Lighting for a Scary Movie



Whats up guys, im a young student filmaker wanting to know more about lighting. Im shooting a scary movie that is taking place out in the middle of the country with very little light to begin with. I have a few int. shots, a graveyard shot, a car scene and a bathroom scene all taking place at night and with the intentions of it being scary. So my question is what type of lighting is best for my situation and where can I find these lights.

First you should study the scary movies you like to see how they are lighting these scenes. For a bathroom, for example, is there a window? Do you want to see a waving pattern of tree leaves in blue moonlight on a wall with someone silhouette against it? Do you just want someone lit by a bare overhead light bulb? There are many ways to light a bathroom.

For a graveyard in the night, it gets much harder if you have no money for big lights and a generator because if you want a moonlit look, you're talking about a big powerful light up high (usually backlighting the scene), like on a crane. Otherwise, you might have to fake moonlight by shooting day for night, or if it is a brief shot, at twilight for night.

If you don't need a big moonlight effect, you could have a pitch black space lit only by a flashlight or lantern, or perhaps the effect of an overhead streetlamp. In which case a few practicals (like a lantern) and maybe a few small lights (like a Chinese Lantern overhead) may be enough.

The real issue is POWER. Do you have access to electricity where you are shooting? Is it a normal household circuit, limiting you to 15 to 20 amps (i.e. nothing more powerful than a 2K tungsten or 1200 watt HMI PAR on one circuit)? If you don't have any electricty where you are shooting, it doesn't matter which light you take.

But it helps to start out with a previsualized idea of the lighting effect you want to create for each shot rather than ask in the abstract about what lights to use. You need to exercise your visual imagination first.

Just remember that night exterior lighting in the middle of nowhere with no natural sources is often beyond the limits of a student or beginner or someone with a limited budget unless you are extremely clever. You simply won't have the resources to light a large area. So you have to think about ways of justifying smaller light sources in the scene unless you want to shoot it day-for-night.