Michael Chapman - 'The Fugitive': Lighting and crashing the train (73/94)
Original upload date: Wed, 12 Jul 2017 00:00:00 GMT
Archive date: Wed, 01 Dec 2021 17:29:34 GMT
To listen to more of Michael Chapman’s stories, go to the playlist: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLVV0r6CmEsFyKbX3v4q3w3U_-c2SOkXm9 Michael Chapman (1935-2020) was an innovative cinematograpShow more
her. He worked with a number of acclaimed directors including Martin Scorsese with whom he created his two best-known films, 'Taxi Driver' and 'Raging Bull'. [Listener: Glen Ade Brown; date recorded: 2004] TRANSCRIPT: It has a big train crash, and that was achieved by actually crashing a train. And that turned out to be the best way to do it. We were in the... in the mountains in North Carolina, in the winter – awfully cold – and there was a railroad which ran in the summer there as a sort of tourist railroad. It must once have had some industrial function, but now and for many years it had been simply a tourist railroad to take people through the Smokey Mountains, or whatever the hell they are, and in the winter it wasn't used. And so, we rented... rented an engine and some cars and a section of track, and crashed the train. And I... presumably they built a new engine, or whatever they did. I don't know. We'd left and gone back to Chicago by then, so I don't know. But... well, the big secret of how we did it was – we just crashed a train and filmed it with a lot of cameras. That was an amazing sequence. Yeah, it is. And... and... but it turned out that the best thing to do was not to do a digital anything, it was just to crash a train, and we crashed a train. We had a lot cameras and turned them all on and lit it well, and crashed the train. And... then there was some other... some stuff, actually, that... that we matted in with Harrison [Ford] running and things, but a lot of that, even, is... well, we shot Harrison and we shot where he's running and the train is going behind him and everything. We didn't... obviously you can't threaten a big movie star with that, so that was composited later, but most of it we just plain crashed the train and shot it. There's some... there's some nice stuff in it. There's nice... nice examples of... I did that once where... where I was talking at some God-knows-what. After you get to a certain age, you spend most of your time talking instead of doing, but I was trying to give examples of the two poles that I was talking about earlier of a documentary and theatrical lighting, and I used that movie because there are... there's that sequence where they... where they sneak up on a house in the slums of Chicago, which is done without any lights, without anything, and mostly hand-held, and he just sees them coming in and going into the house. And it's done utterly documentary and it looks... I think it works very successfully as these agents sneaking up on a beat-up house in the bad section of Chicago, and it's quite thoroughly documentary, without any embellishment of any kind. And in the same movie there is the opposite end. There is a sequence where they... where they... Tommy Lee Jones and the other guys hunt Harrison through a series of sewers underneath a... underneath a tunnel that leads to a bridge, and it was all made up; it's all nonsense. But... I don't know if you remember, but there's a... you know, they go through a whole series of tunnels and there's water pouring down, and they slide down this and that. And, in fact, there is... if it were a real place there would be no light at all. Because it's underneath a road which is in a tunnel. So it’s... so there's no light, you know. But, of course, you can't have a movie if there's no light. So I took big lights and I would shine them straight down through various holes as if, for some reason, instead of being underneath a road in a tunnel, they were outside. And so there'd be a shaft of light here that would miraculously happen to aim just where you needed it to aim, and that was the... and there'd be no other light – maybe a tiny bit of fill light but probably not. And that was all built... that set of tunnels was all built on a stage in some big warehouse in Chicago. And we built sort of tracks underneath the water so we could dolly along here and there. And I had a small amount of fill light on the front of the dolly, maybe. But basically it would be just dark and then there'd be these big shafts of light, and those shafts of light are the opposite of documentary. They are that basic theatricality of telling you where to look, like, you know... and where to look happened to be where Tommy Lee Jones or Harrison Ford was. But it works. And then he jumps off the... jumps off a fake dam, top of a dam, and we dropped a dummy in front of a huge real dam in North Carolina, and there you are; it all works. [...] Visit [https://www.webofstories.com/play/michael.chapman/73] to read the remaining part of the transcript.