Thursday, September 22, 2011
What a great blessing, having the opportunity to work and collaborate with an exceptional person like Neil Lisk. When ever he was on board each step of production benefited from his talent, professionalism, and heart.
Before a shooting schedule was even made Neil would have notes and ideas about tone, style, and ways to translate deeper meanings and themes cinematically. Once the locations were locked he would take pictures of each and every one, creating a detailed shot list. He’d then present a list of options, inclusive of what ‘glory’ shots could actually be afforded, always finding ways of transforming very little resources into what would appear to be much bigger productions on screen, even to the point of spending his own money on renting gear he thought would ad value to what the audience would see.
During production Neil dominated, first to arrive, last to leave, doing what ever it took, no matter how trivial, to keep things going. With very little time and even less money Neil was the ‘go to’ guy for making decisions when there was no time to hash things out. He could see the entire scope of a scene in his head, instinctively knowing how to get the coverage needed while never having an issue with the line. Very active in blocking, Neil would carefully watch actors run through their actions, figuring out all the necessary set ups. When time was at an absolute minimum, Neil would come up with a way of shooting entire scenes in just a master, while still keeping it visually interesting. When framing, Neil would spend as much time as necessary looking into the monitor with the production designer, moving props around until the picture looked absolutely perfect. Camera movement was another thing Neil was a stickler for, but only as it served the story. Every push, pull, or dolly move had to actually mean something.
Neil’s technological knowledge was without question, as was his ability to do multiple jobs at once. He brought a certain respect to the set, never making a final decision until it was sanctioned by the director, keeping criticisms and opinions only for those who needed to hear them. He was the first to admit he was wrong, never complained or had an ‘attitude’, even when doing something he didn’t totally agree with. Actors loved how Neil would always give them encouragement and space. His energy and professionalism being contagious.
Once principal photography was wrapped Neil would continue working, sitting through rough cuts, providing notes and advice during the entire editing process. Always a cheerleader during horrible early string outs, Neil was usually the one who’d find a solution for scenes that didn’t quite play out like they were on the page. “There’s a great little movie in here mate, don’t give up”. He’d sit through every color timing session, offering insight as well as an incredible eye. We’d think we have picture lock and then... eight more pages of notes from Neil Lisk.
Neil wasn’t perfect, he could be too logical, by the book, and occasionally drive people crazy with his perfectionism. But over all, Neil Lisk's about as close to perfect as a person could be.