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Lighting Women

class="c724" David Mullen commented :

class="c724" >This brings up a whole new topic - how far should one go in "glamourizing" a >woman's close-up? I shoot a lot of thrillers and dramas and often use a certain >amount of shadows & contrast on a close-up. Some actresses see that their key light >is coming from the side and wonder how they are going to look on film. Most >actresses that I have worked with have not been a problem, understanding that the >lighting should support the drama of the scene - but occasionally, I have had a >make-up person question my lighting because I wasn't using flat lighting to wash out >some wrinkles or something. Anyone else had this issue come up on a shoot?

class="c724">Here are a few of my prime considerations (aside from "how much time do I have to light this and still make the day?") in these cases: 1. How far up the food chain is she? a. The exec. producer? b. A "name" that the producer cast to get investors? 2. How well (excuse me here) "connected" is she to the producer? 3. How pleasant to work with is she? (I have "monster" lit a few "Monsters" on occasion. Jerry (limited snideness day, are you celebrating?)

class="c724"> Wolfe --


class="c724" >(4.) For the star. I still have the weakness of believing that the top money (THE >"star"), should look the best, everybody else I drop down a peg.

class="c724">>Enzo Giobbé Method 4 can backfire, you may end up with Joan Collins thinking that >you're wonderful but the producer/director never hires you again.

class="c724" This brings up a whole new topic - how far should one go in "glamourizing" a woman's close-up? I shoot a lot of thrillers and dramas and often use a certain amount of shadows & contrast on a close-up. Some actresses see that their key light is coming from the side and wonder how they are going to look on film. The sad truth is that most (not all) women look good with a flat, frontal key light - sometimes soft, sometimes hard. Look at most head shots that actresses carry around - they all look like they have no nose, only two eyes and a smile. But frontal lighting can be so dramatically boring! Whenever I have to light a woman that way (when she really needs my help) I try to break up the key a little by shadowing her neck or forehead - or by using a very hot backlight and an underexposed frontal key light.

class="c724">Twice I've worked with an actress whose features were so delicate (and her face was so round - not fat - just round) that side-lighting actually helped her look good by giving her face some structure. If you lit her face flatly, she looked like a lightbulb. Most actresses that I have worked with have not been a problem, understanding that the lighting should support the drama of the scene - but occasionally, I have had a make-up person question my lighting because I wasn't using flat lighting to wash out some wrinkles or something. There is usually a happy medium where the lighting can look good and dramatically correct and the actress looks good as well - but sometimes I get asked to "cross the line" and glamourize a close-up beyond what is correct for the scene. I actually like old-fashioned glamour lighting (like Von Sternberg's work with Marlene Deitrich) but I rarely find it appropriate to the project that I'm on. Anyone else had this issue come up on a shoot?

class="c724">David Mullen


class="c724" Yeah. Certainly have had how a woman will look on screen come up on a shoot. Working with a rather well known television acrtress in her late forties on an independent feature I ran into a puzzling problem. A large majority of the film was to take place in long, unbroken steadi-cam shots (five to ten minute chunks). I was stuck with practical and overhead lighting -- plus, the director wanted a very noir, high contrast look. The acress came to me the first day and sat down with me and asked, with a very worried look on her face - "How are you going to light me?" I made the solution to walk an electrician with a 2x4 kino with 250 and ND.6 across the doors near the camera lens to help "flatten-out" her shots, but it was a hell of a delimma. I think, when dealing with women and hard-light Sante D'Orazio is the current champion --

class="c724">Take a look at any Victoria Secret catalogue, or he shoots for Vogue, Cosmo and others. His use of hard light on women is very remnicent of 40's kind of style, with a more delicate modern color touch. Nice stuff. I had a similiar conversation recently in reference to screenplays where women are often described as "beautiful." I tend to agree with the trend -- audiences don't normally go to see average or unsightly people on the screen (speaking of the protagonists). Audiences want to be swept away with the story and be able to fantasize themselves into the main roles, it's much easier to do that with a Tom Cruise and Jennifer Anniston then with someone an audience might find unattractive. (OF COURSE, I AM GENERALIZING TO A GREAT DEGREE HERE...) The same applies to lighting. Within the context of the narrative, women and men should look "good." my 2 fc worth.

class="c724">Jay Holben


class="c724" >There is usually a happy medium where the lighting can look good and dramatically >correct and the actress looks good as well - but sometimes I get asked to "cross the >line" and glamourize a close-up beyond what is correct for the scene.

class="c724">Premise :

class="c724" Hollywood Studio, wanted to make picture where one of the main charcter is a witty British young lady in late tweties. Cast: 40+years old EXPERIENCED actress with with non-British accent at all! Her screen lower: a very well known good looking actor in his 30+.

class="c724">Act 1 :

class="c724">I told to director and producer that because I do not have plastic surgeon licence I withdraw from case. "Please, let's try"- they asked. "I will be fired in disgrace after the first day, because the "big cheese" is personally selected her, he even called me remainding how such and such big DP, shot her beatufully, say 15-20 years ago, and offered me in a fact to accept a baton, forgetting to look at the calendar" "Please, let's try"- they asked again.

class="c724">Act 2 :

class="c724">I build Light Boxes from 2x2 to 6x6 ft and my filter package was totally bulletproof (2,5 in of glass variety). Everybody was happy except director, actor, producer and me .

class="c724">Act 3 :

class="c724">Unfortunately studio liked this glowing image and we start to roll. Lighting of her was simple, but to cut everybody else from spill was THE task for a grip. Needless to say it was dark, moody script .

class="c724">Tragic End :

class="c724">After 2 weeks of shooting an actor got nervous breackdown ( any conspiracy theory are welcomed!) beacuse actress could't pronounce rather sophysticated script lines and coach was hired and threfore actor's screen feelings couldn't get up. We had to be able to make maybe no more than 10 setups in the 10 hours. Production Manager got fired.

class="c724">Happy End :

class="c724"> We have to stop shooting with pay for a week. An actress who suppose to be at first place (a great British actress, living in Paris) was casted, location in Paris was approved, the film was finished on time and budget. Finalé: An actress No. 1 got nervous breackdown, moved out of Los Angeles into New York desert. The Producer was fired for casting mistakes and over expenditure. Picture of the light box with all camera crew inside is available at request And how is your week?

class="c724">Yuri Neyman


class="c724">Uh, so how would you (glamourously) light a woman who's been trapped in a car by a high-tech alarm system? At 12,000 feet? She can't always be keylit by the dome lite or the mirror vanity lights... Jeff "ducking and running" Kreines


class="c724">Aurasoft on a goalpost over camera. Hey! I make commercials, women ALWAYS look good :-) Cheers Geoff Boyle


class="c724" >I had a similiar conversation recently in reference to screenplays where women are >often described as "beautiful."

class="c724">>I tend to agree with the trend -- audiences don't normally go to see average or >unsightly people on the screen (speaking of the protagonists).

class="c724" Okay, what Jay was alluding to was a conversation we had about my current of Hollywood casting. I think the casting of a film is so critical, obviously it can effect the entire result of the project -- both in terms of acting as well as believing the type casted is appropriate. Case in point, The Peacemaker.... I jsut saw a screening of it last night. Nicole Kidman as a Nuclear Physicist? With wardrobe smartly provided by Calvin Klien. Sure, all nuclear physicist look like Nicole and all covert special ops military men look like George Clooney. Now I'm not discrediting the concept of "suspension of disbelief" but c'mon.

class="c724">I wonder why the films I've been liking these days have been foreign or independents that have unique casting and original storylines. The last film I enjoyed in the theater was The Full Monty. Made for about 2 million, that film puts Speed 2, Jurrasic Park 2, Batman 4, Air Force One, I could go on... to shame! With the budgets of Speed 2 and Batman and Robin, we could have had 100 different original projects like The Full Monty.

class="c724">Let's try and focus our eneregies on original works with strong scripts, rather than anything that may make a buck, regardless of the fact that the script is horrendous. I look at the career choices of Roger Deakins, Darius Khondji, Conrad Hall... I think they are the examples to follow... with that said, I'm currently out of work waiting for my Searching for Bobby Fischer or Shawshank Redemption.... Oh woe is me...

class="c724">Chris Probst


class="c724" >Uh, so how would you (glamourously) light a woman who's been trapped in a car by >a high-tech alarm system? At 12,000 feet? Well Jeff, depends if she is the Heroine, >or just some nefarious nogoodnik (and yes I'm from Brooklyn and speak fluent >Brooklynese as a second language).

class="c724">GLamourously lighting, hmmm. how about one of those Helium Balloon soft lights? Would make transportation fairly easy.

class="c724">Steven (Brooklyn is G-d's Country) Gladstone


class="c724">David Mullen wrote :

class="c724" >This brings up a whole new topic - how far should one go in "glamourizing" a >woman's close-up? I shoot a lot of thrillers and dramas and often use acertain >amount of shadows & contrast on a close-up. Some actresses see that their key light >is coming from the side and wonder how they are going to look on film.

class="c724" I was DPing a show once, and they had hired a fairly "hot" (at that moment) actor (female - I DETEST the term "actress" as being VERY sexist, and have been trying to convert everybody to using the term "ACTOR", as in "one who acts", since the early 70's - you can just imagine the stares I used to get sometimes when saying "this actor I am seeing..." :), who was to do a nude scene (her first ever) Both she and her agent had agreed (contractually) to the scene, and the director even had me explain to them how the scene would look.

class="c724">As I often point out when I am teamed with a first time director (as I was in this case) working with an actor doing a first time nude scene, they should get the nude scene FIRST (once the actor is on the negative, it seems that they have all sorts of new demands and restrictions), the director chose not to do so... So... When it came time for her to do "the" scene, she refused (of course she did: remember, she was already on the neg, LOTS of neg), no amount of talking to her or her agent, etc., was going to change her mind (all of a sudden she was a "serious actor"). After she saw she had "won" this round, her demands just got worse and worse. At the same time, the producer was having fits, and generally making life not so pleasant for the director and I (after all, SHE was the MONEY on the show).

class="c724">The director had scheduled a big climactic scene (same location as the nude scene had been scheduled), where she had a lot of screen time and lots of punch-ups, so I talked the director into just doing the punch-ups and then re-sched the other shots, because I had a plan... As we set up to do the CUs, I had my gaffer set up a baby as a frontal key, and then jelly it down with ND and scrims. She must have had around .000001 stop of light hitting her from that "key" (but she could SEE it). At the same time, I had him cross light her face with two bare babys (doored down), which I explained to her were her "backlights". When I looked in the VF, Uggggg... she looked like merde! (or as Jerry so eloquently puts it - "monster" lit). We did her punch-ups in record time, and then I had my AC snip off 20 frames or so, and develop it as if we were doing a clip test (this was the old 47 stock). The director and I then showed her (and her agent) the resulting frames on a light box. Even in negative form, she (and her agent) could see how bad she looked. The director then said the scenes would stay if she didn't become more cooperative (he just wanted her to stick to her agreements, nothing more). We wrapped her nude scene about an hour later...

class="c724">Enzo Giobbé


class="c724">Today I came across this old interview with Gordon Willis regarding actor's needing "special" lighting: Willis: "I don;t pay attention to actors' egos - no, that's an oversimplification. The picture comes first in my mind, which doesn't mean I don't deal with what's best for them. I won't put a picture under because someone feels that they look better this way than they look that way. I'm not going to turn out an 8x10 glossy in the middle of two unrelated things in a movie." This probably explains why Willis is not known for romanticizing women's close-ups, although he had done it when the story needs it (the dream sequences in "Pennies From Heaven", for example.) Storaro is one of my all-time favorite DP's, but I must admit that some women have suffered visually under his lighting (I'm thinking of Vanessa Redgrave in "Agatha".) I also remember that Stanley Cortez was replaced on "Chinatown" for not wanting to shoot Faye Dunaway with wide-angle lenses - or without any diffusion. In some ways, my favorite DP for his lighting of women is Sven Nykvist - Debra Winger in "Cannery Row", the women in Bergman's movies (how can anyone go wrong there...), Marissa Tomei in "Only You", the various women in "Chaplin"...

class="c724">David Mullen


class="c724" >Wow, I must be lucky, I have never had a MU person question my lighting. Enzo >Giobbé I brought that up partly because I once got to talk to Conrad Hall, who was >completing the shoot for "Marvin's Room" when DP Sobochinsky went on to do >"Ranson".

class="c724">He was frustrated because the Meryl Streep's make-up person was telling him how to light her close-ups, or criticizing how he was lighting her.

class="c724">David Mullen