Tuesday, 9 October 2012

String of Pearls - Part 1

String of PearlsFilm noir is a cinematic term used primarily to describe stylish Hollywood crime dramas from the '40's and '50's that emphasized moody, low-key, and unbalanced compositions.

I love the genre. I like the humour and I am intoxicated by the lighting. This may be because I am unbalanced and dark myself. In any case, I set out to do my own film noir production, with the help of some friends.

After researching traditional noir plot lines, I knew I needed something with twists and turns, a hard-boiled male character, and at least one femme fatale. I also needed scenes that let me use a lot of harsh, low-key lighting. I thought I might be able to work in references to a friend's jewelry business, Vive Jewelry. Tara specializes in pearls, a natural component for a film noir story.

You can also follow the story I created over on my Facebook Page.

I created the images in two separate shoots in Halifax. The first shoot was inside the wonderful Roy Building, with its very 40's style interior. The second shoot was in a small area of downtown that had lots of room to set up lights, yet had low enough traffic so that we wouldn't be bothered by many passers-by as we worked.

The first pic in the story is this one of Stefano in character as Rex Crane on the steps of the AGNS.

String of Pearls

It was another dark night in the city by the sea. This was my last free night on the outside for a while. I got jammed and I didn't see it coming.

By the time we got to shoot this particular image, the sun had long gone down. But as you can see in this "behind the scenes" (BTS) pic, there was still a lot of ambient light to overcome even without the sun, courtesy of the area lights. The area was lit by a brutal mix of high-pressure sodium lights and mercury vapour lights. I say brutal because of the different colour temperatures of these lights. Fortunately I was keeping with the film noir style of black and white imagery, so I could forget about balancing the colours and just worry about how to structure the tones.


I had Erin hold a flash on the upper stairs for a "hair" light. Since Stefano doesn't have any, I guess this is a "head" light! Tara held another flash at camera right that hit Stefano in the face, and I had another flash on a stand at camera left for a touch of fill. I used some of the light from the fixture just above Stefano to help light the steps. The result was the opening shot of the story.

The second shot in the storyline was set at the wonderful hallway safe in the Roy Building.

String of Pearls 2

The name is Crane. Rex Crane . I used to be the crackerjack in the Oyster Gang. I know safes. I can open one before you can say “rotary combination lock”. And there are a lot of safes in the city by the sea. Seems no one trusts anyone anymore.

I don't have a BTS shot for this image, but the lighting was simple enough: a snooted flash on a voice-activated light stand (VALS) held high, camera left, and another flash on a stand behind some stairs, camera right. You don't see much of the effect of the second flash in this shot because of the tight crop. You will see more of it in a later image take in the same location.

The third shot was also from the shoot inside the Roy Building. I thought the decor fit the idea of noir and could serve as a backdrop for a group shot of the Oyster Gang being pursued by a paparazzo (styled to perfection by Jamie Goh). I used a two light set-up: one for Jamie (camera left) and one for the Gang (camera right). Ambient reduced, of course, with shutter speed.

String of Pearls 3

There was me, Jojo Carmen, and Ziggy Pike. Just the three of us. Ziggy was the wheel. Jojo was the lookout. We specialized in pearls because they were easy to offload. That’s why people called us the Oyster Gang, even tough we all hated oysters.

We became famous. Lola Morgan was always trying take our picture for her social page in the newspaper and we played right up to her. We shouldn’t have done that. We should have kept a low profile. Too many people knew who we were.

Part 2 of this story is here.
Part 3 of this story is here.
Part 4 of this story is here.
Part 5 of this story is here.

The conversation about the story and the photos is on my Facebook page here.

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