An in Depth Look with Lighting Technician Sophie Shellenberger
In A Wrinkle in Time, three mysterious astral travelers visit earth to send a young girl, Meg (Storm Reid), her brother, and her friend to a different planet in order to find her missing father. This Sci-Fi Fantasy is based on Madeleine L’Engle’s widely acclaimed 1962 novel of the same name. Ava DuVernay’s latest rendition is the first theatrical film adaption of the novel. With that said, the challenge of capturing the aesthetic of interdimensional travel to different planets would be no simple task for the Lighting crew consisting of: Tobias Schliessler, Len Levine, James Ginn, Sophie Shellenberger, Brian Evans, Brent Studler, Juan Morse, Niles McElroy, Josh Thatcher, Damon Liebowitz, Greg Mayer, Roger Meilink, Jason Hindman, and Greg Etheredge.
The film’s unique setting called for adjustable and adaptable lighting solutions. “Tight spaces and versatility were important factors for us for this feature,” says Lighting Technician Sophie Shellenberger. She adds, “We used a large variety of LiteGear products in the making of A Wrinkle in Time. The ability to mold the LiteGear products to fit our needs of the moment was extremely helpful. When you can make unique shapes and have control over color and intensity remotely without compromising what you are shooting. Being able to make unique shapes and having color control on the fly, whether CT or RGBT gives you an advantage especially in environments where color is a large part of shaping and bringing to life whatever ‘World’ we were shooting that day. Being able to come up with an eye light, key light or fill light instantaneously that met our DP’s expectations in both intensity and color was also huge.”
The crew utilized Hybrid LiteMats, and also incorporated Hybrid, Tungsten, Daylite and RGBT literibbon into set pieces as well. “One of the things we did was create custom homemade small cards and Jemball inserts with LiteRibbon,” says Shellenberger. She adds, “We frequently used the jemball inserts for lighting the actor’s close ups, as an eye light, and also as fill light. Our fixtures department built six of these using two full rolls of Litegear Hybrid or RGB-Tungsten LiteRibbon each. These were then mounted onto a painter’s pole so that we could walk with camera while lighting the actors faces. It was powered by a LiteDimmer Wireless receiver and batteries, while Tobias (Schliessler) had the transmitter and a pocket console with him at the monitors so he could adjust to eye during the shots. We nicknamed the pocket console the ‘cardboard’, as opposed to Josh’s (Thatcher) lighting console which was also situated next to Tobias. The ability to adapt quickly to whatever need arose was a big plus.. Tobias moves fast! Batteries and wireless saved us.”
Shellenberger credits her amazing crew for the collaborative team effort on this challenging feature. “All of the planning and concepts came from the head of our department Len Levine, who had to come up with ways to not only adapt sets so they were not only workable for lighting needs, but to also light them in ways that read beautifully on camera, pleased Tobias and met with budget requirements.” She adds, “The sheer amount of planning that went into this project is amazing.The Rigging Department headed by Roger Meilink, needed to be able to take Len’s plans and then rig the stages accordingly. as well as to provide for any unforeseen, last minute requests that might come up. Our Fixtures Department headed by Damon Liebowitz, used miles of LED ribbon and countless controllers to build the lighting into the sets.”
A Wrinkle in Time hits theaters March 9th. The film is set to be the most hyped up big screen adaptation since The Hunger Games. With DuVernay’s stellar leadership and the huge star studded cast, I’m sure it’s going to be a smash success!