Talking Head: Cinematographer Lorenzo Levrini on lighting The Prey
This week Exit 6 bring you an exclusive editorial piece from Lorenzo Levrini (Nightmare Box, The Seventeenth Kind, Tea for Two). He discuses the design and production of the critically acclaimed short film The Prey (2014) with a particular focus on lighting. The Prey was screened as part of the Exit 6 Film Festival Launch Party and has recently been released on line by Eli Roth-backed Crypt TV. Insights from Levrini include combating on-location complications and how thinking on your feet can shed light on a situation…
I’m a cinematographer working in London and an associate of The Springhead Film Company, which was behind The Prey. I work regularly with its Writer and Director James Webber and this time around, we were in Hounslow for three nights in February shooting a horror piece with a twist.
James always has a very developed idea of how he wants the camera to behave. In terms of lighting, I knew we had to craft something that built tension and created enough contrast for the piece, but I also knew that without the possibility of an extensive lighting setup around the streets, I had to incorporate Hounslow’s natural night time look into our approach.
We were lucky enough that our picture car route was exclusively under LED street lighting, which allowed me to create colour contrast with the warmer lights inside the car. It would have been tough to create an image with separation and pop if the streets had been lined with old fashioned orange sodium street lighting. I decided to have the headlights of the car at the end of the convoy blaring into the back of our shot, creating some flares and adding depth.
For the alleyway, I knew I needed a bigger lighting setup, but a generator was out of the question for manpower and budget reasons, along with the fact that we were in a residential area so we couldn’t have parked it anywhere that wouldn't have disturbed the neighbourhood. So I elected to go with battery-powered units.
The first night of The Prey, I had just ‘double dipped’, shooting the last day of another project and going straight into our night shoot, only to be presented with uncharged batteries and the wrong header cables. We lost a few hours in the alleyway while new batteries were being delivered, and even then, they only powered a single daylight head, and I had to do the rest with two documentary-style LED Litepanels. This meant I had to think on my feet and cheat the shots in the alleyway in a way that makes the space feel consistent while only working with one head.
In these situations, apart from creating the right mood and advancing the story with the lighting, the cinematographer’s primary concern is to maintain a consistent feel to the visuals in order to build a believable world the audience can get involved in. If I’ve done this properly, hopefully the audience can forget about the lighting and get immersed in the story, while still being subconsciously emotionally affected by the cinematography.
For those interested in lighting, I run my own private lighting workshops called London Film Lighting Workshops. We cater to anyone who has some lighting experience but wants to take it to the next level and learn to light naturalistically for film. We are hosted by a major rental house, offering students the chance to get hands-on with the full range of professional lighting equipment. Go to our website to learn more.
Take a quick look at the Behind the Scenes video for The Prey here.