Fire Escape

Despite the freezing cold, a grown woman indulges in the joys of her college youth on the fire escape of her building.

This film is currently touring the film festival circuit and is unavailable for public online viewing. If you would like to screen this film for a sample of my work, please contact me via email.

Director: James Heiner


James "Jimbo" Heiner is a director based in Los Angeles, CA. He approached me for this project in December 2013. He told me it had little-to-no dialogue, took place at night, and a difficult to use location. The idea of shooting on a fire escape with almost no budget is what sealed the deal for me.

Most projects I shoot always present a challenge to me, but this one in particular was something I've never dealt with before. Almost half of the film is on a fire escape in Humboldt Park, Chicago. It was sturdy, on the second/third floor, and actually had a clear view.

However, lighting it proved to be the challenge. We didn't have access to the roof, third floor, nor the empty yard right next to the building. We could only light from the alley, a good 100-200 feet away. Instead of looking at my disadvantages, I instead focused on what mattered first: what were my artistic decisions?

Jimbo and I both agreed on a raw, natural feel for the fire escape lighting. It should resemble the street lights from below illuminating the subjects. Sodium vapor street lamps rule Chicago right now; we both wanted that ultra-orange feel for the exterior shots.

With these decisions made, it was easy to figure out how to light the fire escape. I realized that I could light the location the way I wanted to because of my limitations, not despite them.

Jesus Trevino was my gaffer and Rob Pessolano was my Key Grip with Evan Jones as their best boy. Those three were hugely successful helping me light the location, each giving the best advice and effort to make this film come to life.

The interior location was shot during the day, with windows blocked out. Jimbo wanted a stark contrast between the exterior and interior, so we both decided on a medical green and cold blue. The green was for the kitchen while our main character examines the contents of a wallet. The blue came from the TV left on by the characters while they talk on the couch (the only scene with dialogue, albiet short).

We utilized a flicker box for the TV effect with multiple sources to create conflicting shadows. For the kitchen, we just simply used the existing overhead flourescent light. We skirted the sides with duvetyn so cut exposure from the walls. Furthermore, we replaced the bulbs with day-light kino flos and gelled them with 3/4 CTB and F+ Green for that precise medical green we wanted.

I had a blast shooting this project and I'm very proud of the end result. I have to give props to the entire crew and to the actors, Scottie Caldwell and Michael Medford. These two brave souls stood in the freezing cold with almost nothing for nearly 6 minute takes. Nonetheless, they absolutely killed it with their performances and I couldn't be more grateful for their professionalism.