sat 25 oct 2008 18:59:11 homewood
nobody believes me about lighting
for some reason today i woke up in the morning, more or less like a normal person. the very nice housekeeping ladies have completely run out of regular coffee packets to go with the little coffeemaker in my room. so they keep giving me packets of decaffienated coffee, as if that's gonna do any good. it's like "sorry i don't have a rope to throw you. would you like a basketball?"
speaking of which -- i found out they have basketball in australia. nicole wrote that she went to a game there in adelaide.
a little while ago, another "hi i'm from maintenance" guy showed up asking if this would be a good time for him to change the air filter in my room. i thought it was a perfect time to do it, since i was awake. on the way out, he told me he too had just got a new macbook.
on thursday night i got a ride from olga into the city, because i had to be in there for a product shoot yesterday in nearby watertown. they have a very nice casual studio space there, and a couple of location vans and some editing. nice place, nice people.
step one of our shoot was just trying to decipher what the hell these products were. they all look alike to me. there were two of each thingy, the only difference being a tiny object inside each one, smaller than a grain of rice.
our task was basically to reproduce the look of some footage from last year of similar products. cuz the reason we were shooting was that the company now had some new products just like those. luckily aj still had the stone tabletop tiles from that shoot. and our cameraman could open some of last year's footage on his computer so we could compare it as we lit the new scene.
now yall please give me some advice on how to handle a certain professional situation.
this particular shooter is a good guy, a good friend, and does good work. but it seems like i keep getting into little time-wasting arguments with him about how to light things. let's grant that he's never seen my lighting, and would have to take it on faith that working for sherwin taught me a thing or two. and in general the writer/director is not normally sposed to tell the cameraman how to light stuff. and i wasn't even at last year's shoot.
so i look at a few clips of last year's tabletop shots, whose look we are trying to reproduce. i look over at the tabletop we're working on. i suggest we move the top light so it's more at the angle of incidence to the lens, because that's obviously how it was lit last year. and i suggest we get rid of those extra shadows from the kickers by turning one of them off, and lowering the other one to the level of the table.
for some reason our shooter is willing to move the lights ever so slightly *toward* where i'm suggesting, but not put them there. and then he wants to *talk* about why we shouldn't do what i suggested, instead of just taking twenty seconds to try it. he tells me "we're still working on this, we're nowhere near ready." which of course makes me think "yeah but we could have been ready five minutes ago!"
and i'm saying "the glare will help reduce the background texture detail," and he tells me "i'm trying to get more of the background texture" or something like that. even though the mission is to make this look just like last year. hmm.
i think there's some kind of ego thing going on. like maybe he feels he's not allowed to admit that i might know something about lighting.
mind you, if i were on the shoot as *his assistant*, he'd have every right to ignore my suggestions, even if he did know i had shot tabletop for ten years before i ever met him. but the thing is, i'm his freakin client here. i'm bringing him this job. so it makes me feel bad if he resists just giving me the benefit of a doubt.
the trouble is, in this line of work it *is* very important to have defined areas of responsibility. everybody has to know their department, and when to suggest versus when to back off. if you take over somebody's job for them, they're going to shut down and stop contributing. but then again, when time's wasting, and you're the client, sometimes you have to throw formality to the wind and say "uh, do this, okay?"
this makes me think back to sherwin, and how agonizing it must have been for him, haphazardly trying to teach me how to light. in the early days, sherwin would walk in on our preparations to shoot something, and just tell us "turn that one off, move this one over here and unspot it and put a half double scrim in it." sherwin was investing in me learning how to light. i was on his staff. eventually i began to get a clue. by the time i left there, he thought i was a reasonably good DP.
then i came back to boston and was surrounded by people who still think a fill light should be opposite the key light, and people who like to turn on five lights at once and start wiggling them around hoping for the best -- instead of adding one at a time and working it as needed. and grip dept who robotically march into the set with a flag on a C stand just because someone else is setting a fresnel, before you've even got the shot framed.
when you're lighting a scene, you're supposed to get the key light right first. then add front fill and kickers to taste. what's so hard about that?
forgive me for whining. it's one of the things i do best.
oh, speaking of complaints: today i got the first hate mail for "a wedding in sanok" on youtube. long overdue in my opinion -- i was really surprised that someone didn't find it offensive sooner. but i think the commenter kinda missed the point; they perceived it as though i were making fun of other people's culture and traditions, rather than making fun of my own foreignness to them. that's to be expected though. and i couldn't disagree with the commenter's main argument, that i am a small minded person. my mind is getting smaller every week.