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I’m currently in Philadelphia working on a documentary project where Rembrandt’s work holds an important role in the storyline. We thought it would be a good idea to move a little away from how we’ve been normally shooting talking-head interviews and try to go for a more… Rembrandt feel. Now, “Rembrandt lighting” is a pretty standard and classic lighting approach when it comes to lighting people but I tend to always light from the opposite side of the face that the camera is favoring.

An early self-portrait of Rembrandt

As I studied Rembrandt’s portraits more closely, I noticed that he almost always lights his subjects from the same side as the viewer (er… camera?). So it was a bit of a change for me, but that’s what is called for.  I also tend to use a varying amount of back light or edge light on my interviews, but again, Rembrandt almost always has a lack of this.  His backgrounds are also very often a nondescript texture rather than a specific location or domestic backdrop.  His paintings tend to lean towards the warm side of the palette as well. (more…)

A couple of weeks ago I got to shoot a music video for a super talented up-and-coming artist, Nik Day.  My friend, Tucker Dansie, directed.  I had agreed (insisted) to shoot the video for him and then looked up Nik Day online and became an instant fan of his music. I became really excited to work with them on this project after that. (more…)

Last week I had an opportunity to shoot an infomercial for a good friend of mine who I’d never been able to collaborate with before until now. We were shooting some scenes in a domestic environment where the product could be used. About halfway through the first day of the shoot he said to me, “Does this whole thing look too… cinematic?”

I retorted, “Is that a problem?” (playful sarcasm runs deeply in our relationship). I suppose I could’ve made it look like an infomercial, but where’s the fun in that? We decided to keep going with it. (more…)

This scene in New York Doll always gets one of the biggest laughs… and to think I almost missed it!

Back in 2004, I was shooting the first documentary I had ever worked on called New York Doll. I did it as a favor for a colleague and friend, Greg Whiteley. Little did I know at the time that it was going to be a bit of a big deal. If you haven’t seen it yet, you should check it out.  It’s available on Netflix.  So there is this scene in the movie where Arthur is getting ready for the concert at Royal Festival Hall in London. We see him previously talking about what he might wear to the show and then we see him emerge from the hotel lobby elevator with the above pictured “puffy shirt.” (I actually, only now, looked up a photo from the Seinfeld “puffy shirt” episode and never realized how close to the shirt this actually was.) (more…)

It’s always interesting to look at a photograph or a scene in a movie and then look beyond the frame that’s been given. What you see is usually surrounded by a bunch of junk—equipment needed to make the image look the way it does. Take a look at these two shots from today, followed by a corresponding image taken from my camera phone while I was shooting. Yeah, yeah, I know.

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The Blasted Knob (fig. E)

On the particular Red One camera that we are renting, there is a knob on the back that keeps falling off. About every other day, it unloosens itself and decides to play hide-and-go-seek with us like an ejected hard contact lens of old. “Where’s that knob now?” is the scene as one, two or even three of us at times crawl on the ground looking for the blasted knob. We usually find it pretty quickly, and thankfully. This time, I didn’t know it was missing until our key grip, Evan, called and told me he happened upon it while cleaning out the bed of his truck. It was amazing that he even noticed it drop as he shook out a furniture pad. Saturday was Evan’s last day on the shoot but he graciously volunteered to bring us the knob to tonight’s shoot. The awesome part is that we needed to rent some last-minute grip equipment anyway and he was able to bring it to us because he was already coming down to drop off the knob. It couldn’t have happened a better way! Thanks, Evan! (more…)