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William Hellmuth

William Hellmuth

An established talent in the Los Angeles indie filmmaking scene, William Hellmuth is a strong believer in the storytelling role of lighting. His unique cine-style and lighting approach are on full display in his latest short film, “Alone”.

Fire in the hole

For story motivated lighting, Gemini is out of this world

When catastrophe strikes the deep space vessel ‘Intrepid’ tearing the ship in half, engineer Kaya barely escapes with her life.  Now, somewhere between Alpha Centauri and the Horse Nebula, her escape pod is circling a black hole, slowly descending into the fiery abyss.  Ensnared in the grip of the black hole with nobody coming to help – she’s “Alone”.

It took just one read of the short story by J. Scott Worthington to convince cinematographer William Hellmuth that he had to make this movie.  With a tight timeframe and an even tighter budget, William solved how to create a burning black hole in a downtown LA warehouse with a call to Litepanels.

Let’s make a movie

For William, the draw of sci-fi is its ability to take a conventional story and elevate it by putting it in new hypothetical scenarios that make the viewer ask the bigger ‘what if?’ questions. “That really appeals to me,” he says, “when I first read this story, just a couple of pages in, I just knew I really wanted to make it.  I contacted J and told him I wanted to make it into a movie.” J and William agreed to collaborate to bring the short story to the big screen, with J adapting the story into a screenplay and executive producing while William took up the director’s chair.

Gemini is our preferred light because its lighter weight, there are less things to hook up – sometimes that 30 seconds to one-minute time difference setting up a light is the difference between using it or not.

Sci-fi Set

Deep space shine

With a screenplay in hand, William’s attention turned to the challenge of creating a super nova sized cosmic fire to swirl around the escape pod caught in the grip of the gravity well.    “Mark Lopez, my gaffer and I thought long and hard about the best way to achieve the desired effect,” says William, “I wanted to recreate the stream of light that is constantly drawn into a black hole and have that light shining into the capsule.”  Ruling out options such as mounting a 2k Fresnel on a track being pushed around the set as too cumbersome and time-consuming, William and Mark recalled the Litepanels Gemini 2×1 Soft panel lights they had used on the production of “Drive all Night,”.  “We had a great experience with Geminis,” William explains, “we liked how they are so intuitive to use, so lightweight and fast to set up. Speed is everything, With Gemini there are fewer things to hook up, and sometimes that extra 30 seconds to one minute of time to set up is the difference between using a light or not. So, we hit on the idea of creating a line of Gemini panels along the window side of the life pod that would create a continually shifting light using the customizable built-in fire effect that we could trigger with DMX control.” Fire is just one of the 11 fully customizable special effects built-in to the Gemini range of RGBWW lights. Users have complete control of the effects including hue, saturation, intensity and speed to create the perfect look.  “We had 11 Geminis all set up on a speed rail outside the pod, all controlled by a wireless DMX system” says William.

line of Gemini panels along the window side of the life pod

Every color tells a story

A signature feature of William’s films is the strong symbolic role of color.  “I really believe in story motivated lighting,” he says, “with character performance, I like to get into their head space and make the lighting reflect the inner journey of the character.”  With over 16 million colors and a digital library of 600 gels, Gemini offered William an extensive color palette to reflect the emotion on screen. Explaining the role color plays in “Alone” William says, “At the beginning of the movie there is a warm light coming in to the pod from the black hole, as Kaya gets closer and closer I wanted intense saturated reds, high contrast, deep shadows as she sinks further into this hellish scenario. Red symbolizes heightened emotion, so that also reflects her inner desperation and intensity. Near the end of the film, there is a switch to the opposite, still deep shadows but blue, cool colors and then finally into greens symbolising a sickly death feeling.” He adds, “It’s a simple gag but I believe in painting with broad brush strokes, find the simplest way to communicate the core spine of the story and stick with it.”  The versatility of creative options from Gemini lights are the reason that they are the preferred choice of lighting for William and his team.  “The Geminis help us overcome just about every lighting challenge that faced us.” He says.

A signature feature of William’s films is the strong symbolic role of color.

Into the real world

“Alone” was shot in just three days in a downtown LA warehouse and the resulting short film belies the ultra-low budget.  Having already featured on the Indie film circuit at festivals such as Edmonton, Other Worlds and Phoenix International, “Alone” is now available to view on Dust, the showcase digital platform for short Sci-Fi films.  And with the success of the short, William and his crew are now working on a feature length version of the film.

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