did bring some life to the background of the long lens shots.
Two cameras covered the action – one wide and one tighter – working from the same axis so as to take advantage of the best backgrounds.
Once again, hats off to Cynthia’s beautiful work and Scott Winant’s fast directorial reflexes. The most satisfying part of being forced to do it this way was that despite all the challenges we got the scene right – and we wrapped one minute early!