Lifesaver MACs on Gothika Thriller

February 11, 2004

Gothika, a new movie starring Halle Barry, recently opened at movie theatres across North America. Shot in Montreal this past fall, the movie is a genuine thriller, a ghost story in which a repressed female psychiatrist wakes up as a patient in the very asylum where she worked, with no memory of committing a terrible crime.

Key to thrillers like Gothika are scenes sculpted so full of suspense that theatregoers literally sit at the edge of their seat. Lighting plays a key role in this mood and atmosphere creation and automated lighting is increasingly being used for its multiple possibilities and time saving abilities.

Director of Photography for Gothika, Matty Libatique, used Martin Canada-supplied Martin MAC 600 and MAC 2000 wash fixtures for several key scenes. Matty had used MACs previously on the movie Josie and the Pussycats and found them to be very versatile. The reason for using automated lighting on Gothika, he states, was a matter of necessity as the location was difficult to light and access was an issue. With little time to reposition fixtures, the automated lights allowed Matty to pre-rig the lights and not have to touch them again, saving time.

“I adjusted the looks shot-to-shot through the control board and could dim without adjusting the color temperature,” he stated. “I could spot, flood, perform ten different functions to set the mood, which was a big advantage.”

The benefits of automated lighting were especially valuable in one important water scene in which Halle’s character escapes and hides in a swimming pool. Matty explains, “I shot in two different color temperatures, one a bit cooler for the water scene. I used the MACs to project light, shafts of light from unseen windows to create shadows. I needed something powerful enough to create those shadows, which gave an ominous feel to the scene. I let the shadows fall so that the actress couldn’t be seen in the water.”

“Adjustments were easy. I had a flurry of MAC 2000s in the air, focused, turned some on, some off, worked with the reflection in the water until I found a look I liked. They were very flexible to work with. We had no problems.”

The scene had to be finished at a location in Los Angeles however, but this didn’t pose a problem as far as the lighting looks were concerned. Matty used 6-8 MACs and mimicked the light in Montreal perfectly through use of the same color temperature. “The MACs were a life saver,” he stated. “There are so many upsides to the lights - we could even soften the light to make the lighting look more natural. And they’re not much more expensive than using conventional fixtures.”

In another scene, in a house, MAC 600s were recessed in a ceiling and used as downlighting for general lighting and light onto actors. Again, they showed their flexibility and timesavings as the crew was spared from crawling up into the ceiling to make lighting adjustments.

Director of Photography: Matty Libatique
Best Boy: Jeff Scott