Monday, December 13, 2004

painting with light: alan caudillo - cinematographer

by Gregg Chadwick

alan caudillo & one red sock
alan caudillo
photo by Gregg Chadwick

the witty, important film "a day without a mexican" is now available on dvd. alan caudillo was the director of photography on the film and i recently had the chance to spend an afternoon at the norton simon museum in pasadena with alan. our conversations centered around the place of light in film and painting.

alan- " the light one finds in vermeer and other painters of the dutch school is always in my mind when i begin to plan the overall look of a film. on one level the light flooding in from a side window as one finds in vermeer or in this gabriel metsu unifies the scene. everything in the frame looks good. the shadow areas are rich and vibrant and the light is almost spiritual.
on a more technical level as the actors move through a scene, when lit in this vermeer-like light, whether they are in shadow or moving in light they are readable through the lens. there are no bad moments in this kind of light."

gabriel metsu
gabriel metsu
woman at her toilette
norton simon museum
photo by Gregg Chadwick

alan-" i continually am amazed at the light in paintings. as a painter, gregg, you have ultimate control over the light in your work. if you paint it with skill and direction the sense of light is just there. as a cinematographer i have to physically light the scene and then let the actors loose in this light filled box that i have created. "

gregg- "alan, you also are a painter. do you bring this sensibility into your work in film?"

alan- " yes, when i look at paintings i like to figure at how they were accomplished and then bring those findings into my film-work. when looking at this metsu i can imagine the light fixture outside the window illuminating the scene. all i need to do is set up the camera and let it happen."

gregg- "it is your skill behind the camera and your vision that makes it happen"


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