Yes I know the title might lead you in the direction of a Gordon Willis Godfather extravaganza of peering into the darkness but surprisingly for me it’s not to do with light (first time for everything as light and shade is my party piece, don’t expect to get away quickly if you ever bring up the subject!). A little known fact, when Gordon Willis first shot the study scene in Godfather 1, which was the advent of lighting from above, the studio demanded he re-shot it. Nothing hugely unusual about this but you must remember that this is Gordon Willis we are talking about and if there was something he didn’t know about exposure, it wasn’t worth knowing. He dutifully did the re-shoot and actually admitted to thinking that maybe he had overcooked it the first time, the rushes came back and they were exactly the same. He said, and I paraphrase as I wasn’t there, I tried to do it differently but just couldn’t bring myself to, I seemed to make the same decisions. There’s conviction for you. Amazingly, despite being widely considered as one of the best dop’s of his generation he never received an Oscar for an individual film – probably the only thing I have in common with him!
Anyway, I digress. So back to joining the dark side. It is my conviction that wearing other peoples shoes can be uncomfortable, it is also a conviction that you often learn the most when you are out of your comfort zone. With this in mind I occasionally like to put myself in the life of the people around me. This time I wrote, directed, DoP’d and edited a short. When shooting I have a close relationship with the director and we discuss what we both need from a scene to make it work but to spend a day in their world, seeing the issues with their eyes, really helps to build a truer understanding of what they need from me. Editing your own film could not be a blunter test of success. It’s not about whether you have the shots, I’ve been doing this long enough to know what shots I need versus what shots I want, it’s about the rhythms of performance. The shots cut, but does the energy? I’ve always known that if you have a take with a great performance nobody will give a shit if the camera move isn’t quite perfect, but sitting there in front of my AVID having to bin the take with the perfect camera move for a better performance or more compatible energy is a hard pill for me to swallow.
I think everyone who works in a world where many people contribute to make one product should step over into the dark side and spend a day in other departments. It helps you understand – both why things sometimes go wrong – but also what is possible, both of which are great lessons. I was very fortunate that a good friend and by coincidence excellent director, Nic Cornwall, also swapped sides and covered locations (by providing his kitchen to shoot in – mad fool) and more strenuously, taking care of the art department. I owe him many thanks and sadly, many beers! Many thanks also go to my excellent cast who put up with me, I think we all had a good day, well I did anyway.
Here’s the film, hope you like it.