Behind the bulb: Lighting “The Man from Nowhere”


Ketty Totemeier

A bird's eye view of one of the many lighting setups used on the set of The Man from Nowhere.

Ketty Totemeier

Most people know that the bulk of what it takes to make a movie happens behind the scenes. There are make-up artists and directors, cameras and boom operators. One of the most important (and sometimes unsung) roles is lighting.

Working on the feature film titled, The Man from Nowhere at The Master’s University, the head of the electrical department in lighting, Trey Betts, explains that, “It’s amazing how bad lighting will change what a movie looks like or feels like.”

Initially, Betts wanted to be an animator. While at film school, one of his teachers brought out lights to construct different scenes and build an empty sound stage into a scene full of emotion and feeling without any character. This intrigued Betts, and since then, he has been learning and pursuing lighting.

“Contrast, color, mood, tone and all the stuff that kind of makes what’s the image looks like and what people get to feel or experience when they are watching a movie,” Betts said.

This role is so crucial that even the lead of this film, TMU graduates Seth Bowling, admits that, “If there was no lighting, it would be absolutely atrocious. People don’t realize that. Horrible. Horrible. Their job is to make it look like there is no lighting, which is the unfortunate part of their job, I guess. Because then people think that they are expendable, but it’s just not the case. Without them, nobody would want to watch this, I wouldn’t want to watch this. They are doing a great job.”

The key grip for this film, Nick Duruve, explains how it is his job to shape the light. The gaffer and the lighting technicians set up the lights, but, “just spraying a light on something doesn’t really look like anything, so it’s the grip’s job to give that light some sort of quality, some sort of shape… if you want it to look like it’s coming through a window, or if you want it to look like it’s bouncing off the table… it’s our job to make the lights look pretty— make them look right.”

Both Trey and Duruve appreciate when a shoot allows them flexibility to use their experience and creative preference to shoot with the tools of their choice.

This requires both technical and creative skill, usually the cinematographer is more creative.

“It’s our job to technically achieve what he wants to get creatively.” Deruve said. “It’s always exciting to work. This is all I ever wanted to do. It’s all I’ve done. It’s all I know. So regardless of the size of the job or who you are working with, there is always excitement in making films.”