Magazine article American Cinematographer

Interview with an "Emmy" Winner

Magazine article American Cinematographer

Interview with an "Emmy" Winner

Article excerpt

Award-winning cinematographer discusses the constant challenge of achieving top-grade technical finish on the short schedules of television production

Of the myriad "Emmy" statuettes handed out on May 20 at the Annual Awards Presentation of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, the ones of most direct significance to readers of American Cinematographer were undoubtedly those granted in the field of cinematography.

The winner in the category of "Best Achievement in Cinematography for a Television Series or Segment of a Series" was Jack Woolf, who won for the "Eye For An Eye" segment of "KUNG FU" (ABC).

The winner in the category of "Best Achievement in Cinematography for a Television Special or Feature" was Howard Schwartz, ASC, for "Night of Terror", "TUESDAY MOVIE OF THE WEEK", (ABC).

The latter film is a suspense-filled mood melodrama starring Martin Balsam, Catherine Burns, Chuck Connors, Donna Mills and Agnes Moorehead. Filmed at Paramount Studios, Hollywood, and on location at Malibu Beach, California, it was directed by Jeannot Szwarc and produced by Thomas L. Miller and Edward K. Milkis.

In the following interview with American Cinematographer Editor Herb Lightman, Howard Schwartz discusses the photographic techniques employed in the filming of "NIGHT OF TERROR":

QUESTION: From the viewpoint of the Director of Photography, can you tell me what special problems or challenges you encountered in shooting "NIGHT OFTERROR"?

SCHWARTZ: Actually, it was a pretty straightforward story and there really wasn't anything spectacular about it, but it did give us a chance to play for some effects. On a broader scale, however, I think that the great challenge in all filming for TV is to try to do an effective job on a very short schedule. You have a rather large number of pages of script thrown at you every day and you've got to get them shot.

QUESTION: What was your schedule on "NIGHT OF TERROR"?

SCHWARTZ: It was a 90-minute (minus commercials) ABC-TV "Tuesday Movie of the Week" and we had 10 shooting days, plus an extra day of second unit for the car chase stuff in the garage. That's a pretty short schedule for a picture involving locations, but what made it workable was the fact that the key people were given a week of preparation by our Production Manager, Sam Strangis. That much preparation was a big plus on a show like this. We had a chance to visit the locations with the director and talk about how all the shots would be made. My Gaffer, the Key Grip and the Best Boy went out to the locations with us and we spotted the places where we wanted lights and where we'd have to lay cable, so that they'd know exactly how to rig. We talked over the progression of the action with the Director, Jeannot Szwarc, so that we'd know what order he'd want to shoot in. By then we'd already seen what the second unit had shot and we knew how to go ahead and match it for our close shots.

QUESTION: In other words, the second unit had shot the garage car chase in advance?

SCHWARTZ: Yes, they shot that ahead of us and our first day's work was in the garage, matching what they'd shot. But I can't stress too strongly the importance of pre-production planning on a show like this. You can do so much if you have a Production Manager who will really swing with you and a Director who knows in advance what he wants.

QUESTION: As I understand it, part of the film was shot on location and part in the studio. Can you tell me how and why these decisions were made?

SCHWARTZ: The action in the climactic part of the story takes place at a beach house in Malibu. We found a house out there that was just right for the exteriors and, ordinarily, we might have shot the interiors there, as well. However, in this story, the main character plays the last part of the script in a wheelchair and the house she's in has an elevator (a practical one) that hauls her up and down. …

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