Reflections 'On Golden Pond' (Katharine Hepburn, Henry Fonda, Jane Fonda)Jun 09, 2021
Billy takes natural light and shapes it in such a way and uses it to make all of his lighting look so natural. Each frame was taken in the correct light. It's a tunnel. It is light gold. You know, it's the glory of life, it's wealth. of life, but it could also be the end of life. Billy Williams was one of those enormously accomplished cinematographers and could shoot anything. It's fantastic with that kind of
goldenamber light range. Remember he made Gandhi, who has wonderful African and Indian exteriors. He did the desert sequence at the beginning of The Exorcist, the first Exorcist which has the same kind of very filtered but very gritty image and of course it's a little bit in Golden Pond.
I love going to a new country or new environment. and seeing things for the first time like going to India in New Hampshire and trying to capture the place, but then the story is about the people who live in that place, so I think capturing someone's character within their environment is what that my job is about the whole way I see my role, he has the feeling that these people belong there and know that they are part of that place, welcoming us and putting together a team for a film of this nature is complicated. In the process, you have to choose the crew in the same way you choose the cast, you have to find the right people who are sensitive to this type of material.
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Marc Riedel, the director, had worked with Vilna Sigmund several times and I think he would have really liked Bill too. Long story short, I very naturally called Bill because I thought he would be wonderful for this, but he wasn't available, so we sat down and chatted and he thought Billy Williams would be the most appropriate choice for this material. I guess it's a wonderful story. It was so beautifully written and so aware of the maturity of old age and this couple's reaction to each other and the humor I loved with the film. I thought no, no, I really want to make this one of the suggestions.
What Vilmos Sigmund did to me was watch the Ken Russell movie, well, Women in Love, but Billy hadn't done any of the scenes. It seemed as if they were actually illuminated by electricity. They just look natural. There were a tremendous amount of outdoor scenes. inside the women in love with Lawrence and although they were lit to remove shadows from the artist's eyes and things you couldn't, you would never dream there was a light miles away and of course he also made the women look so fabulous with your choice of colors. His feeling for color is quite surprising.
It was decided that he would go to New Hampshire several weeks before production began to meet Marc Riedel. See the locations. Meeting production designer Steven Grimes, who, therefore, spent several days there and fell completely in love. With the location and the house, Mark and I got along really well, so it was great. I would do the movie, the play was a successful play both on and off Broadway, but the younger actors performed it posing as very talented older actors. and Wendy and the play had a much more ridiculous tone than the movie, plus whatever else about Golden Pond was/is on people's minds and is meant to be a photo album of a family in a dysfunctional family Also, from the movie.
It's just about the play, it's about a man facing his mortality. It would be nice if the guy looked like an old man and, although the wife is ten years younger, she also sees mortality through him and there are times when I think Henry and Kate looked more like they weren't old when I met them. to work on the script. I wanted to remove some of the ridiculous elements and make it a much more realistic drama because we actually had two of the icons from a movie. world, a world of acting to play these two roles and they were the right age, they were already over 70 years old and, in fact, they were facing the essential crisis of the film, which is a crisis about mortality, your fascination with death It is beginning to deplete my good. a lot of fascination just crossed my mind every once in a while every five minutes I have nothing else to think about anything like Christine well I sat down with Billy and told him let's not romanticize this now that this movie has a certain kind of sentimentality to it. quality anyway, it's filmed in the most exquisite location, but let's film it realistically, really see the agony and old age and its ravages by playing Hepburn and Henry Fonda because that's what we're dealing with and he was quite excited about I had the idea that we weren't going to embellish it, so to speak, and that we were actually going to see the truth.
The setting was very beautiful and I didn't want to make it too pretty. I wanted these people to look their age and one of the first conversations I had with Mark was what we were going to do photographically with the negative because, like I said, he worked a lot with Ilmar Sigmund and Bill Moss was very inclined to use things like flashing. and diffusion to lower the intensity. contrast and soften the image and I was quite reluctant to do this because I didn't want them to look younger. I wanted them to look their age and I thought that softening the image would make them look too pretty and I wanted that. would be as dramatic as possible without becoming too photographically sentimental, let's take a second and warm up.
I heard from friends that some of the reviewers mentioned the fact that some of the shots were too beautiful, the dissenters said they had a quality of National Geographic exquisiteness and I must tell you that I tried very consciously to find the most exquisite shots, particularly of balloons, for example, which are very essential in that material. The balloons come to say goodbye, but the flowers come together forever. They are not. Monogamous people stayed together and that element was very important. They had great difficulty getting close to them. It seems like you get closer than a hundred meters.
They would dive and rise at a certain distance and one morning it was around 8 in the morning. We went down to film scenes with the actors. and there were two grebes flying around like they were in some kind of mating game and one was chasing the other and the one that was being chased ended up right under the overlook and I think he was a little dazed and he stayed there and we had all the cameras ready when I said They all gave me the camera with a thousand mills on and then we got one camera with a thousand mills and the other camera with something like fifty and I took this great close-up of this loon, which is the opening shot of the image in a film of billion and then the second camera filmed the loon swimming, it seemed to regain its balance and it just swam away and we got this beautiful photo. diving and swimming in the water, we went and spent at least two weeks filming second unit shots in reeds and swamps and their aspects of the lake and at all the different times and under all the different lighting circumstances so that we could take advantage of that environmental impact. at Golden Pond and is destined to be a magical place.
We wanted to start the movie with a shot that really exposed this lake and all its splendor and all its glory. A beautiful shot that took your breath away. Billy Williams got out of bed at 3:00 3:30 4:00 in the morning so he could see the sunrise and the sunrise on this lake, he took the breath out of your body and shot like we did to reveal the lake when he came out Sun. I know you felt like you had discovered America. You know it was exciting to have found the perfect photo. It is Billy's sensitivity that brought us to photographic normality.
I had a parallel on a platform, as we called it in England, which took me to a high position. and I got up there with a 300 millimeter lens and I had this beautiful sunrise on the other side of the lake and the camera pans in with this wonderful
goldenglow to share the land in silhouette beyond that was used for the opening and closing title, so that was the only one. When I got up at that time to see the sunrise, we had a second unit that was directed by art director Steven Grimes and photographed by Peter Norman, they did some of the scenic shots like they did a lot of shots of loons that were very It was very difficult filming because I couldn't get close to them and they did some shots of the flora and shots on the lake that didn't involve the main actors and then when we were filming on the lake we had a huge raft with two motors that were very quiet and we had always had two cameras, electricians and reflectors and the whole crew, so there were quite a few people on this floating raft, it was like a small houseboat, like the bed of a houseboat, it's very small.
We could place the cameras and try to prevent them from becoming unstable on a camera boat, so to speak. That's what this big party boat was. Now we are filming from one ship to another. You don't see this movement as much, but we. I saw it when the speedboat passed and disturbed the water and there they were shaken a little. There were all kinds of mats on the sides of the camera barge to prevent water from lapping, making sounds, and destroying the sound quality. This was done where the canoe was and we showed no proximity to land;
We were actually close to land and some of the crew were standing in the water and could guide the boat or whatever because it was shallow enough. that they could do that Billy that I learned and working with him on Golden Pond takes natural light where most people try to start from scratch and erase all the natural light with some mesh, you know, silk and try to make the illuminate his own, he tried to make the interior light always appear as natural as possible. Wow, how nice to hear Norman Thayer Jr. in Golden Pond I have something I want you to do, call me.
You did that? Billy interpreted the light source and the light source was the windows from the lake shore into the room. The lighting of it was that the light would go out as you walk further in. the set and this confused the camera crew because here was a man who was standing there and saying: put the light there and put the light there and put the light there and don't do this and don't do this and just do this and just do that and some of these guys had been trained to know that once you watch a rehearsal and the scene is blocked, they automatically put lights here and there and Billy didn't want to do that.
Look at those big old houses that are what they were like 40 or 80 years ago and that's what I think Billy captured so accurately was the look of those places at the beginning of the movie where Henry and Missy have a photo of himself when he was young man lifting weights and we were able to get a photo of young Henry Fonda when he was an Adonis and then the camera pans to an article about Henry Fonda's character's retirement from being a college professor and then pans to Henry as an older actor in the mirror and that's it.
Done with such realism, he reminded me and still reminds me more of the way Spen Nyquist would have filmed it, you know, like it was a Bergman film. Norman Henry found that he goes out of his way to choose stories that he doesn't really want to follow, but Ethel says no. You know, you go and pick strawberries, well how do I pick stories? There's on the floor, so he goes out and Mark wanted an Ingmar Bergman type atmosphere. He wanted it to be very dramatic because he goes into this forest and he gets lost and very.
Scared, we went into the forest and there were rays of sunlight and I wanted a contrasting lilac copper look possible, so I didn't take any light, I just took some little pieces of whiteboard, so where I needed it I found sunlight with the white board just to illuminate enough of his face to read the expression, but sometimes it's very dark almost in silhouette, so we used these long glasses and said the background was softer sometimes. Billy, you know, let a lot of the overhead light come through the trees, so he had a sense of dark foreboding that enhanced the excitement that Mark was going to walk through all those woods.
We had a green man with us all the time and Billy when the lake got too much. hot would break it with tree branches instead of, you know, trying to turn on the light, you know, he said she is and she gets lost and he doesn't know what to do and he comes home sweating a lot and he hasn't picked any strawberries. and obviously he went through that. It is a very terrifying experience. You won't know why I came back so quickly. I reached the end of our lane. I couldn't remember where Old Town Road was.
More than a path in the woods because nothing offended you're not a scared fucking tree we start with a couple of close ups of them standing and I used long lenses and kept the background soft and then they sit in an outdoor like setting, diners and it's on the porch and we decided to do it in one take, they sit down and the camera moves very, very slowly in tracking, not in zoom, we just follow very, very slowly in two very tight shots and we reproduce it all in one , there was no coverage. there are no cuts and sometimes it gets a little dark behind him, you can only see one eye and I quite like that and it was performed so beautifully, the moment was so physically and technically perfect that it was a very challenging scene for me because I had to do almost a 180 on the dolly and going from a very high rise to a very low rise and we were having problems with the creaking of the board that we were wanted andthe creaking of the porch and you know, trying to make it as soft as possible. possible and there is always a point in the shot, unfortunately my mind is never perfect, there is a small error where you see the camera move a little and I wanted to make that shot so perfect and with the nature of the movement of the dolly that we could just never get it and it was us and we couldn't keep making the actors do it over and over again. one of those scenes that you know you got from the beginning so we had this strong settling in, listen to me lord you're my shining knight um, don't forget, you're going to get it back, that's how it was and I'll be right behind you, olena, there's a scene in the picture where Jane and Kate bring a cake for Henry's birthday.
It was getting dark and we were literally inside the house and I was waiting for Billy to start lighting and, you know, some scoops outside. house and bring in some evening light and stuff like that Billy said let's not use any lights I said well why don't we start looking into the kitchen? Kate comes out carrying the cake so we have all 80 candles lit and a beautiful golden glow on her face with all these candles and I said are you going to light just the candles on a cake and he said let's try that's the end of the scene , everyone gets together to blow out the candles with everything in one that we filmed. all in one and we didn't do any coverage, we didn't need any coverage, it worked.
I wish I could take credit, but it was said that I was his idea, of course, the shot is beautiful. The entire image was taken on location. it's not a studio shoot, everything was filmed on this lake near Laconia except the helicopter sequence which needed a larger area of water and which was filmed on the next lake which is Lake Winnipesaukee and which was filmed by a director of photography specializing in helicopters during all the nighttime interiors. They were done in daylight which I particularly wanted to do because we were filming outside and you could see the lake through the windows.
I didn't want to darken it, so I got it. I got some neutral density filters of different densities starting from one stop and one one two and three stops and there were times where I had seven stops of exposure cut from the outside and now the grips built these filters in layers so I could balance the inside with the outside so that the outside could It seemed like dusk, which happens in several scenes, or it could seem like all night and you could see what looked like moonlight on the water, and so on, instead of what you feel so often in a movie when you enter the interiors you find yourself in.
The studio in this movie is out there with the lake. I simply filtered the windows so that the daylight looked like night and I did not use correction 85 so that the exterior is always more blue good night sweet prince 5 10 15 and 20 there is any exterior of a night, which is when they bathe naked, That was all done one night, which was like a long day, if you like, in particular, we didn't want to do night work because of the age of the cast, they call it purgatory: boy, look at those rocks, they eat ships, do you know the way ?
I know the way, go up on deck, tell me where the rock star is, the sunken ship, that's in the moonlight, that had to be done in stormy conditions and I remember going out in the morning. One morning I went out ahead of time on a boat and listened to the local fishermen and listened to what they said about the weather and one morning it was a sunny morning but they told me that another morning it was going to be cloudy. time, so whatever it is, it will be cloudy and it will be cloudy all day, so listening to them we made the decision to go out and do that boat sequence that day.
Wow, the fish aren't just going to jump on it. I'll get it going. Turkey, the fact that we could go to that place when it was cloudy, when it was dark, when it was raining, when the weather was threatening, supported the scene in a perfect way, going dark. Chelsea, are you calling Chelsea? Remember we had to drive. We were on a boat for probably an hour, so to get to this cove that was suitable for what we wanted to do, the art department didn't have to fix the set, it was there and getting the boat in wasn't that easy either, and that's all.
In the movie, what you see guiding the boat, of course, was done in cuts, so you don't really know some of the problems we had and it seemed like it was difficult, but it was harder than it looked. a lot of conferences with Mark about the producer about how we were going to shoot the boat crashing and Henry going into the water because they were very afraid that for his health he was 76 years old, he had a lung and a pacemaker and there was an element of risk in making this scene and at one point there was talk of doing it in the Los Angeles studio, which I didn't look at with any favor.
We had the perfect place. We had all the stones where we needed them. And it was just a question of how we could do the accident that we did with a stuntman and then Henry Fonda in the water. It's what he had to go into on two different days because of the length of the scene the first few days. is the continuation of when he is catapulted into the water and young Billy jumps in to help him and they come to this rock that was a real rock and the grips had just built a platform under the water and said they had something to stand on instead of Solo I was trying to put up with all that so they would be pretty safe, but look, we filmed it in September, when the water was getting cold.
Hank had a wetsuit on and was absolutely ready to go in. So this scene is intercut with Kate Hepburn worrying. they haven't returned it's getting dark a storm is coming she goes with Charlie the boatman and in the boat they go out to look for them well this had to be done at Magic Hour due to the nature of light and the fact that the boat had to have lights turned on, he has a light that illuminates the boatman and Kate carries a flashlight. When you work in those lighting conditions, you can't do it in broad daylight, you have to wait until it's almost dark.
We call it Magic Hour, but it actually lasts about 10 minutes. At the moment when the window in which you have to photograph where you were, the light is perfect, we had to place the raft near the rock with two cameras on. young billy and
on the rock into position and then we had to get the rescue boat with Charlie through the postman and katherine
on the rock into position and then we had to get the rescue boat with Charlie through the postman and katherine
hepburnwith a flashlight and we had two frogmen and the other side of the boat maneuvering the rescue boat into the Original screenplay. The boat was going to approach the rock and they would have the conversation and we had a script conference about their scene and Kate Hepburn said oh, wouldn't it be wonderful, she said, if I saw them from 40 or 50 yards away. away with my flashlight and she said then I take off my coat and dive into the water and swim well towards them of course it was a wonderful idea but I knew I would only do this once there was no chance to do it again.
With everything that entailed, it had to be perfectly timed and I put fill light on the raft to fill the foreground, we had to wait until it was dark enough for the flashlights and boat lights to show well and the light on The sky was correct and we took a shot with two cameras, one wider and one narrower. I saw the photo in the United States and the public was happy and applauded when she did that. I think maybe you and I should have that kind of relationship. that we're supposed to have the kind of relationship it's like, you know, like a father and daughter right at the last moment, uh, the scene between Henry and Jane while Henry is on the boat right before she does the part behind. diving is probably the most touching scene for me in the movie and I'll tell you what everyone was crying about is the end of that scene it was real life it was Jane Fonda and Henry Fonda making up for all their differences I couldn't I see the end of the scene looking through of the camera, but my eyes are very watery because here you have a real life father and daughter playing the father and daughter playing a scene that's really about their real lives, you know, and about everything. women not in a relationship and disappointments and I want to be your friend, it's so powerful that we were all crying, anyone who could get close enough, got the word, you know, a limited number of people could be close. but when you could hear the dialogue and feel what was happening, it was so real that we were all tormented by this man, you come more often, it means luck, your mother, I will come around the world, I felt, you know, very flattered and It was What a great opportunity to work with Billy and I learned a lot from him working on that film.
He has such a masterful eye. He has a painter's eye. I thought it was fabulous. You are welcome. Gold. Magnificent Bamba. He's just an awesome guy. A true photographic artist. For me, I think it was the happiest movie I've ever made because we have a wonderful atmosphere on set and a great crew and cast and this wonderful location and we work from Blauser's and we work from 8:00 in the morning until 6. :00 at night we only had one night session and we made it
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