The Cannes Film Festival is an event that attracts filmmakers, actors, and photographers from all over the world. The high-profile media event is second only to the Olympic Games in size. Someone who is no stranger to the festival is Director of Photography, Richard Blanshard. He was an official photographer to the US and UK Film industry in Cannes for 20 years and recently, he revisited Cannes with a new challenge in mind – to make a documentary about the festival. To tackle the unique lighting challenges of filming at the festival, he turned to Litepanels powerful Gemini 1×1 Hard.
The idea for “Cannes Uncut” came from Blanshard’s experience at the festival, combined with that of producer and PR consultant Colin Burrows, critic Mark Adams, and photographer/director Chris Pickard. They noticed no one had ever made a documentary about the festival and felt that it was time to showcase what goes on behind the scenes. To celebrate the 75th anniversary of the festival, they set out to create dynamic and immersive experience for viewers based on their many years of experience.
Movies, Moguls and Money
The documentary film celebrates the extravagance, red carpets, movies, chaos, stunts, transactions, festivities and public figures that allow the show business to take hold for fourteen days every year on the French Riviera. It provides a thrilling and fast-paced journey through the festival’s history and potential future. Interviewees include festival chief, Thierry Frémaux; Cannes regulars Tilda Swinton, Juliette Binoche and Léa Seydoux; filmmakers such as Oliver Stone, Lynne Ramsay, Mike Leigh, Quentin Tarantino, Sean Baker, Ken Loach and Wim Wenders; and a cast and crew including producers, journalists, photographers, executives, festival programmers, fashion designers, party organisers and hotel managers.
Cannes is an intense place to work, filled to the brim with tales and personalities as outrageous and thrilling as the movies that it screens. Photographing the people is a test of stamina and will. Even as an official photographer, Richard had to fight to get the moments he needed in a brief space of time. “It’s always a run and gun situation, ” he says. “To capture the best shots in a limited amount of time with the artists and making sure they feel relaxed.” One of the biggest challenges is that, while Cannes has an extraordinary amount of natural light, it always seems to be in the wrong place. As a result, Richard needed a solution that could balance the strong back light and fast. Photographers are used to shooting against natural light using strobes to provide fill. But filming was another challenge altogether. Enter Litepanels powerful Gemini 1×1 Hard.
Brighter than the Hollywood Stars
With an output of over 3000 lux, the Gemini Hard casts an intense beam of white or richly saturated color further than any other 1×1 LED panel. More powerful than a 200W HMI. Its ultralight and domed diffusers soften the output while still delivering outstanding brightness.
The Gemini 1×1 Hard provided him with the punch he needed to balance the foreground and background quickly. At just 13.2lbs (6kg), he could set the compact and lightweight fixture up and be ready to go in minutes. This was crucial as he did not have the luxury of setup time tight and hectic schedules of his subjects across the sprawling festival site.
Blanshard was impressed with the versatility of the Gemini Hard light. He used it not only to balance the natural light but also to warm up faces and get great flesh tones. With CRI and TLCI ratings of 98, Gemini 1×1 Hard delivers consistently accurate white light at any CCT from 2,700K – 10,000K. This means that anything in the scene, from close-up candlelight to brilliant sunlight, appears true to life and the skin tones of on-screen talent are rendered perfectly.
Richard appreciated how close he could bring the light to the subject without making them feel claustrophobic. With precision intensity control from 100 to 0.1%, he could bring the levels down low and still get fantastic results.
“The great thing about using the Gemini Hard as your key light against the powerful light of the south of France is it feels natural. And that's what we all want - images that feel natural rather than lit".”Richard BlanshardDirector & DoP
Natural Born Fillers
Richard faced up the unique challenges of Cannes when he was tasked with filming an interview with legendary Director Oliver Stone. With just a precious few moments of Stone’s time to capture the interview, he created the lighting set up minutes before he arrived. The plan was to light Stone directly with the Gemini panel. “I like direct light as it creates definition,” says Richard. However, when Stone arrived, he revealed his dislike of direct light and asked Richard to bounce it instead. “I was concerned about this because the ceiling was 20 feet high,” he says.
“I tilted the light panel up to the ceiling, and thanks to the power of the Gemini, the light was perfect.”Richard BlanshardDirector & DoP
Flesh tones are important, and Richard believes it is always best to get it right ‘in camera’. He uses the fine CCT and HSI controls on the Gemini Hard to enhance and to warm up the flesh tones. The Gemini Hard offers quick responses in terms of fine adjustments.
In the ten days he was in Cannes, Richard walked 82 miles with equipment, showing the physical demands of shooting in a fast-paced environment. The Gemini Hard allowed him to be flexible and quickly adapt to new locations and lighting situations. The ability to dim the light to a low level without overpowering his subject made it the perfect fixture, even in confined spaces.
Out of the Can
” Cannes Uncut celebrates the great films and the wild parties; the spectacular promotional stunts and the iconic talents; the glorious successes and the infamous failures,” says the film’s PR announcement. “This is the documentary that dares to detail all the glamour, red carpets, craziness, deals, parties, movies, and personalities that saw the business of show business implant itself at the Cannes Film Festival. It offers an exciting high-adrenaline, roller-coaster experience of what has played out over the years.”
Cannes Uncut received its market premiere at the Cannes Film festival in May 2023 and its world premiere a few weeks later at the Sydney Film Festival.