I still have quite a few Presumed Innocent charts to post but decided it was time to change things up a bit.  Fear not, however.  Eventually the entire catalog (as well as many others illustrating different examples of Gordon Willis’ work) will find their way onto the blog!

            A second great learning period during my career as an assistant cameraman was the eight weeks I spent in January\February 1986 on the New York City portion of the notorious Elaine May comedy, Ishtar.  Again I was lucky to be exposed to the working methods of one of the world’s great cinematographers, Vittorio Storaro, ASC, AIC.  He was at the top of his game at that time, yet this film still seems a curious choice for him.  But as you’ll see, he poured his heart into it and produced some amazing images from some (generously) so-so material.

            Find this clip at 00:05:34.

            Eastman Kodak Color Negative 400T 5294 for stage work, location interiors and night\exteriors; Eastman Kodak Color Negative Film 5247 for day\exteriors.  Arriflex BL3 cameras.  Zeiss Super Speed lenses.  No lens diffusion.  1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Negative processed and dailies printed by Technicolor NY (NY sequences only).  The release prints were treated with some degree of skip-bleach or ENR processing.

            It was cold and snowy as we executed two long dolly moves on East 18th Street between Broadway and Park Avenue in Manhattan.  Storaro’s approach is amazingly spare for a night\exterior that covers so much ground.  He was fond of using Mole Richardson 9-Light Maxi Brutes (usually fired through unbleached muslin).  These are large, tungsten balanced units that held nine individual PAR 64 1K globes – indeed, a lot of bang for the buck.

            For the first (300′) dolly move he held the actors in a full shot with a 35mm lens and set his back source a good distance from the area where the action takes place.  The key hit the actors at a 90˚ angle from left of camera as they walked.  He also added a little bounced fill off a 12’x12′ silk from foreground left for their stop mark.

            The second dolly move was tighter (50mm) and covered only the last 80′ of the actors’ walk; it brings us to a stop as one of them gets into a cab.  This happened to be in front of the entrance to The Old Town Bar, inside which the scene would continue (more on that next week).

            And here’s a little inside baseball tip for you: at the time Storaro was fond of using a Sekonic L-398 light meter.


5 thoughts on “LIGHTING DIAGRAM #7 – ISHTAR”

  1. Interesting that he managed to light a street to f/3.5 at 320 ASA at night. Were these Zeiss Super Speeds?

  2. Thanks Richard…I really enjoy your insights, and revisiting these films. I was one of the six people who liked “Ishtar”

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