Magazine article American Cinematographer

Filming "Moonrunners"

Magazine article American Cinematographer

Filming "Moonrunners"

Article excerpt

"MOONRUNNERS" is a contemporary comedy based on the exploits of one-time moonshiner, Jerry Rushing, who also acted as advisor on the film. Written and directed by Gy Waldron and produced by Bob Clark, "MOONRUNNERS" was photographed entirely on location about 40 miles southwest of Atlanta, in and around a small town called Haralson. The entire cast and crew stayed in nearby Griffin for six weeks.

When Gy first called me, he suggested that he would like to shoot in black and white, because as he explained, although "MOONRUNNERS" is a comedy, he did not want it to have a "high-key", super-slick look, which he felt would be the effect of shooting in colour. He was concerned that it would only detract from the feeling of reality necessary to the story.

He had already chosen many of his locations, both interior and exterior, after making many trips to the Haralson area. I went with him later and we drove many miles over narrow country roads that would be used in some of the high-speed car chases. We also looked at some old houses, including the one that would be the home of Jesse, played by Arthur Hunnicutt, one of the main characters in the story. Built in 1868, this house was occupied by Mr. and Mrs. Quick, both in their 70's, and just as charming and hospitable as they could be.

This, together with the other locations we looked at, were so rustic and full of character, I didn't feel that black and white would do them justice. I assured Gy that I would try to light in such a manner as to retain as closely as possible the quality and character for which he chose the locations. I also discussed with Movielab in New York, the fact that I wanted to underexpose some of my interiors by two stops and force-develop one stop, my reasons being that I felt I could achieve the look I wanted from a thin negative rather than "depending on the lab to give me what I wanted from a normal negative. Surprisingly, they did not scream at the suggestion. In fact, they were extremely cooperative. Our work print was excellent and Gy was very pleased with how the interiors looked.

We hear a great deal about achieving an authentic or natural look on film, I believe that, like beauty, it is in the eye of the beholder. I think we achieved our goal in this respect and hope that the audience will think so, too. We spent about six days shooting in and around the Quick house, and the first members of the crew to arrive early each morning were welcomed by the Quicks with hot coffee and biscuits. The house was supported by large boulders all around which appeared to have been placed strategically wherever the house looked as though it was about to collapse. Inside, the floors undulated throughout. You could even see all the way through to the ground between some of the boards. My first concern was whether the floors would support the weight of our dolly with the BNCR and the crew. The house is still standing and probably will for another one hundred years.

We shot both in the kitchen and in the living room. In the kitchen, we shot several "day scenes" and several "night scenes". Our blocking for the day scenes was such that at some point, we would be seeing the windows. I decided to use 85ND3 so they would not burn out. This left the outside hotter but you could still see detail. Inside I used two 1K soft lights, one above each window. This gave me a working aperture of T/4 at ASA 200. In approaching the lighting from this standpoint, we were trying to retain the appearance of the kitchen as it originally looked. I believe we achieved this.

As for the night scenes, our apparent source was from a bare bulb hanging in the middle of the kitchen, which never actually appeared in the shot. I don't like to show a bare bulb, unless it is absolutely necessary. Sometimes it is, but in this case I felt that the apparent source was believable without showing it. It is important to the realism of the scene, that the key light be determined by the position of the apparent source, a table lamp, candle, or whatever, whether it is in front, behind, or to the side of the subject. …

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