Getting The Shot
When David O. Russell directs a film, he stands just off camera, fine tuning the
acting, rewriting and feeding new lines to the actors as the cameras roll,
re-blocking scenes, sometimes directing the Steadicam operator with a new idea
for the shot. "Life is unexpected - none of us ever know what's going to happen
from moment to moment - and the scenes feel that way, too," says Gordon. "It's
very unpredictable, but it's also extremely focused - David has an intention
behind it all. We light the room, rather than the shot, and we do it on
Steadicam, rather than trying to get traditional coverage. David doesn't sit by
the monitors. He stays right with his actors, where the movie is. He grabs shots
in the moment. He thinks like an editor - he knows all the angles he has. And
the result is that when you sit down to watch the movie, you can tell within
five minutes that it's a David O. Russell movie - it has that style, the
specific language, the camera movement, the feeling of the world."
It was the film's director of photography, Linus Sandgren, who was responsible
for capturing the images. "David used a few key words for the look of the film,"
Sandgren remembers. "He wanted the actors to be warm, interesting and sexy, and
he wanted us to love being there with the characters. The aim was to make the
world of these characters as sexy, cool and appealing as possible - in this
crazy world of lies, honesty, conflicts, friendship, cheaters, lovers, good and
bad guys, you would always want to be seduced and sucked into this world, hang
out with the characters, and love them."
The way a director of photography brings this about is in the way he lights the
scene. He explains. "I wanted the actors to shine the way you think of the
enchanting part of the 70s. Everything today is so monochromatic, and I was
really intrigued that David wanted the film to be colorful. So, gold was a major
color in my lighting palette - and that was often the key light - and I always
brought in complementary colors, greens and pinks, to complement the gold and
enhance the colorfulness to the scenes."
It was a tremendous challenge for Sandgren to light a scene in which Russell
could choose to pan to any actor at any time. He solved the issue in a creative
way. "I would stand in the center of an empty set and work with Judy Becker, our
production designer, and Heather Loeffler, our set decorator, to put practical
light sources in the room, along the backgrounds and among the actors. This made
our backgrounds juicy, moody and enchanting. Then, to make sure that any actor
we panned to had enough light, my gaffer, Patrick Murray, hung a Chinese lantern
from a sound boom, running by the Steadicam; we filled the lantern with dimmable
LEDs, which gave us the ability to dial the color temperature from warm to cool.
At first, I was worried that the camera would see the light moving in the
scenes, but it's impossible to tell, because the camera and the actors are also
moving. It was a great solution - we could pre-light the set in a proper way,
and then control the light when we had to. It worked out."
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