Thursday, May 6, 2010

Lighting Tech... To be or not to be

Before I was into film production/ post production, I was a lighting technician, or at least I thought so. I've been doing lighting setups for about 7 years now for both theater and independant films, and despite a lack of proper training, I was fairly successful. Knowing this; the captain of the paintball team I play for (Bacon Force) called me the other day to hook me up with some freelance lighting work. Woo Hoo! Extra money to fund the camera, and a chance to work in a grander, more professional capacity. Sounds like a win win.
Here is the tale of last nights lighting job.

When I arrive at the location I see about 4 tractor trailers filled with film gear, and about 20 of the saltiest looking grips I've ever seen, and my heart immediately sunk.
"This is way over my head", I thought. Well after hitting up craft services for some snacks, I meet my contact; a man named JD who looked nothing like I imagined. Over the phone he sounded like a hip 30 something kind of guy. Well I was wrong. I'm not sure how old he is, but here's the image. Long gray hair colored a purple/ auburn color, and braided, with an equally braided goatee. Whatever his age was, he was in very good shape, and ran around set with the best of them.
Upon showing up, the crew was wrapping a shoot that could only be described as something you would see on QVC. Our job was to break the set down, and turn the space into a runway for the fashion show which would take place the following morning.
To achieve this we had to hang pipe, run cable and power, hang fixtures, adjust, focus and color the fixtures, while the other crew built the runway... all in 6 hours.
I ended up on a ladder much more then I expect, and although I'm not afraid of heights, the idea of falling from them gives me shaky knees, a stiff back and profuse sweating. Never the less, I did the best I could and pushed through the day, despite some of the other grips poking fun at me for holding on to the grid with one and leaving only one hand to work with.
We ran an hour late, but the lighting looked great. JD is one hell of a lighting designer. He could tell you how much space a 36 degree barrel light would fill at any given distance at the drop of a hat, and the whole plot was built on this knowledge. It's probably the reason why it looked so damn good.

Now if you've managed to read this far without falling asleep, you might be wondering the point of this whole story. There are a few actually. Firstly, I knew that the lighting design I've done was by no means professional, but it looked good and I've never gotten any complaints. After seeing this man at work, imagining all the hours he spent honing his craft, I realized I have A LOT of work to do to be even close to a true lighting designer.
The second realization: I don't think I want to work in lighting. I use to love it, really truly love it, and even thought of making a career out of it. However with my fear of falling from heights growing, my pashion for making and editing films growing, and my decreasing interest in lighting in general, I would rather phase out my days as a lighting tech, go out in my prime so to speak, rather then becoming lazy, and doing a half assed job when called in for a gig. Now this is not to say I don't respect and appreciate the craft. I'd like to continue to learn about lighting fixtures and their different applications, as an aspiring film maker, I think it's important to have some knowledge of how to light a shot, and what to use, but man oh man, how I would love not to climb any more ladders.

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