I had the great pleasure to be chosen for a short movie production’s DP, which also happened to be situated in the 30’s of the past century. It’s called “The Patient” and is based on a classic short story, written around the same period. It was, in my opinion, one of those cases, in which the subject of the movie (or it could very well be the photograph, in that sense) demanded and, to some extent, dictated the approach for its visual execution.
I chose to shoot practically every scene of the movie with a very “raw”, “back to the roots” approach, loosely based on the classic tools, used in that period of the cinema history, but consciously omitting some of the paramount workhorses of the era in terms of lights and their contribution to the scene, thus giving it a bit more “edgy”, temporary look, yet still falling into a similar visual style.
The greatest percentage of this film was shot using a relatively low-powered units, a mixture between ARRI’s 650/1000W and the smallest Dedolights – the almighty 150s. This was made possible partly because of the amazing high ISO performance of modern cameras, which is, in my opinion, a tool that gives creative freedom that wasn’t possible ever before to the photographer/cinematographer of our modern age.
Their low wattage allowed me to mix their power (and the DEDOs also have a variable one, did I mention that I LOVE those little guys) with every other light source in my frame – including some gas lamps, as old as the movie’s setting itself. This made it easy for me to achieve the classic, simplistic yet quite strong, natural look as if the scene was lit by the visible sources in the frame, that I was looking for for this piece. In fact, very often I actually placed additional NDs on the ARRIs, so that I could bring their power even LOWER than their already not-that-high one. In terms of photography, the general rule of the thumb is that the brighter light is almost always the better light, but in recent years I honestly get the impression that power requirements for a successful picture have dropped by A LOT (excluding, of course, those cases in which overpowering another powerful light source is required).