It was wonderful having the chance to speak with longtime LAPPG member and presenter Bruce Logan. As you can already see, Bruce has done just about everything and is quite a legend in the film industry. In our discussion of his work and his 45+ year career, Bruce shares some insights into his inspiring career where he’s worked with directors like Stanley Kubrick and Joel Schumacher as well as making a pivotal contribution to a little movie called, Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope. If you don’t know Bruce, you’ll be glad you now do. Please meet Bruce Logan.
Los Angeles Post Production Group: You’ve worn many hats over the years. From VFX Artist to Cinematographer to Colorist to Director. Is there a role to you enjoy more and why?
Bruce Logan, ASC: Each job I take on I give 110%. I’ve been blessed with opportunities to develop many skills in the business. I wouldn’t say I enjoy one more than another. They all have aspects that I enjoy intently. I would say that I use different amounts of my brain’s RAM and processing power performing each function. Being a director uses the most and is the most stressful and therefore creates the greatest consciousness high. Being a DP and spending 12 hours a day making the image look great is aesthetically enjoyable and slightly less stressful, especially in the digital age. Editing and grading have a very different rhythm. I think they are “final processes,” meaning that you’re making final decisions, the last rewrite. It’s very satisfying.
LAPPG: With all of the technological changes from film to digital how has your creativity been impacted as a cinematographer, editor and colorist?
BL: Having grown up in a very analog age, life has just gotten more and more exciting as time goes by. I have totally embraced the digital age and won’t be looking back any time soon. Technology has made things possible that one could never have dreamed of when I started in the business. But please, enough with the drone shots! I don’t mind people shooting on film, if that’s what floats their boats. But a photo-chemical finish for me is just an undesirable indulgence. The film comes on-screen flickering. I cringe and slink down into my seat. But of course, like 3D, I don’t notice it after a while. But why?
LAPPG: Along with that you’ve also seen VFX change so much over the years from when you worked on Star Wars Episode IV in the miniature and optical effects unit to a film like Batman Forever. What has it been like having a front row seat to the advancements in cinema? And how did you blow up the Death Star?
BL: I guess that’s my other pet peeve with the over digitization of VFX. Yes, I marveled at the magical motion blur of the fast flying ships in Star Wars. And I gasped as the first dinosaur loped across the screen in Jurassic Park. But the total reliance on CG for effects in film somehow has an unsatisfying synthetic gloss. For me the uncanny valley runs much deeper in digital VFX movies than the latest youthification techniques like the Irishman. But CG VFX based on live-action footage are the most effective for me. I still think the last really great, full-satisfaction VFX movie is the original Blade Runner.
“Blowing up the Death Star” is my greatest PR coup, but was in fact very low tech. The “Zero-G” explosions were achieved by looking “directly up” at some very exotic bombs made by Joe Viskocil. Using a high-speed camera, we detonated the explosion directly above the lens. Voilà.
LAPPG: Tell us a bit about working for Roger Corman back in the day. Was the Corman film Vendetta your first directorial opportunity?
BL: I met Roger Corman at a cast and crew screening of a movie I shot for Peter Fonda called Idaho Transfer. There were no seats left, so Roger had to sit on the floor near the screen. He saw that I could shoot great images with almost no lights. He immediately offered me a movie called Big Bad Mama starring Angie Dickinson. Then his wife Julie Corman offered me Crazy Mama, which led to Jackson County Jail, then I Never Promised You a Rose Garden which was short-listed for Academy Award. Then producer Jeff Begun brought the project Vendetta to Roger. Roger green-lit the film as my feature debut as Director.
LAPPG: It’s been 34 years since Vendetta, and now you’ve directed the award-winning film Lost Fare. How do you feel you’ve change or developed as a director?
BL: Vendetta was truly my first directing job. When I finished the film, Roger told me… “Bruce, this is not a good film.” But I think after 4 years of Fox’s rating sweep week broadcasts and a current 3.5 stars on Amazon, it wasn’t that bad.
After Vendetta I directed 300 television commercials and music videos over 20 years. This is where I honed my directing skills. The discipline of telling a story in 30 seconds and mounting 300 productions and post productions was invaluable. With out these abilities, I could never have written, produced, edited and directed, Lost Fare, a 100K road movie with kids in eleven 12 hour days.
Lost Fare was a real labor of love for me. I was inspired by Rachel Reaugh’s devastating but beautiful story based on her abusive childhood. We wrote the screenplay together. Then I looked for an actor that could play the eleven-year-old heroine. Finding the incredible Alexis Rosinsky, I went ahead and made the film with producer and old friend Elliot Rosenblatt. Lost Fare is available on many platforms and has been streamed for tens of millions minutes on Amazon Prime. I’m really proud of the work.
LAPPG: I think you won Blackmagic Design’s DaVinci Resolve at an LAPPG meeting a number of years ago. Can you talk about what your experience was like editing and coloring in DaVinci Resolve?
BL: Being a self-taught colorist for the last 8 years with a copy of Resolve I won at LAPPG emboldened me to cut my movie in Resolve. I had to build a rocket-ship Mac Tower as I wanted to cut in 4K so that everything I did in the timeline was “finished movie.” I colored the movie as I went and then did final pass when all the VFX were in. I started in Resolve 12.5 and ended in 14. I was my own system tech so it wasn’t without a few sleepless nights.
LAPPG: What were you aiming for in terms of audio for this very dark and troubling story?
BL: I wanted to use as much real productions sound to give the movie a gritty reality. Unfortunately, I didn’t get great production sound, so Woody Woodhall, CAS had to dig it out with iZotope and reconstruct the natural sounds I was after. I’m super happy with the final track.
LAPPG: Everyone reacts to the fact that your career started with 2001: A Space Odyssey. What was your experience like working with Kubrick on this film?
BL: People ask me if I went to film school. I tell them I worked on 2001, A Space Odyssey. That was my film school. I was hired by Douglas Trumbull and he had the run of the studio. So as his assistant I got to do live action, miniatures as well as animation which I had been teaching myself since I was 12, and then doing professionally for three years. Preparation met opportunity and there I was working for the director I idolized. It was trial by fire in the hot seat defending my work in dailies with Stanley scrutinizing my footage for two and a half years. Phew!
LAPPG: You’ve worked on so many memorable movies like Airplane, Tron, Batman Forever, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and one of my favorite favorites when I was a child, The Incredible Shrinking Woman. Can you talk about what it was like as special visual effects supervisor creating a giant world for tiny Lily Tomlin?
BL: The Incredible Shrinking Woman was an opportunity to use process photography, Front Projection and Rear-screen Projection to create all the VFX shots. This meant no VFX post schedule. Everything was done in camera as part of principle photography. This was probably of dubious financial value, as a 100 compositors working in a dark room is probably cheaper than a full production crew working an extra 8 weeks on stage. But it enabled director Joel Schumacher and myself to be very creative with our shots, and to see exactly what we were getting. Working with Lily was fantastic.
LAPPG: And it wasn’t just films that you were involved in back in the 80’s. How did you get involved producing a music video for Madonna?
BL: I produced Madonna’s second video Borderline for my friend Mary Lambert who was directing her first project for Warner Records. I remember I made it under-budget by not buying production insurance. Talk about stupid, but somehow I got away with it. Madonna was great. I didn’t know who she was at the time, but she did. And then we all did.
LAPPG: So on top of everything it turns out you are also a screenwriter! Can you tell us about the script you are currently working on?
BL: My new project is called God and Country. It’s about a Marine Pilot who is raped by a psychotic war hero, and is failed by the justice system. She takes matters into her own hands using her hi-tech aviation skills.
LAPPG: For a man who has worked in so many aspects of the filmmaking process and has worked with so many seminal directors what inspires you still at this point in your career and are you still racing cars and flying planes?
BL: Learning new stuff is always stimulating. Right now it’s learning social media to sell my movie. But really it’s writing great stories that turns me on.
Although I don’t really formally race, I do the occasional track day which is really racing against myself. My friend built a pro-simulator so I go over and race different tracks all over the world. And I recently renewed my old paper flying license for a flashy plastic one. It occasionally falls out of my wallet and starts a conversation. That’s about it!