By Pete Kelley, Founder, Pete Galaxie Productions
For the lighting of The Silence of Bees, the script was specific that the story took place in the island setting of Barbados (although we actually shot the film in LA). The basic structure of the story took place in two locations, the outback writing grotto of Parker and inside the house, and the entire story takes place in the course of the early afternoon and into the evening.
I wanted to create a later afternoon look and a sunset look. Having just been in the tropics recently I was fascinated by the concept of a reflective blue fill on the non key side, this being what I felt the skin would reflect, the sort of indigo sky often associated with the deep coloration of a sunset. I also wanted, of course, the key to be sunset like. I got a 2500 par to be the sunset source for the small set of the back yard grotto, and as I had to do a reversal shot to the house, I needed a big spread, so I chose the biggest light I could power with a small generator I could afford. In fact, I had hoped to shoot this reversal during actual sunset, but that didn't work out. I used the 2500 to make the sunset Key light, and in the end it turned out to be too powerful and we used everything we had to scrim it down.
Anyway, I took a 4X4 frame and made what I felt was a sunset coloration gel pattern by taping three different gel colors to the frame. I used a pink gel on top and I graduated to a deeper orangey gold on the bottom. I felt this gel combination might simulate a sunset effect. I then bounced a steely blue color on the fill side to try and obtain this indigo fill concept I had. I felt like on the first night I got too grapey on the indigo fill and fixed it for the second night of shooting and one can see some takes are a little grapier than others as we tamed what became overzealous gelling. Still, overall I liked the effect.
We started the movie with a sunset day look and tried to gradually impose sunset into the film as time progressed through the film. I was adamant that we needed a transition shot to alert the audience that time had lapsed from the opening scene, which was, basically, daylight, to the later scenes which take place at sunset into night. I had a friend shoot some sunset shots around LA and in Ventura, but the coloration just wasn't right, it was just a sunny yellow sky and scene.
Fortunately, I was called to shoot in Hawaii, and I took my camera just in case I could get some kind of tropical sunset look. To my dismay, nature didn't cooperate, and all of the sunsets on the few days I was there were clear and not colorful in the way we had already shot the film. Well, you know how it is, in a different time zone, one can never sleep like one does at home, and to my good fortune, I woke up very early one morning to a spectacularly colorful morning sunrise, and went onto my balcony in my underwear and shot a few minutes of this before I went back to bed. I could sleep easy knowing I had obtained THE shot to complete this transition I needed. (Because I was staying at a rather common Hotel that many Hawaiian tourist stay at, I had the editor flip the shot, to make the scene less likely for people to recognize the location)
It was during this trip I also was lucky enough to capture the golden rays that open the film while balancing the camera I happened to have with me, but not a tripod, on some rocks. I also got lucky and shot the bees swarming around tropical flowers on a very long lens, fully extended, in very direct sunset light. I needed the bright light to get the right exposure on such a long lens.
Overall I think we got an OK sunset look. As we shot the bulk of the film throughout the night and I didn't have the spread to create a more daylight sunset look, I still feel the end result looks a little more like night than the transitional period from daylight to night that I was trying to portray. But we did pretty good, considering the budget and time and labor constraints.
We also used a slew of flicker boxes to create the flickering candle look. They are a fun tool, but one needs to be careful not to overdo it. We certainly didn't want to send an audience member into an epileptic fit with all the flickering. And here again, we may have gotten a little carried away with this effect as we did with the blue fill. They are very sensitive to adjustment, and need to be looked at frequently to be sure the flicker remains at the speed they were intended, it is easy to walk away from them and have the speed get changed and forget to go back and look at them to make sure they match scene to scene. All in all, though, and despite some of my nit picking concerns, we came up with a look, and have garnered much acclaim and some awards for the lighting on this project.