Directing and Lighting Your Film

The latest short film I directed was a very short drama, written by Bob McManus for the mining museum in Bishop Auckland. I loved the script when I read it, it was just the kind of story I like to tell, so I really wanted to do it justice. 

I was doing lighting as well as camera and we went to the location a few weeks before the shoot to do some tests. This, for me, is absolutely essential. I have to stand in the room, note where things are, make memos to myself and try out different camera angles and lighting styles.

Here are my tests for this shoot:

I was renting equipment so did not have the actual lights I would be using with me for the test. So we used a Lifx light as a key in the test and I didn't test with a fill or backlight. I just needed to know how the key would fall and where in order to plan for the day. Unfortunately Lifx only work with wifi and when we got on location we realised that we couldn't change the colour through the app so it was stuck on whatever we had it on earlier, which happened to be purple. 

Here are the tests compared with screengrabs from the raw footage from the shoot


In the test we had the subjects much closer to the wall but on the day we brought them forward and the background lamp light is much less in the actual footage. This was mainly because the prop lamp wouldn't fit in the hole in the wall behind them, but it actually worked out as much more realistic.  


For the shoot we had to black out any walls because they were white and this story is set in a mine so a white wall would definitely give the game away. In the test the door frame was much clearer but for the real thing I asked someone to stand with the iPhone torch pointing at one side of the door frame, just to give us some sense of depth and context.

I am not a lighting director and I have only started to get to grips with lighting in the last couple of years, writing and directing have always been my main interest, but I thought I'd share this shot and how I lit it


Check out our BTS video of the making of this film on The Director's Logbook over on YouTube and please subscribe to the channel for more videos on how to make films.