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Halloween (1978) lighting?

Brandon Fields

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How is this look basically achieved and how can it be reproduced with low budget modern lights today? Probably a simple question there.


Did the cinematographer basically use lights with blue gels placed outside windows for the cooler look and use basic tungsten lights for the warm look?


Thanks in advance!




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How is this look basically achieved and how can it be reproduced with low budget modern lights today?


HMIs had just been introduced, so it is possible that they were used on the original Halloween. But, given the hue and saturation of the blue moonlight, it is more likely that they gelled a large quartz fixture. Given the speed and dynamic range of cameras today you can get similar, if not better, production values on what can be run on a Honda EU6500 or EU7000 generator. With a small 240V-120V step-down transformer, you can run a 4k ARRIMAX, as well other lights, off our modified Honda EU7000 generator, which is usually sufficient to get feature production values.



This combination of an ARRIMAX M40 and portable Honda generator has become the standard approach for indie movies because it eliminates the need for dangerous tie-ins or expensive tow generators. In fact, a milestone of sorts was recently set on the north shore of Boston. The feature film Abe and Phil’s Last Poker Game starring Martin Landau (Mission Impossible) and Paul Sorvino (Good Fellas) shot its’ principle photography with nothing more than a Honda EU6500is.




No low budget indie, Abe and Phil's Last Poker Game was produced by Peter Pastorelli, Marshall Johnson, and Eddie Rubin. Peter Pastorelli’s credits include the Netflix film Beasts Of No Nation, which he produced alongside Johnson, and The Disappearance Of Eleanor Rigby, which stared James McAvoy and Jessica Chastain. Johnson’s other credits include Blue Valentine and The Place Beyond The Pines with Ryan Gosling; Rubin’s credits include Love and Honor.


Left: Honda EU6500is modified for 60A Output. Center 300ft cable run through the assisted living complex. Right: ARRIMAX M40 head creating sunny look on a rainy day.

Abe and Phil’s Last Poker Game follows Dr. Abe Mandelbaum (Landau), who has just moved into a luxuriant assisted living facility with his ailing wife. After forming an unlikely friendship with a womanizing gambler (Sorvino), their relationship is tested when they each try to convince a mysterious nurse, played by Maria Dizzia (Orange Is The New Black), that he is her long-lost father.



60A HD Plug-n-Play Transformer/Distro powering ARRIMAX M40 and M18 on the set of Phil & Abe’s Last Poker Game.


The principle location for the movie was a sprawling new assisted living facility in Newburyport Ma. At only 60% occupancy, the production was able to secure a whole wing of the facility, which was ideal except that the loading dock, where they could operate a generator, was on the other side of the complex.



Paul Sorvino in a scene from Abe and Phil’s Last Poker Game.

To compensate for the drop in voltage over the long cable run, the production used one of our 60A Transformer/Distros, which enables voltage to be stepped up in 5% increments. This feature enabled them to maintain full line level even after running out 300’ of cable between the Honda outside and set. To power additional lights off the generator, the production came out of the Transformer/Distro with a 60A Bates Siamese. They powered the M40 with one side of the Siamese. From the other side, they ran out 60A Bates extensions through out the wing, breaking out to 20A pockets to power smaller lights wherever they needed.


Martin Landau and Paul Sorvino in a bar scene from the Abe and Phil’s Last Poker Game.


This way they could run up to three 1.8kw Arri M80s, or a 4kw M40 when they needed a bigger source, without having to worry about tripping breakers. With ARRIMAX reflectors, these heads were plenty big enough to light scenes in the day room, dinning area, and lounge of the residence wing.



ARRIMAX M40 powered by modified Honda EU6500 and 60A Transformer/Distro lights bar scene from Abe and Phil’s Last Poker Game.

Using a small portable generator also enabled the production to save money by building out a rental box truck since they didn’t have to tow a large diesel plant. This also proved to be advantageous when the production went out on location in the streets of Newburyport. An old port city on the north shore of Boston, Newburyport is a warren of narrow streets through which it would have been difficult to tow a diesel generator. Abe and Phil’s Last Poker Game is, as far as we know, the first major film to take advantage of the combination of improved camera imaging, more efficient light sources, and Honda generators customized for motion picture production.


Guy Holt, Gaffer, ScreenLight & Grip, Lighting rental and sales in Boston

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