Chasing the light

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In reviews of his first feature film, the documentary America's Heart and Soul, director and cinematographer Louis Schwartzberg unfairly suffered from a coincidental release date close to that of Fahrenheit 9/11, and because it, and not Michael Moore's documentary, was distributed by Disney, many critics compared the two, labeling Heart and Soul as the anti-9/11. However, one thing that the reviews had in common was praise for Schwartzberg's decadent footage of the American landscape and its residents, which he shot during multiple trips cross-country during the last seven years. Culled into a stock library, that work is now available for licensing through his L.A.-based production company, Blacklight Films. Traveling with a small crew of between six and eight people, Schwartzberg and his equipment, including five cameras, dollies and time-lapse rigs, shot in locations from Ben & Jerry's headquarters in Vermont to a church in San Francisco, taking the time to capture what he calls "serendipitous moments." "If I was in New England interviewing a dairy farmer [for the documentary], then I'd rent a helicopter and we would do beautiful aerials of fall foliage," Schwartzberg says. "Once you're out there you can be opportunistic and keep your costs down." Chasing light and capturing moments of beauty when schedules allowed, Schwartzberg shot nearly 400 hours of footage, which have been cut down to 5,000 clips available through Blacklight's website, which also features clips from Morocco, Bhutan, the Grenadines, Africa and Hawaii, among other locations. To him, the standout components of the collection are the people captured and interviewed. "People that work and play a lot in stock footage conjure the same characters. You can tell when something is real and something is cast. It's like trying to get someone who looks like a cowboy vs. getting a real one."