N.S. crew members recall 'intense' experience of working on Oscar-nominated film
LUNENBURG, N.S. -- As the film generates Oscar buzz, two veterans of the Maritime film industry are recalling their experience of working on “The Lighthouse,” saying it was unlike any project they have ever done.
“It was a challenge. It was probably the most challenging film I’ve ever done as an operator,” said camera operator Christopher Ball.
He and location scout Shaun Clarke are thrilled after the announcement this week that the Nova Scotia-made film has been nominated for an Academy Award for cinematography.
“The cinematography award in particular, it’s about the look of the film, it’s the art department, it’s the locations, it’s the wardrobe, it’s everything that goes into that image,” explains Ball of the category.
“The Lighthouse” was filmed in the fishing community of Cape Forchu, near Yarmouth, and in the Halifax area in March and April of 2018, though construction of the set started in February 2018.
The fantasy-horror film stars Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe as lighthouse keepers who spiral into madness while trapped on a remote island off the coast of a New England island in the 1890s.
Clarke thought Cape Forchu would be the perfect location for the moody black-and-white film, and sent images to director Robert Eggers, who agreed they had found the right spot.
“One of the reasons they chose to come and shoot here is because Cape Forchu is known for its nasty weather, for wind and rain and waves,” explains Clarke.
The location provided the perfect backdrop for the tense tale, but a difficult environment for crew members, who shot the movie on black-and-white film, using period film equipment from the 1920s and 1930s.
The weather conditions were often extreme, which is reflected in the film.
“I remember one day we had to be harnessed because the rock we were standing on, there was a high risk of us getting pulled over by the suction of the wind, and so we were all harnessed in, holding the camera down over the edge of the cliff,” recalls Ball.
“It was pretty intense.”
A crew of 150 Nova Scotians worked on “The Lighthouse.” According to Screen Nova Scotia, the production spent $6.8 million during the four-month production period.
“The entire film was made by Nova Scotians and made by the Nova Scotia film crew, and you can read anecdotal stories all over the internet about what a difficult shoot it was,” says Wayne Carter, the executive director of the Atlantic International Film Festival. “I think that says a whole lot about the resiliency and professional of the crew here.”
“Our brand was damaged a bit in 2015 and this helps repair the brand, so that other international filmmakers will say, ‘Hey, let’s have a look at Nova Scotia,’” says Clarke.
Clarke and Ball won’t get to attend the Oscars unless they receive an invitation, but they will be watching the show from home, with their fingers crossed that “The Lighthouse” cinematographer Jarin Blaschke walks away with the coveted golden statue.
Other nominees in the cinematography category include Rodrigo Prieto for "The Irishman," Lawrence Sher for "Joker," Roger Deakins for “1917” and Robert Richardson for "Once Upon a Timeª in Hollywood."
The 92nd Academy Awards will take place Feb. 9. The show will air on CTV.
With files from The Canadian Press