14, 2000, Gazette)
Lights, camera ...
Wheres the action?
The author and William Hurt.
Lights, camera, action! Well,
maybe a little short on the action, but a seven week stint as
a stand-in for Oscar-winning actor William Hurt gave me plenty
of opportunity to observe the real key to filmmaking the
lights and the camera.
Mr. Hurt was in St. Johns shooting Rare Birds, a
big budget screen adaptation of local author Ed Riches
1997 novel. Because of a similar height, build and hair colour,
I was approached about the job of Mr. Hurts stand-in. Thanks
to the accommodation of my managers and co-workers at University
Relations, I had the chance to observe first-hand how a major
motion picture gets filmed.
Lets get one thing straight the job of a stand-in
is anything but glamourous. My job was to observe the actors
rehearsal and then mimic Mr. Hurts actions for the benefit
of the director of photography, Jan Kiesser, to ensure his camera
placements and lighting were perfect. This allowed Mr. Hurt and
co-stars Andy Jones (Dr. Andy Jones to us. He received an honorary
degree from Memorial earlier this year.) and Molly Parker to
leave the set and prepare for their performance.
In the process, I learned in painstaking detail how major motion
pictures are filmed. And painstaking it is. A typical day would
consist of filming four or five scenes, each one from as many
as nine camera locations, (three or four set-ups per scene was
standard) with a new lighting set-up for each shot. Of course
moving the camera means more than moving the lights, it means
making room for the camera, which could be stationary or mobile.
So if that means half a room must be emptied out, then it gets
done. And if the next shot includes the missing half of the room,
it must all come back in, in its previous spot.
Mr. Kiesser and director Sturla Gunnarsson, who collaborated
on the 1998 film Such a Long Journey, were responsible
for the look of the movie but a few days on the set made it clear
that it was the cinematographer who made most of the decisions.
He would slowly arrange the lights so that the subjects were
highlighted, with balanced light and no glare in the lens. And
the actors would not return to set until he was satisfied with
the look of the setting.
While many of the top guns on the cast and crew came from Toronto,
Vancouver and Halifax, the local film crew were first rate veterans
of the local filmmaking community. Working on Rare Birds
opened my eyes to the local talent acting and technical
available in this province. With the much-anticipated
Shipping News on again for the spring and several other
movie projects on the horizon, the film industry appears set
to meet the great expectations of its supporters.
Filming took place in Outer Cove, Petty Harbour-Maddox Cove,
Cape Spear and St. Johns, including a half day at Memorials
QE II Library. The film should be released some time in 2001
but, hey, what do I know. Im just a stand-in.
On a related note, in appreciation
of the use of the QE II, the producers of Rare Birds have made a donation to Memorials