Eerie Times at USP

In Brazil, our story was based in Ribeirão Preto, (pronounced something like “HEE-bay-roan PRAY-toe,” though all Brazilians laughed at our attempts to say it) a city of a half million, three or four hours inland from São Paulo. Our final shoot was at the local campus of the Universidade de São Paulo. In search of […]

Continental Drift

I’m hunkering down at home right now after a three-week trip through Europe and South America to shoot a global corporate medical film. Our route took four of us – and 13 cases of video and audio gear – drifting through the Netherlands, Switzerland, Germany, and Brazil. Plus one day shooting here in the San […]

Taming the Wild Eyeline

If the eyes truly are the windows to the soul, don’t we want to see them when we ask someone to be thoughtful, frank, and honest? Don’t we want to look into their eyes – and have them look into ours – to see if they’re telling the truth?

When I’m shooting interviews on video or film, the subject often asks whether to look directly into the lens, or off to one side at the interviewer. Worst case is when he or she doesn’t know where to look and glances about wildly, desperately seeking eye contact and approval, and appearing to all the world like a shifty-eyed no-goodnik. This can cause even unsophisticated audiences to mistrust the person they’re watching.

Historically, most movies use an objective camera style, where actors in closeup look to one side of the camera. Having actors look directly into the lens – subjective camera style – can be extremely disarming.

Shooting into the Void: PBS Science Series ‘Closer to Truth’

Presidents and paupers, musicians and moviemakers, actors and athletes, writers and regular Joes – I’ve shot hundreds and hundreds of interviews, perhaps thousands, sometimes 25 or more in a single day. But shooting for “Closer to Truth,” the PBS science series on “Cosmos, Consciousness, and God,” presents a unique challenge.

Start with the quest for a dramatic but natural lighting look, while shooting two people talking, with two cameras. Then add the factor that both cameras are moving constantly. Because the cameras will see more than 180 degrees of background during their slow journeys around the room, there’s nowhere to place stands for backlights. And front light just won’t do – flat and boring, out of the question.

Monument

In a corner of my back yard, surrounded by drop cloths, my heavy pink rubber gloves caked in caustic, brownish gunk, I gingerly brushed paint remover on an old metal file cabinet, then scraped off layers of paint. From time to time, I cursed bitterly after inadvertently touching a bare elbow or exposed knee to […]

Murse Gone Missing

Sometimes the road home is paved with obstacles. I got out of Glen’s car in front of my hotel after a massive dose of Southern cooking, stretched, admired the alabaster dome of the U.S. Capitol in the distance, and waved goodbye as he drove off. An instant later, my heart sank as I realized I […]

The Bus to Maitencillo

Christmas Eve on the other side of the planet, and we had just missed our bus. Raw chicken was thawing in my backpack as we trudged along la Alameda in Santiago’s 85-degree heat, through throngs of late shoppers and sidewalk vendors, from one bus station to another. Susan and I were visiting our son Danny, […]

Polishing the Talking Head: The West Wing Documentary Special

Former White House Director of Communications David Gergen is recalling the unforgettable day that President Reagan and his staff woke up at Versailles Palace, had lunch with the Pope and ate dinner with Queen Elizabeth. My problem, however, (see photo) is lighting his dark suit without pouring too much light on the top of his head.

Henry Kissinger is describing the peace agreement in Vietnam as a high point in his White House service. But how do I get light in both of his eyes without creating distracting glare in his glasses? And what do I do about the moiré pattern on his tie?

Bill Clinton reveals that he is more idealistic about the presidency now than when he took office,