A triptych in film form, Love is Love is Love is written and directed by Eleanor Coppola. “Late Lunch” is one of three segments in the film, and it takes place mainly in a large dining room and an adjacent living room in a house in San Francisco. Ten women gather at a long dining table for lunch reminiscing about the recently departed mutual friend. The story ensues in one afternoon, and the conversation intersects over the table, then it spills over to the living room.
As expected, filming in a real location posed logistic and technical challenges. But it also presented an environment and a visual character, in a way a custom-built set could not provide. I welcomed it. To maintain a visual uniformity and continuity through eight days of filming was key, and I needed a lighting plan.
I called on Eric Blum, a gaffer familiar with my working method, which is, prepare but improvise, and I enlisted his idea for a logical scheme. At this city location, the sun’s movement created variable interior ambience throughout the course of day. We had to block the sun hitting the southern windows at certain hours and simulate sunlight when it got dark or rained, not uncommon in spring in the city. To tackle this situation, Eric devised a flexible lighting setup which a small crew can manage every day as needed, and then, dismantle it at the end of each day for safety. Having to rely on the house electric power, we settled for small HMIs.
As for the interior, we hang banks of mixed daylight and tungsten Kino Flo’s above the windows, out of frame, as auxiliary to the ambient light. Their intensity could be adjusted from the floor according to the luminance from the windows. These lights were pre-rigged during the preproduction to minimize down-time between setups and keep the actors’ concentration intact when filming began. As much as possible, I avoided placing lights on the floor so that the actors felt unrestrained, even if they are accustomed to a myriad of lights around them. LED panels and inky lights were positioned judiciously, and flags and nets – sometimes obstacles to the uninitiated but unsung necessities of lighting – were used for modeling light. Over the windows, production designer Barbara Munch hung laced curtains, helping the light diffuse while obscuring what is seen through; an effective treatment for both esthetic and lighting purposes. In the same vein, practical floor and desk lamps served their roles, making lighting adjustments swift when changing camera angles.
Ultimately, when all the shots are assembled and edited, my hope was to make them appear as if they were filmed in one afternoon.
Eleanor Coppola is a very accomplished filmmaker in both the narrative and documentary genres, also a talented cinematographer and artist. Before the filming began, she described “Late Lunch” as a narrative drama infused with the spirit of a real event; fluid, detailed images and wide, static compositions at the right moments attribute to emotional and visual rhythm. And for dramatic emphasis, she described some specific images for certain moments in the story. I imagined at that point, the camera should become an unobtrusive observer, an invisible guest in this drama.
To add another eye on the set, to see and capture the story as it unfolded, I thought of a camera operator with a diverse experience in documentary. Dyanna Taylor, director and cinematographer, fit such background, and I asked her to join our team. The authenticity of the location set, unique characteristics and its limitations motivated us to explore camera angles otherwise veiled in the preconceived frame of mind.
Wherever the space allowed, we used camera sliders to imbue spontaneity to the composition or its adjustment while the cameras were still rolling.
Zoetrope Studios provided two Sony FS7 with 4K resolution. Primarily, we relied on zoom lenses for expediency, but for a few specific shots we put to use 18mm and 180mm primes.
Photographs by Kalman Muller.
After graduating from San Francisco Art Institute in 1964, Hiro Narita, ASC became a director of photography for over thirty years in the film industry. Recipient of numerous awards, he is a member of the American Society of Cinematographers and Academy of Motion Pictures and Sciences. His work includes “Star Trek VI: The Discovered Country” (Warner Brothers), “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids” (Disney), and “Never Cry Wolf “ (Disney). He directed the documentary film, “Isamu Noguchi: Stones and Paper” (PBS American Masters).
Photo by: Paciano Triunfo, 2019, on the set of “Late Lunch,”directed by Eleanor Coppola.