Profile on gaffer Amedeo Balestrieri
Amedeo Balestrieri has been working as a gaffer for some 20 years, over which time he has relied upon many different ARRI lighting fixtures. Most recently he has made extensive use of M-Series lampheads on productions including Sönke Wortmann's new film SCHOSSGEBETE.
What inspired you to get into filmmaking?
I have been working as a lighting technician and gaffer for about 20 years now. I come from Italy and I studied art and painting before becoming fascinated by stills photography, which later sparked my interest in moving pictures. Getting into filmmaking actually went quite smoothly for me; I met the renowned cinematographer Axel Bloch and my first experience working with lights on set was positive, so I was hired. My early realization that a camera cannot do anything without lighting gave me a strong fascination with light; and that is why I have worked as a gaffer for so long.
Do you have any favorite projects you've worked on?
In the last 14 years I have focused more on advertising. It is a varied, inspiring field, with constantly changing conditions due to different budgets and teams. There are always new discoveries and inspirations, and one does not spend too long with any one project. One of my favorite productions was the Wim Wenders documentary film PINA, about Pina Bausch, the German modern dance performer. It was a good mix -- a very inspiring and artistic film, but I am not involved in this type of project very often.
What lights tend to be the workhorses on your productions?
The choice of lights is of course dependent on the project type. But I like big, powerful lampheads with great light output, like the ARRIMAX 18/12. It's interesting that ARRI moved away from the Fresnel lens for this lamphead, but the light output is not reduced. Background shadows can be quite hard, but with frosts or diffusers one can easily create a nice, soft light.
My favorite ARRI light is the M18 and I always have it with me, due to its design, power and wattage class, and its great light performance. The M18 is simply a very good, small but powerful lamphead. I would not choose an ARRISUN anymore, as the M18 is faster to use and produces the same light. Also the M90, with its switchable 9000 W / 6000 W lamps, is very good.
What are you working on now?
Currently, I am working on Sönke Wortmann's new film SCHOSSGEBETE, which will have its premiere in January 2014. The DP, Maher Maleh, wanted to create a certain mood by illuminating everything from the outside, which made this project very special. The night scenes involved a lot of black surfaces and if not enough light arrived on the set, we had to rebuild the lighting rig. It meant that we had to make a great many lighting changes during the filming, which was an exciting challenge.
What ARRI lights did you use on this production?
We mostly used lights from the ARRI M-Series, including some demos, which we got from ARRI. In our basic equipment package we had the ARRIMAX 18/12, the M90, the M40 and the M18. So we were pretty much relying on MAX Technology, although we additionally had one ARRI POCKET PAR. Everyone in the European industry loves these M-Series lights because they are so solid. I also have to say that I'm a big fan of the ARRI Photometric Calculator, which is a very useful app to have on set.
Were there specific situations where an M-Series light helped you to find a creative solution?
There was a scene in an emergency pharmacy with people going into the pharmacy at night. We used a big, black 20 m by 20 m Molton cloth spread over the scene with an ARRIMAX 18/12 lamphead to create a night-time look. The final effect worked remarkably well and looked exceptionally real. Another example was a funeral scene that we filmed. The lights were illuminating the set from outside the church, through traditional stained glass windows. There was very limited space to place the lampheads, so we used two ARRIMAX 18/12 fixtures and one M90 to create an extremely pleasing light.