Thursday, December 13, 2007

the pretty ballerina

racing the light of magic hour as we shot flaming coconuts flying through the sky, we finished on 'the pretty ballerina' battery, one of our strongest and my personal favorite [it's common to label/name the batteries in one way or another to keep track of them].
we wrapped. four days in utah [which feels like a whole other project months ago] and ten days on the north shore of kauai, which was an adventure like nothing i've ever been a part of. in college i shot 15 or so projects, and have continued to study the art of cinematography since. the most visible aspect of the craft has to do with lighting. a good dp is someone who can sculpt the light almost alchemical. a knowledge of lights, gels, and variations in diffusion is what i brought with me when i worked. and that is certainly a part of it. but it's only a part of it. and while i could tell you that in an essay, i think this project helped me understand it.
i generally expected the director to say 'the camera goes here', and so i'd have my assistant put the camera there and then i'd work with the gaffer to light it and we'd shoot it and then i'd ask the director where the camera went next. repeat.
the catch on this shoot was that there were no lights. and the natural light was such that i couldn't do much to it anyway. but i'm a 'director of photography', but just a lighting cameraman. [i recently watched a documentary on cinematography in which one of them said 'i am a cinematographer. ...not a director of photography.' that's puzzled me, because i've always preferred it the other way] i direct the photography, and that should encompass more than just light and shadow; that should involve the composition of shots, based on the events of the scene, where should the camera be to most effectively reveal the story? i'd better know.
the dp has more artistic power on the set than anyone save the director, and that realization was the scroll of knowledge i found at the end of this journey. that's a lot to carry, but i look forward to my next opportunity to try out what i learned.

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