Thursday, October 17, 2013

In Which I Admit to Using Fog and Liking a 3D Movie.

Trouble Puppet's production of "The Head" has teched, opened, and closed.  This was my second collaboration with Trouble Puppet, after 2011's "Riddley Walker."  Lighting Connor Hopkins's work always takes a mental adjustment for me - lighting puppets is just like lighting people!  Except they are shorter!  And handled by larger beings wearing black that you really don't want to see if at all possible!  But it's definitely worth it - Trouble Puppet is one of the best companies in town to design for, because the work is always good, always collaborative, always imaginative.

This review in Arts & Culture Texas made me smile - the lighting is briefly mentioned, with a positive reference to the "tasteful use of fog machine."  I know that lots of lighting designers use fog machines frequently, but I always hesitate before using it, questioning if it's really necessary for the piece.  I was approached earlier this year about designing a show, and during the conversation with the director she mentioned that she did not want to use fog in her show, saying that she knew that according to a previous designer, "fog makes the lights look better," but it wasn't what she wanted for this show.  I had never heard that as a reason for using fog - to me, a design element has to NEED to be present.  This means that I don't use every effect at my disposal for every show just because I have it.  I need to understand why, in this case, we need the fog.  Or the strobe.  Or the moving lights.  That was something I struggled with in grad school - after two full semesters of automated lighting classes, I didn't really understand why we would NEED to use moving lights in a play until I was assisting at Cincinnati Opera.  I've just never been a fan of lighting effects for the sake of effects.

That's some tasteful fog right there. (photo by Stephen Pruitt)
Last weekend, Travis and I went to see the film "Gravity," in IMAX 3D.  Usually I avoid movies that tout their 3D-ness.  Usually, I hate it.  I never really see the need for 3D, why a particular movie has to have 3D, why this story can't be told without it.  And the glasses, well, they give me a headache.  But everything that I had read about "Gravity" told me that it was necessary to pay extra to see it this way, and so we did.  And all I can say now is that "Gravity" is the first and only film I have seen that NEEDS to be in 3D.  There aren't enough synonyms for "stunning" to really do justice to what the effect did for this film, the way that the size, scope, vastness, emptiness of space was so palpable because of it.  I am so used to feeling so analog, "old school," get-off-my-lawn curmudgeonly about the because-we-can overuse of technology and effects in art - I was overjoyed to have experienced something for which the use was justified, was the RIGHT choice to make.

(And, as an unrelated feminist side note on "Gravity" - when we complain that there are no good roles for women in movies and theater, THIS is what we are looking for.  "Gravity" is a film with a female lead who is not defined by her relationship to the men in her life and is not, in any way, romantically involved with someone else in the film.  Spoilers, sorry.  This is, to my mind, a film where the lead role was written to be the normal male protagonist that we always see in these parts and then given to a woman.  I've heard a few complaints about the gender politics of the film, specifically in how George Clooney relates to / flirts with Sandra Bullock, but as someone who actually LOOKS HARD for these things in every film and play she sees, it did not bother me at all.  So, as far as I'm concerned, halle-freaking-lujah.  Please make more movies like this.)

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