Magazine article American Cinematographer

Leonetti Tackles Jumping Jack Flash

Magazine article American Cinematographer

Leonetti Tackles Jumping Jack Flash

Article excerpt

The process of turning a no page script into two hours of film is always a Rubik's cube of problems, deals, and compromises. Not only is this true for the producers and director, but for the cameraman as well. But as cinematographer Matthew Leonetti, ASC, is quick to point out, ". . . if you're a cameraman you've got to be adaptable to any situation."

This capacity to adjust to any situation served Leonetti well, when he was called in by producer Joel Silver to photograph Fox's Jumping Jack Flash, a comedy adventure starring Whoopi Goldberg in her second feature film since The Color Purple and Jonathan Pryce who starred in Universal's critically acclaimed movie Brazil.

The original production team of director Howard Zieff and cameraman Jan DeBont bowed out of the production after shooting for a few weeks. Penny Marshall of Laverne and Shirley TV fame was then slated to direct, with Leonetti as her cameraman. Robert Boylc, the production designer and Frank Richmond, the art director, were retained from the original production team.

Boyle, who has worked with some of the great Hollywood directors, such as Hitchcock, and has been nominated four times for Academy Awards, had already worked up production designs according to Zieff's directorial concept.

"Our sets were in the process of being built," Boyle says, "Or already built." So, because of the constraints of time and money, Marshall and Leonetti were "economically locked into a concept," Boyle says, "either good or bad, that was started by Howard Zieff."

"Most of the sets were already done or decided upon before I got on the production," Leonetti says.

So, not only did he have little prep time for the production, but his input into set construction and design and locations was greatly reduced.

Boyle fully appreciated Leonetti's difficulties. "Now Matt was bound, to some extent, to consider what had gone before. It was almost like going on a location. He had to go down to Fox's Stage 14, where there was a set almost built, and assess whether he could work with what was started, or would he require changes that might or might not be possible - economically. It was decided to approach the standing sets as if they were locations."

The sets and locations for this comedy-adventure, involving a computer terminal operator in a New York bank who rescues a British intelligence agent from behind the Eastern Bloc, is set in New York.

DeBont had shot some location exteriors and other footage in the super 1:85 aspect ratio, but Marshall and Leonetti decided that since the picture was going to be released in regular 1:85, they would abandon the super 1:85. The earlier footage shot in the super 1:85 format would be optically reduced and intercut with the regular 1:85.

The only other major problem held over from the previous production concept was solved by toning down the colors used to paint the set walls.

"Bobby (Robert Boyle) and I seemed to have the same ideas, as far as color balance and colors of the sets," Leonetti says. "There were a few sets that were toned down. These sets were white; and, with the new 52.94 film we used, it's very difficult to use light colored walls.

"The film stock is so sensitive to light; it reflects too much and makes scenes too bright. It actually changes color. For example, the computer room set, which takes up 15 pages of the picture, is a light tan. On film, it'll show almost an off-white. The way the film reacts to that color doesn't show its true color," Leonetti says.

He then explains that he lit the set with bleached muslin over the top to give an ambient daylight feeling to the set. There was no way to cut off all the light on the walls, so there was some unwanted reflectivity.

With the prep time that was available, tests were run and shown to the Eastman people.

"I had them look at the set on the sound stage, then showed them a reel of film of the set, explaining how it was lit. …

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