This past month I had the opportunity to attend the premier of our film Zone 2 at the 2015 ScreamFest Horror FIlm Festival. Zone 2 is a dark thriller about a mother and her disable son's fight for survival in a post-apoclyptic underground world.
What really intrigued me about his ambitious film was the dark nature of the fall-out shelter and challenges that shooting in that environment would come with. Foruntately, I had just wrapped the indie feature, Butterfly Caught, and had become quite comfortable shooting in extremely low light levels. I wanted to explore that type of lighting even further and I knew that Zone 2 would challenge me way beyond my own comfort levels.
At my first meeting with the film's director, Anna Elizabeth James, we discussed how we could light the set and still remain authentic to lighting that would be available in a fallout shelter. The script called for just one emergency lantern and it was important to Anna that we maintain this dim look throughout. I was all for trying to create the darkest look possible, but I was concerned about losing some of the amazing texture and earthy tones that were being incorporated into the production design. Additionally, with only a 2 day shooting schedule, I knew that I would have to work very fast to accomplish all of the shots that Anna had envisioned. After a few more discussions with the production team, we decided to incorporate some industrial looking sconces on each of the walls and add one central overhead dish light that would serve as our key light. (see diagrams below) By putting all the lights on dimmers I was able to quickly adjust the levels of each light, controlling my contrast ratios, and maintaining a consistent look throughout the film. This approach also gave me the ability to shoot in almost any direction with minimal lighting adjustments. Outside of those practicals we used just a few small bounces for fill and eye light. It ended up being a very simple setup that worked beautifully and allowed us to make our day.
Most of the time as indie cinematographers, we shoot on practical locations that force us to navigate the existing elements and design lighting plots that compliment what's already happening naturally in the location. Over the years I have learned a great deal from this shooting style, but I have to admit that working with the talented production team of Zone 2 was a welcomed opportunity to design the practical lighting from the ground up and explore the dark elements of Zone 2.
For more information on the film, crew, and cast please visit http://utsentertainment.com