New York Film Academy Chair of Cinematography Tony Richmond recently hosted a special screening of his film Men of Honor for New York Film Academy students at the Los Angeles campus. Rather than a formal Q&A following the film, Richmond encouraged his students to join him in an intimate conversation.
Richmond is well known for his cinematography on beloved classics including The Sandlot, The Man Who Fell to Earth, Don’t Look Now, Legally Blond, and Alvin and the Chipmunks, yet Men of Honor has a special place in his heart because both of his sons worked on the crew with him.
Based on a true story, Men of Honor follows Navy diver Carl Brasher, the first Black man to become a U.S. Navy Master Diving Instructor. Extraordinarily, Brasher was able to passe the qualification test to become a master diving instructor with an amputated left leg. It’s an inspiring film that earned numerous award nominations.
About the film’s star, Cuba Gooding Jr., Richmond said, “He’s a wonderful actor and an even better man.”
Filming underwater presented a lot of fun cinematography challenges for Richmond. Some of the behind-the-scenes stories he shared with NYFA students included the creation of an eight-foot-deep pool to accommodate Richmond’s photography, and rigging Cuba Gooding Jr.’s diving helmet with lights.
Students were curious to hear how Richmond was able film underwater with such clarity. Richmond explained that finding a good lighting balance was the most important element.
“There’s a very fine line when filming underwater,” he said. “There were times during the filming process that I felt there just wasn’t enough silt in the water.”
In order to give the tank a realistic feeling of the ocean, silt, the fine sand found in ocean water, had to be added.
“You have to be careful when adding that stuff,” Richmond warned. “If you put too much silt in the tank it takes four days to filter it out.”
One student asked about the most challenging aspect of making the movie. Richmond didn’t hesitate to answer: the film’s final courtroom scene
The location was on the seventh floor of a beautiful old building, but because of its age Richmond couldn’t set up a lighting rig inside. Instead, everything had to be lit through the windows.
After an enlightening evening, Richmond’s final advice to his Cinematography students was about working with directors:”You have to remember that this is the director’s film. Before you’re called in for an interview, he or she has already been working for months if not years on it.”
The New York Film Academy would like to thank Tony Richmond for taking the time to host Man of Honor and speak with our students.
To learn more about the Cinematography programs offered at the New York Film Academy, click here.