|260MC| Lighting From A Photograph


The 3rd 260mc cinematography task focused on teaching us the fundamentals of cinematic lighting and using it as a way of conveying the intended mood and style to communicate visually with the viewers. We got into groups and were given a photograph with which we had to produce a cinematic response, centered around trying to recreate the lighting of the still in our own 1-2 minute short.

The still my group was given was from the neo-noir crime film The Man Who Wasn’t There (The Coen Brothers, 2001). Below.

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I was quite happy with this still as I enjoy using low key lighting and the use of negative fill and it stirred my imagination with what me and my group could do. In our final production we decided to make a spin/parody on a Godfather (Francis Ford Coppola, 1972) scene, juxtaposing the harsh noir lighting with light comedy material and incorporating the use of the image at the end to give some context. Our short is below.

I believe in terms of filling the brief that the short did well in implementing the lighting shown in the photograph bar some possible room for improvement.

I acted in our production and contributed to the set design, shot composition and lighting of our short primarily.


With the photograph assigned to us being from a neo-noir film, we were tasked with adopting and implementing noir style lighting in our short.

This meant an emphasis on high contrast, hard shadows and strong key lights and back lights. We decided to replicate the composition of the scene with two people sitting at a table with a balcony in the background and create our own narrative utilizing the mood of the photograph.

To do this we found a small balcony at the top of a flight of stairs, and decided to black out the light sources there. We did this by clamping reflectors to the ceiling to block the tungsten ceiling lighting and darken the room. Then after setting up the props we decided to use two redhead lights on the stair below pointing up at our props and actors. This was used to create harsh rim/back light in the wide/two shots to add some mystery to the characters by making their faces dark, and thus place more emphasis on the outline of the setting.

For the single/close up shots of the characters faces we used the same lights directed more so at the characters faces as a key light, a small LED panel to add a soft fill light to the face shadows and some light spillage from the redheads bouncing of the wall adequately back lit the subject. This set up was used to capture the emotions of the characters as they conversed while still retaining the mood of the film.



We wanted to give the scene a feeling of mystery that is so commonly affiliated with film noir, and with our lighting set up we were able to achieve this. We wanted to create this mysterious moodiness as it lent a much more intriguing platform for our narrative then if it was more exposed and full with less contrast and shadows.

The script itself was based around a narrative enigma as it sets the tone for something bad to happen and flips it on its head and reveals it to be good, with the character revealing to the audience the topic (wife is pregnant) then the Godfather reference. I feel this would only work with this kind of moody atmosphere as it coaxes the audience into having false expectations of the scene, and makes the enigma in the script work.

The suit costume also adds to this as I believe it says to the audience that this character has a position of some importance and raises questions as to who he is, creating more intrigue and aiding the narrative. It is also a convention in the mise en scene of film noir so contributed to the style that we tried to achieve.


Our Lighting from a Photograph task was for all intents and purposes a parody of the Godfather with reference to a particular style of film as shown to us through the still from The Man Who Wasn’t There. In terms of style it is largely influenced by the film referenced in the photograph as we watched and analyzed the style/lighting of the scene from where it was taken, and mainly referred to it when creating our own scene. I also referenced other classic noir films and the lighting techniques used as inspiration.

I believe we could have used better actors and set design if we were to re shoot the project again as I believe it would give the scene more depth and character. I also wish we could have improved on lighting the faces of the subjects as they weren’t completely consistent throughout the film.












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