Asbury Hosts Oscar Award-Winning Cinematographer

WILMORE, Ky. — With shoelace-less Chuck Taylors and a black fedora, Academy Award-winning Cinematographer Russell Carpenter spoke Monday night to nearly 80 gathered students and faculty about the art of lighting a movie set.

Carpenter, who was born in Southern California, has spent more than 30 years in the film business and has worked on moves like "Titanic," “21," "Charlie’s Angels" and "The Ugly Truth." But he started with a local PBS filming documentaries. "With my first job, I was able to make every mistake possible," he said.

After he shot a horror movie, he moved out to Los Angeles and into the Hollywood world.

"I would shoot zero budget films, then no budget films and then low budget films," Carpenter said. "I thought Hollywood was huge, and it was; you have to do whatever you get to make it. But Hollywood is also a closely knit community. Some people I met at the beginning were there for me 20 years later."

As a cinematographer, he is involved mainly with the director’s visual interpretation of the script. He works to direct the attention within the scene and keep each frame consistent. Carpenter demonstrated this by showing many techniques to disperse or condense light.

"There is a huge difference between creating the image in your imagination and creating it on set," Carpenter said. "You have to create what you can on a schedule and go as fast as you can without sacrificing quality. Some problems exist in time, money and weather. The major problem is that the world revolves. When you are shooting something all day, the set has to look good and consistent the whole time."

Carpenter showed a still frame from the movies he worked on and described each detail about the light and what it added to the movie. He also described the different filters or mediums the light filtered through, such as a helium balloon or a white canvas, to create a softer glow or a warmer mood. After he talked about the concept behind the light placement, Carpenter explained how to create these effects in the cheapest way possible.

"He presented great ways to shape light for cheap and in an efficient manner," senior media communications major Erik Thein said. "For indie filmmakers especially, he presented it in a practical way."

Taylor Florian, another senior media communications major, also said Carpenter showed specific ways to work on set when you don’t have a massive budget.

"It’s about knowing how to use something," Florian said. "He came and didn’t tell us what to do, but showed us what has worked for him, and it’s what he likes. He has a wealth of knowledge."

Carpenter came to Asbury through Canon’s Explorer of Light initiative, a program that sends successful cinema people to teach free workshops and classes. Learning from other experts in the field was one of Carpenter’s main points. He talked about how he would slow movies down and watch them by frames to examine the different lighting and take tips on what would work best for different types of movies.

"Our main technology is our imagination," Carpenter said. "We can take a location and with good control over the situation make it look like a completely different place."

--By Will Houp '13

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