Dante Spinotti: Practicals & Burnouts

From American Cinematographer, True Luminaries by Eric Rudolph (June 1998)

Rather than screening film noir classics for visual inspiration, Hanson and Spinotti pored over the work of swiss-born still photographer Robert Frank. They were particularly intrigued by Frank's 1958 book The Americans, a collection of gritty, startling black-and-white photographs documenting American life during the mid-Fifties... The director and cinematographer agreed that Robert Frank's influence resonates in almost every aspect of the film's look, from lighting and camera angles to the selection of locations. Spinotti was particularly fascinated by the photographer's inclusion of "practical" lights in his photographs, noting,

"I told the production designer, 'You will love this film, because what you select as practicals will be our major sources of light.' In fact, practicals were quite often our key lights on this film."

- Dante Spinotti, ASC, AIC

Was Spinotti concerned about the problem of practical key lights "burning out" on screen?

"No. In fact, I wish I could have burned them out a bit more, because I like that look. As you look at Frank's photographs, you see there is often a halo around the lights. These halos are one of the things people are often struck by in his work. I think that 'burn-outs' and halos worked for us as well in L.A. Confidential, enhancing the period and mood."

- Dante Spinotti, ASC, AIC

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