This scene was shot inside the Old Town Bar in Manhattan; it’s very simple but also very beautiful.  What interests me is seeing how Storaro used 650W 9-Light Fays; it was a procedure he would repeat time and again on the NY portion of the movie.  For the large amount of light in use, it’s surprising how un-lit the scene looks onscreen.

            Storaro was the first cinematographer I had worked with who connected all of his lights to an off-set dimmer board.  He communicated with its operator by radio and would constantly adjust things according to eye.  Only when he was happy with what he saw did he pull out the meter and make a measurement.  It took a little extra work for the electrical department to set up but ultimately saved a lot of time overall.  Today we do this in most every situation.

            The shooting stop was T5.6 to allow for a depth of field that would carry the distance between where Dustin Hoffman and Warren Beatty were seated at the bar.  A fun side note: the bartender is played by Robert Girolami, whose primary job at the time was as a 1st Assistant Director and Unit Manager.

            Find this scene at the 00:07:02 mark on the DVD…

            Adjustments were made for the lighting of Warren Beatty’s close-up. Previously, his key hit him at a 90˚ angle.  Now, a 650W 9-Light Fay is brought around to extend the effect of the key and put light on a broader part of his face.   A small eye light is also placed just left of camera, snooted down to contain the spill.  Everything else stays pretty much the same, though the shooting stop is opened up to T4.2.

A complementary close up of Dustin was photographed but didn’t make it to the final cut of the film. Instead, director Elaine May chose to use an axial cut derived from the raking master shot that opens the scene.

This chart shows the arrangement for the close up that wasn’t used.


2 thoughts on “LIGHTING DIAGRAM #8 – ISHTAR”

  1. Wonderful! I’ve always liked the lighting and location for that scene. Years later we shot several times in the Old Town Bar for “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” and it wasn’t until I watched “Ishtar” again last year that I recognized it.
    I heard a story that because often Storaro would pull set walls and use 9-lights or his big Jumbo ACL banks to light the set from one side, a production designer (probably Richard Sylbert) went over to Storaro and switched the light meter in his hand for a meat thermometer and told him to stick it into the actors to tell when they were done! I also heard a story from an A.D. that worked on “Ishtar” that going out to the Sahara Desert, Storaro and Paul Sylbert carefully picked a beautiful stretch of sand dunes for the arms dealer scene and Elaine May looked at it on the director’s scout and said “But I always imagined the desert looking flat…” — so Sylbert had to hire bulldozers to flatten a stretch of the Sahara Desert for that sequence.

  2. David – a lot of funny stories came out of the making of that movie. I’ll tell you some others one day – privately, at the Clubhouse!

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