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Interesting moments in ordinary movies

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Shoot to Kill
Michael Chapman Film-maker
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Originally it was called... it's a story about an FBI agent. Sidney Poitier is an FBI agent and he has to go way up into the mountains of the Cascades or the Rockies, or somewhere, in pursuit of some horrible killer, and he goes over the border to Canada. You know, it's just a sort of fish-out-of-water. This very urban FBI agent with his nice suits and everything, has to go way into the mountains with a mountain-man whose name I can't... don't remember the actor. And they... you know, they become buddies. It's a standard fish-out-of-water. I'm a very, very sophisticated urban man and I have to eat rats, you know, and grab fish out of the... you know, I have to become a mountain-man in order to catch this thing, and he does. And then they finally catch the killer and whatever. And it was originally called something like Mountain High or Way Up High in the Mountains, or something, and when we got up to the mountains – and there were whole sorts of scenes where they have to climb up the sides of this, or repel down this or that – Sidney said, 'You know, I have a terrible fear of heights.' And somebody said, 'Well, Sidney, didn't you see the name of the movie – it was called...' Whatever it was called originally. But he couldn't do it. We went up on a... I remember we were up on a glacier in Whistler in British Columbia, and he was... he just... he couldn't act. He really was freaked out by the heights. So we ended up having to build sides of mountains in the studio in Culver City somewhere and light them as if they... it was a pain in the ass, we had to light them as if they were a mountain. And he was sitting... and he was okay then, or, in fact, he was in far more danger of 150ft up on a set here, on this rickety silly set on the stage in Culver City than he ever was in the mountains, but he seemed fine. And he was a very nice man.

And we went... in the end, for some reason we had to go and do an underwater sequence. What was that about? Oh, we went to the Bahamas to do it, but why, I don't remember. Oh, I guess at the end, they plunge into the water in Puget Sound somewhere – they were pursuing the guy, that's right. So we went off to the Bahamas and spent a week in the Bahamas where Sidney had a very nice house on a golf course. That was very pleasant. Again, it was hardly the second coming of cinema, and I don't remember anything staggeringly innovative or noteworthy in what I did. I hope I lit it well and framed it well and did it well. I remember when we did the underwater sequences in the Bahamas, I needed... there was a sort of second unit and there were just a few of us, and I needed a light and I didn't have any, so I took some trays that they had on the lunch wagon, and I wrapped aluminum foil around them, and we had... I went underwater and I held them as fill light on Sidney's face, and he liked that. And it was fun.

Michael Chapman, an American cinematographer, has had a huge influence on contemporary film-making, working on an impressive array of classic films including 'Taxi Driver', 'Raging Bull', 'The Lost Boys' and 'The Fugitive'.

Listeners: Glen Ade Brown

British Director of Photography and Camera Operator Glen Ade Brown settled in Los Angeles 10 years ago.

He has been working on features, commercials and reality TV. He played an instrumental role in the award-winning ABC Family series "Switched" and is also a recipient of the Telly and the Cine Golden Eagle awards for Best Cinematography. He was recently signed by the Judy Marks Agency and is now listed in her commercial roster.

Tags: Bahamas, Culver City, Sidney Poitier

Duration: 2 minutes, 42 seconds

Date story recorded: May 2004

Date story went live: 24 January 2008