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QUESTION: How special is working with special effects?

SUSCHITZKY: Well, before you actually experience it, the term can be slightly intimidating. Over the years, when I have heard terms which to me denoted something I had never done myself, it was sometimes just a reference to a field which I knew little about. But, in fact, there is no mystery to it. It is just one of those processes which one can understand— and certainly in lay terms—understand fairly rapidly. Having done it all now, I must say that I am not intimidated by any of the terms anymore. We had a lot of matte work to be done on VistaVision, and I had never seen a VistaVision camera in my life. And before I had seen it, I certainly didn't know what it was going to be like to work with. I can't say that I am in love with it, but the results, after a lot of toil and tears, were worth the effort one put into it. Taking that camera to Norway—into the extreme cold—was not a very funny experience. It refused to get up to speed on several occasions. The film broke and we had all sorts of problems with it, but in the end, I'm sure that the results of the matte work being done on a large format are going to be worth all the extra trouble.

QUESTION: What did being involved with a production so long beforehand mean to you?

SUSCHITZKY: Being approached by George Lucas and Gary Kurtz a year-and-a-half before shooting began—even before they had settled on a director, in fact—didn't mean a constant involvement. It meant meetings now and then over that period, with a greater intensifying effect toward the end of the period. It meant getting excited about a really interesting film—or trying not to get excited about it, in case it didn't happen. I met Irvin Kershner, the director, about a year before we started shooting. I suppose, and we immediately struck up a good relationship. I feel that we have kept that up right throughout the production period—which, I must say, I feel very happy about. After about six months of shooting and a year-and-a-half of preparation, to come out the other side and feel that we are still friends is very pleasing. But to answer your question more specifically, it meant, toward the end of the period, visiting the studio, talking with the Art Director and looking at his plans, going away, thinking about them, coming back and throwing in ideas and asking them to do certain things. It meant the bending backwards and forwards of ideas and slowly having to plan how I would light the sets, because some of them were enormous.

QUESTION: Isn't it true that they built a stage specifically for this film—a permanent stage?

SUSCHITZKY: Yes, although, obviously, it will be used for other films in the future. Some of the sets needed a lot of thought, as they involved great expense in terms of man-hours and equipment rigging. I suppose it is fair to say that I am a slightly "untechnical" cameraman—more instinctive than technical—but obviously every cameraman has to know roughly what he is going to need in the way of equipment, because there is no use saying: "Well, I might need 100 Brutes or I might need only 50 Brutes." When it comes to those figures, a company is going to want to know if you really need 100, or 50 or if you can make do with two. So the really big sets needed a lot of thought. In fact, the small ones did too. Sometimes the small ones were more exciting to work on than the larger ones.

QUESTION: To what extent did you have to plan your work to accommodate special effects?

SUSCHITZKY: I have never been involved in a film with quite so many effects—and half-finished sets which will look finished when the matte work is done at the end. All of that needed very careful planning, because it was quite obvious that my lighting of a part of the set (the rest of which was to be matted in) would commit the matte artist to a certain way of painting his matte, and it required an act of imagination to try to picture in my mind what the thing was going to look like when he finished. In regard to that and the many other complex technical problems inherent in this production, I just want to mention that I was immediately impressed with the seriousness with which George Lucas and Gary Kurtz approached the project—to the point where I have to say that I've never worked with producers who had such thorough technical knowledge of the medium. They were very keen that we should get the best possible result on the screen. They said, "What do you want to test? Which cameras do you want to test?" So I had total freedom to bring in any anamorphic system I wanted—not that the choice is great. I was even approached by one man in this country who was trying to persuade me to use a three-dimensional system, but when I asked him whether it had been used before, he said that it had only been tested in Moscow. I thought it best to put that out of mind for a few years.

QUESTION: When you were doing comparative tests you chose to do your special effects photography in VistaVision. Why was this—and why VistaVision in preference to 65mm?

SUSCHITZKY: I can only answer that by saying that it wasn't my decision. That had already been made. They had, I believe, used the VistaVision system on Star Wars.

QUESTION: Did you use VistaVision only for plates or did you use it for anything else?

SUSCHITZKY: The VistaVision camera was indeed used for plates—but it was also used for live action material which would later on be combined with plates—so there was quite a lot of shooting in the studio with the VistaVision camera and the actors in front of a blue screen.

QUESTION: What photographic equipment did you use for the rest of the filming?

SUSCHITZKY: On the rest of the picture we used a combination of the PSR and Panaflex-X cameras. Toward the end of the filming—for the last two or three months—we switched over to a normal Panaflex. We then used the Panaflex-X as a second camera and an Arriflex as a third camera. Because there were many difficult and physically awkward sets, which involved climbing over various forms and up ramps and so on, we needed a lightweight camera. I operated the second camera a lot of the time, as I quite enjoy picking off things whilst the main camera is working. We had a full range of lenses from 30mm upwards, but as far as I can remember, we never used a zoom.

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