by Patrick Reis
Sometimes my job is more than just working with images, it’s also being a problem-solver and confidence builder. Our project had quite a few obstacles to overcome. The odds were that we’d have to make big sacrifices, but that isn’t how to approach the job as cinematographer. You have to make the rest of the cast and crew believe it’s possible.
When Stephanie brought the script to me, she told me that we’d have to be creative about how we shoot. The script was ten pages long and all took place in one location. That sounds quite simple, however we would only have one, short, day to shoot all ten pages. I met the director Peter Zinn and the actors Mickey, Joe, and Vincent, and immediately starting campaigning for a two day shoot. It just wasn’t possible with the budget or our location.
The set up that I choose was two Canon DSLRs, about three lights and some fast lenses. The lenses would keep the background blurry enough so the art department didn’t have to dress much. The space was typical for a small restaurant. I knew that the low noise on the DSLRs coupled with the fast lenses would allow me to use one of my favorite lights: a Chinese lantern. The Chinese lantern would give me nice, consistent, even light, without much spill. Peter preferred the set to have a little darkness in the corners. I used two smaller tungsten lights for a little backlight or fill (depending on the angle). This allowed us to work fast and efficiently by keeping the lighting set up the same throughout. Peter could spend more time tweaking the actors performance if the camera department didn’t slow things down.
Peter and the cast were no strangers to directing and acting, but this was Peter’s first time directing for the screen. I wanted him to feel comfortable watching the performances without the cinematography slowing us down. The dialogue was written in a way that the actors could deliver each line as serious or humorous. With our limited time, I knew that the best way to capture each line was to shoot a close up and a medium shot at the same time. I asked my friend Samantha Silver, who I trusted, to operate another camera. Samantha and I worked together before, so I knew that we’d be able to work quickly without having it spelled out each time.
I remember when we wrapped on set and I thought immediately about the editor. I trusted that Stephanie would find someone who could make it all work and my expectations were exceeded! Everyone agreed that Anne Barliant, our editor, did a fantastic job with the cut.