A Report From An Overcast Magic Hour In NYC

Last evening, 7:30, heading to a tour a friend gave a museum group of her art collection, I was momentarily freaked out by the light.

At first, I figured it's how streetlights turn on before it gets dark, but no. The sky was mottled, completely overcast, a bright, diffused, grey>>faint plum lightbox. It was that post-sundown interlude cinematographers call magic hour, except you never hear about "cloudy magic hour." For some reason, the light was cold, and every streetscape detail had a hardcut crispness.

Then, I turned into my Korean deli, of the narrow middle-of-the-block variety, and was freaked out again. Was it the contrast with the strange outside light? Something wasn't right. So I asked, and, sure enough, they'd packed the ceiling with new fixtures, all filled with full-spectrum fluorescent tubes. $20 each, the owner proudly boasted. It was like shopping in a Gursky photo. I walked back out--with enhanced calcium absorption powers, apparently--into the separate-but-equally intense twilight.

[Read an ASC's interview with Thin Red Line DP John Toll. "Because this is a Terrence Malick film, a lot people will just assume that we sat around waiting for magic hour, but we simply didn't have the luxury of doing that... We had a 180-page script...Yes, there are magic-hour shots in the film, but only because we had to shoot until it got dark!]

Since 2001 here at greg.org, I've been blogging about the creative process—my own and those of people who interest me. That mostly involves filmmaking, art, writing, research, and the making thereof.

Many thanks to the Creative Capital | Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Program for supporting greg.org that time.

comments? questions? tips? pitches? email
greg [at] greg [dot ] org

find me on twitter: @gregorg

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first published: April 10, 2003.

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