Lumen – Night Forest

Another big pilot on Pilot Day. This was my 5th collaboration with Joe Johnston and I very much enjoy shooting movies for him. We had a high-pressure start on my first film with him and I remember the day vividly when I found his funny bone and made him laugh… Somewhere around the third week of Jurassic Park 3. It’s funny because on those films you’re faced with situations where your choice is to laugh or cry… And once we could laugh together (much at my expense, granted) we had access to see solutions. Now it seems no matter what we are faced with, we understand at least one of us will work up a good plan… If not both of us. Lumen was a large pilot for DreamWorks that was shot in New Zealand. It’s about a boy who figures a way to access the world of a famous fantasy novel series and helps his family in the process.


Great New Zealand gaffer Tony Blackwood really worked hard on this project. This location was remote and he had maxi brutes dotting the hillside and his crew worked very hard to get the placements I requested and power to this location. It was a set up that we got a lot of mileage from. In fact, one shot that was cut from the script was a wide shot of our group entering the camp in a remote area. At lunch time (around midnight), Joe Johnston told me he’d love to get that wide shot, and asked if there was some area within Tony’s rig several acres of lit forest that we could cheat that shot into existence. We explored during the lunch break and Joe found this tree that was wonderfully side lit and asked if I could make that work. Tony panned around some backlight and we got this shot rather quickly. Joe is great at finding the graphic element in a location or piece of action. He is art trained and knows his way around a composition and any set design. His vast ILM experience gives him quite the pedigree and he’s very exciting to work with. Tony was able to shake up a few lights that we could see and hide them behind foreground trees. We were able to walk our kids through the shot before we lost them to the child labor laws and we were happy to get the shot so quickly. I owe Tony a beer for this one.

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