Day\exterior on a city street as a car pulls up and the characters exchange some dialogue…

            The scene is simple enough and hardly worth further comment.   What makes it notable is that the shot featuring the two guys in the car was photographed on a different day and in a completely different location from the shots looking toward the movie’s star, Matt Dillon.

            The angle favoring his character was staged on a street corner in Woodhaven, Queens.  Due to some late-game script revisions, the complimentary frame showing his friends was re-shot weeks later (and some ten miles away) in the parking lot of the Silver Gull Beach Club in Breezy Point (also a part of Queens).

            Sharp eyes will notice the near-perfect match in lighting…  For Dillon, the sun is coming from screen left and hits the right side of his face.  Meanwhile, his buddies are getting the sun (at the exact same moment, movie-wise) from a slightly flatter position – almost directly into their faces as they turn to speak to him.  Once again, we see that cinematography has nothing to do with hewing to the exactitudes of nature.  Instead, it often seeks to manipulate conditions so as to fool the viewer into thinking what’s onscreen is indeed the genuine item. 

            The important thing is that the effect works perfectly and calls no attention to itself.  Here’s a big salute to cinematographer James A. Contner for pulling it off so well.  His control of exposure and color-matching are superb.  They also provide a great example of the liberties you can take with your lighting – as long as you’re aware of the rules you might be breaking!


2 thoughts on “LIGHTING DIAGRAM #72 – THE FLAMINGO KID (1984)”

  1. Hi Richard, I’m have to tell you I also worked on The Flamingo Kid. Along with my old friend Kevin O’Callahan, we were working in supply cars for the film (including the one in this scene). We also ended up doing some props work and helping out with staging at the beach club for other scenes. Kevin had the genius idea for us to build a Flamingo out of an old scooter – The Flamingo Scooter. Happily it ended up as part of the poster image. We were not asked to do this by anyone and when they called up the scooter for its scene, everyone hung in silence as the director gave it his approval. It was a big win for my friend Kevin and it did not hurt me either, but my fondest memory of that day was hanging around the camera. I’m not sure who it was on the camera team that was so supportive of my interests and showed me a few things, to this day it is an enduring and happy memory. Perhaps it was you.
    I went on to work on a number of other features and commercials work fabricating props and SFX. I have a career defined mostly by working in advertising as an art director and then creative director. Of course this has given me ample opportunity to produce all kinds of work but my first love is a passion for making images that help tell stories. I now also teach at Skidmore College, still do some work in advertising and make short films. Kevin has also added teaching at SVA to his incredibly long list of accomplishments. Thanks for the great posts.

  2. Guy – thank you for your response. I have nothing but the best memories of working on that film; every day I couldn’t wait to get to set. I remember that Flamingo scooter well and am so happy to know that we had to have crossed paths. I send you my best and hope we meet up again sometime in the future!

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