a story lives forever
Sign in
Form submission failed!

Stay signed in

Recover your password?
Form submission failed!

Web of Stories Ltd would like to keep you informed about our products and services.

Please tick here if you would like us to keep you informed about our products and services.

I have read and accepted the Terms & Conditions.

Please note: Your email and any private information provided at registration will not be passed on to other individuals or organisations without your specific approval.

Video URL

You must be registered to use this feature. Sign in or register.


How we shot the climactic scene in On Golden Pond


Lighting the interiors for On Golden Pond
Billy Williams Film-maker
Comments (0) Please sign in or register to add comments

Now when it came to the interiors, which were all shot on location in the house, I had a lot of day interiors and also dusk and night interiors. Now when... when I went into the house in daylight, it was almost dark, because the house had a very deep, what we would call veranda, I think the Americans call it a porch. It was about 10' deep and so this porch prevented the light coming in on the whole of one side of the house. And on the other sides there were... there were some windows but the house was surrounded by trees, so the interior was very dark. And I thought well, it's not going to look... it's not going to look right if I play the day interiors with the lights on, and then when I come to the night interiors the same lights are still burning, I wanted a contrast. So I cheated and put light — soft light — as if it was reflecting from the lake or the ambient light from outside, I put soft light through the windows. And I had a mixture of... of lighting, I had two brutes and some HMI lights. Now the HMIs had only arrived a year or two before so they were relatively new, and the... the largest one I had was a 4k; 4k, 2 and a half, 1200W and I think 575 and then my... and I think the smallest one was a little 200W so... by testing with my colour temperature meter I could get a balance between the brutes and the HMI so that they looked like the same source of light. Because I had... I had the brutes coming through the main windows and then the smaller windows in the house, each window had some light coming through it from an HMI. Sometimes it was bounced from a white foam-core and sometimes it had diffusion on.

And then inside I was fortunate in that the... this large room had a pitched roof with exposed beams, so that any lighting that I wanted to put up in the roof... just had to put up a G clamp and attach the lamp. And you could move the lamp anywhere you wanted in a, you know, in just a couple of minutes, so... so that was a huge bonus. So that's how we shot the... the day interiors and of course the problem with shooting on location in mixed weather conditions it that the... the outside light can fluctuate enormously and of course the outside always had to be brighter than the inside, sometimes by two or three stops, so that if it suddenly dropped outside then I had to put neutral densities on the...the lighting, all of my lighting to kind of, you know, keep it in balance, and, you know, one had to be aware of that happening. Then I had a lot of scenes to do at dusk, at the magic hour, where I wanted to see what was outside, but we didn't actually shoot any of the day interiors, or the dusk interiors at dusk because it's such a short period. What I did was to filter the windows with neutral densities, sheets of an acrylic neutral density about 1/4in thick so you could reuse them. And I had these made up in packs of... of various densities going up to about seven stops.

So the grips... this was the job for the grips, to bring these into position according to how much I wanted to cut the light down outside, so I had this certain amount of daylight still outside which looked blue. Because when I shooted the... when I shot the interiors of course I took the 85 off because I was using tungsten light inside. So I’d got... and I kept the interior lighting warm using perhaps probably quarter CTO on all the lamps, so that the.. .the interior lighting was always a little bit warm and the dusk outside was blue and that worked very well. Well, when it came to the full night, there were lots of scenes where it was completely night, I didn't want to blackout the windows, which is what one sometimes does in those occasions. I thought: we've got this beautiful lake out there and when the sun was out there was a... lovely sparkle on... on the lake. I thought: why don't I stay with this idea of the neutral densities but increase the level going up to six or seven stops so that it looks like night outside. So I’d got a day for night look through the windows and the sunlight sparkling on the water looked like moonlight. And so I let this go blue and I suppose it was between two and three stops underexposed outside with a normal exposure inside and it looked great. And there was only one scene where I couldn't retain that look because we had a... a sequence where people had to go in and out through the... the doors and so that kind of prevented me doing it on just one particular sequence. There was only one night sequence in the whole film, a real night for night when they go skinny dipping in the lake, otherwise all the night interiors were shot throughout the day, because particularly with an ageing cast, you see, we didn't want to shoot at night. And... so it was a way of getting the best out of our time that was available.

Billy Williams, London-born cinematographer Billy Williams gained his first two Oscar nominations for the acclaimed “Women in Love” and “On Golden Pond”. His third nomination, which was successful, was for the epic “Gandhi”. He was President of the British Society of Cinematographers, and was awarded the Camera Image Festival’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 2000.

Listeners: Neil Binney

Neil Binney began working as a 'clapper boy' in 1946 on spin-off films from steam radio such as "Dick Barton". Between 1948-1950 he served as a Royal Air Force photographer. From 1950 he was a Technicolor assistant technician working on films such as John Ford's "Mogambo" (photographed by Freddie Young), Hitchcock's "The Man Who Knew Too Much" (Bob Burke), and Visconti's "Senso" (G.R. Aldo/B. Cracker). As a camera assistant he worked on "Mind Benders", "Billy Liar" and "This Sporting Life". Niel Binney became a camera operator in 1963 and worked with, among others, Jack Cardiff, Fred Tammes and Billy Williams. He was elected associate member of the British Society of Cinematographers in 1981 and his most recent credits include "A Fish Called Wanda" and "Fierce Creatures".

Duration: 6 minutes, 8 seconds

Date story recorded: September 2003

Date story went live: 24 January 2008