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During the duo's preproduction discussions for Fear and Loathing, Pecorini also discovered that Gilliam had no qualms about doling out creative challenges to his new cinematographer. "He came to me with this book of paintings by Robert Yarber and said, 'I want the movie to look like this.' Our production designer, Alex McDowell [The Lawnmower Man, The Crow], introduced Terry to this guy's work, which is very hallucinatory: the paintings use all kinds of neon colors, and the light sources don't necessarily make sense.
"I had about two days of panic after Terry told me what he wanted," Pecorini confesses. "But then I said, 'If he wants red skies, I'll give him red skies.' The way I approached it technically was to use colored gels in front of my lights. We did a lot of tests, mainly with Roscolux and CalColor gels." Key selections included Roscolux fire (#19), gold rush (20), pistachio (92), chocolate (99), walnut (156), follies pink (344) and Italian blue (370), as well as CalColor red (4660) and pink (4890).
Pecorini mounted his multicolored array of gels in front of a special series of Italian-made lighting units (see photo on page 40) that had been pioneered by Vittorio Storaro. "Some years ago, Vittorio saw these landing lights for airplanes, and he began thinking about using multi-point sources in the same types of frames," Pecorini explains. "The guy who makes them, Pippo Cafolla, is Vittorio's longtime gaffer, and his company in Rome is called Iride. Pippo has two sons, Fabio and Daniele, who also work at the company. Fabio has been Vittorio's console operator for about 12 years; Daniele works more as a spark [electrician], but he gaffed for me on Rhinoceros Hunting in Budapest. Pippo started out by making these units called Super-Jumbos, which have 24 [600W or 1,000W] lights in them, and Jumbos, which have 16 lights. There are also Mini-Jumbos, with eight lights, and Tornados, which have smaller fixtures [650W Par 36s]. These various units have a lot of kick, and if you place them at the right distance, you will get only one shadow. The lights work on a dimmer system, though, so you have to keep that in mind when you're designing your lighting plan."
For Fear and Loathing, Pecorini ordered a 200-kilowatt package of the Italian units. "The lights are great, but you have to be careful with them, because it's easy to blow them out when you turn them on," he cautions. "You have to bring them up quite slowly with the dimmer console. At the beginning of the show, we lost a few lights! Later on, in the desert, we also had some problems with sand in the dimmers, so Daniele came to the States to help us out."
Pecorini used the Iride fixtures for the majority of his lighting needs, but he supplemented them with a selection of Kino Flos, Par cans, babies and peppers. "I don't like the texture of HMI lights," he states. "They don't look real to me, especially if you're trying to simulate the sun. I much prefer putting up a battery of six or seven Jumbos 100 feet away with a 1/2 blue gel in front of them. On this show, I got my special lighting package from Rome and the rest from the [Burbank, California-based] Hollywood Rental Company, which had just come out of more or less the same experience, on a much bigger scale, with Bulworth [Warren Beatty's upcoming film, photographed by Storaro, which will be covered in the June issue of AC]."
Given the desert vistas of Fear and Loathing, Gilliam and Pecorini opted to shoot the picture in widescreen Super 35. The cameraman was familiar with the format, having worked as an operator for director of photography Ronnie Taylor, BSC on Italian horrormeister Dario Argento's 1988 frightfest Terror at the Opera. "We chose Super 35 over straight anamorphic for several reasons. First of all, with anamorphic, you don't have a wide enough choice of lenses. And while I love the format, I don't like the opticality of it. It's an optical aberration to start with, and it's an optical aberration to correct it once you project it. The ideal anamorphic would be to have the same morphing lens that you shoot with to project with. Of course, you can't have the same lens on every projector in the world!
"The other thing is that while there is a 20mm anamorphic lens, it weighs a ton, and to work decently you have to shoot at T5.6 at least. You can forget about having strong backlight with anamorphic. I've worked on a lot of anamorphic films, and have endured some terrible experiences with it. You always die during the dailies, and you invariably have to reshoot something purely due to the optical instability of the lenses. I didn't want to go through that sort of thing on this show, and we didn't have the money to do it anyway.
"I'd never been in charge of a film shot in Super 35, but I knew most of the problems that came along with it," Pecorini adds. "Most of those weren't a factor, because I don't use zoom lenses, so I couldn't care less about the vignetting. I don't like zooms too much; a good focus puller can change the lens in literally 20 seconds, so why bother with a zoom?"
Pecorini did bend his no-zoom rule to achieve one unusual shot which creeps into one of Duke's eyeballs, where a hallucinatory horde of bats can be seen flapping about. "We needed to stay inside Johnny Depp's pupil; I tried doing that shot with a macro lens, but it was too difficult. You have to choose the pupil or the iris, and it becomes very tricky; you're dealing with 1/100 of an inch, and there's a moment when things become fuzzy. In order to avoid that moment, I needed to use so much light that I was working at a stop of T11 or 16; Johnny was sweating and we couldn't do it anymore. In the end, we used a 10:1 zoom with diopters. The bats were added later by [visual effects supervisor] Kent Houston at Peerless Films, Terry's company in London."
For the balance of the film, however, Pecorini shot with Zeiss Standard Speed prime lenses. "I love the Zeiss primes: you can have unbelievably violent kicks from backlight, but those lenses just don't care. That's a great quality, especially if you work at [a stop of] T2.6 or 2.7, like I do. I drive my focus pullers crazy with those kinds of stops."
In terms of specific lens choices, Pecorini indulged Gilliam's preference for wide angles throughout the shoot. "I'd say that we shot about 95 percent of the film with 10mm, 12mm or 14mm lenses; that was our primary range! Sometimes I would check out a shot and say, 'This is 16mm,' and Terry would look at me and joke, 'Are you nuts? That's a telephoto!' We were sometimes literally shooting with a 12mm lens three inches away from Johnny Depp's nose."
The cinematographer's main camera of choice was the Arriflex 535, which allowed him to do a few speed changes during the film's driving scenes. "The speed changes were fairly subtle," he notes. "We sometimes went from 24 to 20 fps to make the car turn faster or take off faster." Elsewhere on the show, Pecorini employed an Arri BL-4S and an Arri 35-III.
Pecorini shot all of the picture's exteriors on Eastman Kodak's 250D Vision 5246 stock, which he found to be well-suited to the early scenes of Duke and Gonzo's raucous road trip to Vegas in their "Red Shark" convertible. "Vittorio had a batch of 5246 that he was testing on Bulworth, and I really liked it," says Pecorini, who did some operating on the picture for his old friend. "It has an amazing latitude, especially for overexposure. In the desert, we wanted the images to have a certain undefined quality, without a real horizon anywhere; we wanted it to seem as if you could never really get to the end of the desert. There's a certain kind of unreality outside the characters' car, because everything that matters to them is within the Red Shark. For that reason, I always used an 85 filter during those scenes, even though we were shooting in daylight. Because of the overexposure, the warmth is readable only in the undertones; the backgrounds might be really hot and burned-out, but it doesn't seem fake. Certain colors would change, though the greens disappeared completely.
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