Featured Filmmaker ~ Bruce Logan ASC
What can you say about a man who’s done everything? Because Bruce Logan has done everything.
He’s told us amazing stories and accompanied them with equally amazing special effects.
He’s given us some of the most memorable film images of the last two decades. Think of the revelation of the killer ape’s bones on the space ship in 2001: a Space Odyssey. Or Luke Skywalker blowing up the Death Star in Star Wars. Or the opening scene from Airplane with the shark-line tail fin gliding through the clouds to the music from Jaws. Or the miniature Lily Tomlin going down the garbage disposal in The Incredible Shrinking Woman. Or Hank Williams and his rowdy friends mixing it up on Monday Night Football. Or the hyped up Johnny Depp setting out on his acid road trip in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Or film’s first journey into cyberspace with the revolutionary Tron.. We have Bruce Logan to thank for all of these.
He has racked up film credits that are almost too numerous to mention. He won two Emmys as a writer/director and Director of Photography. He has directed spots which garnered two advertising Golden Lions at the Cannes Film Festival. He has produced enormously popular Super Bowl spots. He has shot feature films, theater projects, television commercials, music videos, and television shows. He has produced 80 episodes of Network HDTV. And, he has been a colorist for film and television under his own company: Color by Rainbow. Talk about being a legend in your own time.
I am a camera with its shutter open, recording…recording the man shaving at the window opposite and the woman in the kimono washing her hair. Someday, all this will have to be developed, carefully printed, fixed. Christopher Isherwood, Goodbye to Berlin
Bruce Logan and his camera are lifelong companions. A member of the American Society of Cinematographers (ASC) and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Bruce has worked with all of the Hollywood legends: George Lucas , Stanley Kubrick, Robert Wise, Johathan Demme, Joel Schumacher, John Huston, and Terry Gilliam to name a few. He created the visual effects for the original Star Wars films, as well as 2001: a Space Odyssey, Airplane, and, more recently, Batman Forever.
But all this is the stuff of biography. Who is Bruce Logan—really. For starters, there was Star Wars: Episode IV the film for which Logan created special effects. Who can begin to recount the scenes that will be forever etched in our collective memories: X-Wings and Tie Fighters bursting into flames, the destruction of the Death Star which Bruce Logan is proud of (the destruction of Alderaan, not so much).
In 1977, Bruce Logan’s camera took us to a place we’d never gone before, Deborah Blake’s exotic and terrifying fantasy world of half-naked pagans roaming a bleak desert landscape. A world in which Deborah was both ruler and slave –subject to laws and rituals she herself had designed. At age 16, Deborah Blake was a certified schizophrenic. The film was I Never Promised You a Rose Garden.
Deborah Blake fantasizes in I Never Promised You a Rose Garden
He went on to serve as DP for the Disney film Tron. Tron was released in 1982 to capitalize on the video game craze. It was the first onscreen attempt to represent “cyberspace”. Kevin Flynn, played by Academy Award winner Jeff Bridges, was a computer game designer whose advanced ideas were constantly being stolen by a rival company head. Flynn is accidentally transformed into a computer component and enters the Tron dimension. Inside the computer he finds himself on a game grid where he does battle with electronic villains. Logan captured the action so brilliantly that the movie is still recognized as a ground breaker, inspiring a Tron video game that went viral.
In 1986, Bruce displayed his directoral talents with Vendetta, a prison action movie in which Bonnie Collins, sister of a successful movie stuntwoman, kills a man who tried to rape her in a bar. Convicted of the murder, which she believes was self-defense, Bonnie was sent to prison and subsequently attacked by a gang of women who injected her with heroin and dumped her over a railing to her death. The film was notable for Logan’s brutal depiction of prison life and the inequities of the judicial system.
He moved behind the camera in 1995 again to act as DP, shooting visual effects for Batman Forever, a film in which the Dark Knight of Gotham City confronted the duo of Two-Face and The Riddler. Two-Face, a former DA who believed Batman was responsible for disfiguring him on one side, unleashes a reign of terror on Gotham. A former employee of Bruce Wayne (aka Batman), who was also out to get the caped crusader, invents a device for draining information from all the brains in Gotham—including that of Bruce Wayne. Batman must stop him. In this film, former circus acrobat Dick Grayson—whose parents were killed by Two-Face—becomes Batman’s partner. Enter Robin, the Boy Wonder. Chalk up another cinematographic achievement for Bruce Logan.
If you think Bruce Logan is a one-trick pony—movie DP—think again. Drawing on his own acting and directing skills, he has directed commercials for every major brand, including Pepsi (Play for a Billion, Bank Robbery), Suzuki (GRX R 750, Coliseum) , Shell (Oil, Rain), Toyota (Tundra, Answering Machine, Sienna, Sticker Family), Mt. DEW (The Dew Crew, Race Track), Jeep, Hitachi (Ultravision, Unforgiven), and National (Emerald Club, Speed). He won advertising’s most covered award, the Golden Lion, at the Cannes Film Festival. He has also created television commercials for the Superbowl, probably the most desired gig on tv. And, he has photographed music videos for pop artists Madonna, Prince, Rod Stewart, Aerosmith, the Go-Gos, and Hank Williams, Jr.
Recently, Bruce was interviewed along with Zacuto Director Steve Weiss about the importance of digital cameras and the relationship between the cost of a camera and the images that were produced. He noted that, at one time, the quality and price of a camera had a direct bearing on the final product. Now, he says, it’s not about the camera anymore. All of the new digital cameras are good. The key elements are talent and lighting. “Get a camera,” he tells would-be cinematographers; “and learn to use it”. As for lighting, he says he’s learned a lot about lighting by walking through museums and studying how the Renaissance masters lit their subjects. It’s the lighting, as well as the technique of the artist, that makes their works endure. Similarly, he says that the right lighting can make any camera look good.
Logan came to Chicago a few months back to do a camera shootout for Zacuto USA. He chose different DPs to use specific camera types and created problematic lighting situations to see what the cinematographers could do with the equipment. The outcome was predictable: it was the lighting, not the camera that made the scene. He believes that in the future, the emphasis on film quality will shift to lighting instruments, not cameras.
Q. When did you first decide to become a Director of Photography and Visual Effects Director?
A. I never really remember deciding anything about my career, it just evolved from one interest into another and I was lucky enough to get work in each category.
Q. Who has had the greatest influence on your work?
A. I would say, Stanley Kubrick, Doug Trumbull, Ridley Scott, Roger Corman.
Q. You have been a DP on both films and music videos. Do you have a preference for any particular genre?
A. I love music videos for their pure creativity and the ability to push the envelope. I love films for their storytelling, consistency of style and creation of dramatic mood.
But the thing I enjoy the most about the film business is that there is no monotony. Every day is different, and that’s the way I like it. So when I’m asked if I like any particular genre, I like them all and enjoy and get learn the challenges of each one.
Q. How did you gravitate to doing commercial projects?
A. Commercials are the greatest concentration of production value in the shortest length of time. The challenge of creating a story in thirty seconds is second to none. Although it’s a bit debilitating directing at the pleasure of a committee the reward are large, gratifying, and creative.
Q. Recently, there has been speculation that digital photography will make the work of the cinematographer obsolete. Do you believe this?
A. I believe that if the cinematographer is to retain his status as the auteur of the image, he or she needs to move into and take control of the color correction process. This must be taken firmly in hand.
Q. As an artist who is constantly on the go and exploring new uses for his talents, what are you currently involved in?
A. I am currently color grading a feature film, which I DPed, titled “Desecration.”
On a shoot with Bruce Logan
There’s much more I could say, but the words keep slipping away, And I’m left with only one point of view—Mr. Wonderful, that’s you Bette Midler
Bruce Logan was born in London and educated at Merchant Taylor’s Guild School. He has GCE certificates for English, Art, Physics, and Chemistry. He began making animated and dynamated films when he was only fourteen years old. He studied acting and directing, as well as photography, working with such well-known teachers as Stella Adler, Nina Foch, and George Tyne. He later studied writing at UCLA with Linda Seger, John Trilby, and David Freeman. And proving that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, Bruce learned much of his craft from his father, Campbell Logan—a BBC classical drama director.
His love of imagery started when he was hired by Stanley Kubrick to work under Douglas Trumbull on 2001: A Space Odyssey. He came to California in 1968 and worked as a DP on over a dozen films, including: Tron, Star Trek, Airplane, Firefox, High Road to China, The Incredible Shrinking Woman, I Never Promised You a Rose Garden, Big Bad Mama, and Jackson County Jail. He did visual photography for most of these films as well.
He has shot commercial films for most of the major companies: Pepsi, GE, Visa, Chevrolet, Pontiac, DuPont, Contac, Sprint, Amtrak, Suzuki, Sunlight, and Armstrong. And—he has applied his talents to making music videos for such high profile performers as Prince, Madonna, Rod Stewart, Aerosmith, Glenn Frey, The Go-Gos, Karyn White, Tevin Campbell, Hank Williams, Jr., and Michael Cooper.
Combining his love of directing and creating visual effects, Bruce has developed a new Virtual Set Process with the Entertainment Design Workshop. He is keeping his hand in directing—having just completed several episodes of The Book of Pooh for Disney and the new PBS show It’s a Big, Big World. He’s currently involved in writing The Corn King, a “witchy sex comedy” that takes place in Los Angeles and Cornwall, England.
Oh yes, did I mention he is a champion racecar driver and a licensed pilot? As a sheet metal expert, he puts his driving skills to good use by filming car commercials for most major manufacturers. He has filmed on aircraft carriers, and at racetracks—as well as on top of skyscrapers.
Sir Bruce Logan—Director of Photography, race car driver, pilot, humanitarian
As a little icing on the cake, Bruce was recently knighted in the Dominican Republic by President Leonel Fernandez—a high honor bestowed on those who have excelled in outstanding service to humanity and for contributions to unity and development among the peoples of the Americas. Well done, Bruce Logan. Very well done.
Bruce Logan captured by Steve Weiss