Spotlight on Simone Perusse

Take a look at Simone Perusse’s credits and you will see titles like "Shutter Island," "Kill Bill," "Out of Sight" as well as the new films "Cowboys & Aliens" and "30 Minutes Or Less."

Aug. 2, 2011

With three dozen features in the lighting department, Perusse has a unique perspective in working with fixtures of all shapes and sizes for productions that are equally as diverse. “My passion is taking photographs, and gaffing documentaries, smaller features and shooting non-union shorts, yet I make a good living as a union best boy, lighting programmer and set electric in both features and commercials. I belong to the DGA, the camera guild as well as Local 728. Call me a Jackie of all trades,” she muses.

Perusse works with many gaffers who rely on ARRI fixtures. In her vast experience she has found the ARRIMAX and M18s as standard workhorses in their lighting packages. “I love the punch and minimal power draw of the M18,” she explains, referring to the light at times as the “MiniMax.” “I love its beveled reflector that eliminates the need for lenses. The same goes for the ARRIMAX, it gives the punch of an open-faced lamp along with the quality of a lensed PAR without the lenses."

She often refers to the M18 as the MiniMax because of the similarities to the ARRIMAX. Based on the design principles of the award winning ARRIMAX 18/12K, the ARRI M18 is an 1800W HMI™ fixture that can be plugged into a wall outlet. In situations where the larger 18K was unavailable, she has resourcefully made do with its less powerful counterpart. “The ARRI M18 is an amazing lamp,” she reiterates. “I’ve been given the task to recreate a look with the ARRIMAX and have successfully replicated with an M18 just a wee bit closer.”


Originally from the Midwest, Perusse was introduced to the ARRIMAX working with chief lighting technician Michael Bauman. She recently worked with him again as the fixture foreman during the Santa Fe portion for "Cowboys & Aliens." Directed by Jon Favreau and shot by Matthew Libatique, ASC, the summer blockbuster stars Daniel Craig as a gunman in the Old West battling aliens. The shoot involved lighting large night exteriors of a Western town. “I’ve seen Bauman use the ARRIMAX consistently on exteriors for his features. Usually two per Condor, all on MaxMovers.” she describes.

Perusse then headed to Michigan to prep a much smaller-scale project, a dark comedy titled "30 Minutes Or Less." The film was directed by Ruben Fleischer, shot by Jess Hall, BSC with John Nadeau as gaffer. Based on a true story, the film stars Jesse Eisenberg as a pizza deliveryman who is forced to rob a bank after a bomb is strapped to his body. Two ARRIMAXes rented from Quixote Studios worked consistently throughout the shoot, mostly for low and bounced sources. For the big interior bank robbery scene, one extra ARRIMAX was picked up from local Michigan rental house Lowing Lighting & Grip. “Swapping between the spot and the wide ARRIMAX reflector is awesome. The spot lens makes the lamp a flame thrower,” she says.

Shooting conditions can vary widely from project to project, and Perusse is a first-hand witness to the performance of lights in the most extreme weather conditions. Perusse served as a gaffer on a Revlon commercial featuring Reese Witherspoon, where she utilized two ARRIMAXes as backlights for the rainy set at Paramount Studios. “One of the biggest bonuses for any best boy, is the fact that both the ARRIMAX and the MiniMax (M18) are very rain tolerant. We’ve used them both in the pouring rain with stellar results. With Cello Tech Rain protection priced at over $300/roll, that makes for good economics,” she says.


With so many skills and the capacity to work in different roles, Perusse is extremely conscious of what can make a set run well. Beyond the technology at hand, she also recognizes the collaborative nature of the work. Perusse points out, “I believe in hiring the right amount of manpower and giving us the right amount of prep. When you sacrifice either of the two, you take away the best part of filmmaking -- one department empowered to and capable of helping another.”