American Cinematographer - October 2015 - 76
Top: Real-estate broker Rick Carver (Michael Shannon, left) evicts Dennis Nash and his family from their
house in 99 Homes. Bottom: Bukowski and Bahrani discuss a scene.
I said to the production designer,
Kelly McGehee, that we'd sometimes be
in situations where the vantage point
wouldn't be ideal to shoot through an
existing piece of glass, so why not carry
several pieces of glass on the truck? And
let's have press-on graphics that we can
apply. So, often the glass was a piece we
had constructed and put in front of the
camera. There's a shot early on where
Richard is lying on a park bench. It's his
first night out on the street, in front of a
small convenience store, and in the foreground you see this big out-of-focus
blob of red going across the frame. That
was a latex press-on graphic adhered to
a piece of glass. Depending on the lighting situation, I would backlight the glass
to have it pop out a bit.
You've said that 'locations are
the raw material of everything.' When
scouting Time Out of Mind, which
items were at the top of your checklist?
Bukowski: Vantage points.
Motion in exteriors. In interiors, locations that felt real. Richard, Oren, Kelly
and I visited many shelters throughout
New York, just to get a feel of the life
and [gloom] that exist in these places.
We noticed that everything was
numbered - endless, indecipherable
lines of numbers that had to do with the
floor, the section, the room number. If
you were a confused person looking for
your bed, it would be very difficult.
We shot in two shelters. The first
was actually the Bellevue Men's Shelter,
which nobody ever thought we'd get!
But Oren is endlessly optimistic, and
Richard was a very useful source
because people like him and he's
famous. He was able to talk to the board
We had a very limited amount of
time, and they didn't really want us to
bring in lights. That's the kind of location scout where you look at the available light, and what winds up
happening is you turn lights off. To light
that location, I had some white reflectors, some black material to block light,
and the ability to turn on, turn off and
unscrew fluorescents, which that location was basically lit by. Since we were
allowed lights in the exterior, I put a
sodium-vapor light on a high stand
coming through the window to light
Richard's bed. The window was very,
very dirty, and I couldn't clean it, so the
window was quite bright and looked
almost like daylight. In post, Oren and I
decided to composite a CGI background onto that, which would look
more like [the city at night].
The main-shelter scenes were
shot at a school in Williamsburg; that's
where George meets Ben Vereen's character. Kelly McGehee basically built
that shelter downstairs in the basement.
We liked it because it was subterranean.
Describe the lighting in that
Bukowski: It's a raw room. As in
all these cases, it was lit by overhead
fluorescents, but I wanted a very specific
fluorescent where we could put grids
under the lights. If you have an open