By Sophia Ricco
In his many years on set, Joe Livolsi has mastered the art of storytelling through lighting and perspective. With countless screen credits and roles in various production companies, Livolsi decided to focus his expertise on a new chapter and founded Crab Meadow Films in 2006. The Northport-based production company can have a variety of duties on a project, from camerawork to lighting to grips and set up. Livolsi finds himself working on films with many directors he had previously trained in the field.
“As the director of photography, I’m in charge of the overall look of the project,” Livolsi said. “As gaffer you are the head lighting technician or director. In my years, I’ve transitioned to more of the lighting director but I still shoot every once and a while.”
When Livolsi is in charge of lighting, there are many variables he takes into account to determine the mood.
“When you walk into a room, you need to assess, what’s the best direction to be shooting this?,” Livolsi said. “How much power do you have? How high are the ceilings? How much daylight is coming in? Can you use it or get rid of it?”
Before he started Crab Meadow Films Livolsi was part-owner of Lightfoot Grip and Electric. When that business was dissolved, Livolsi took over the lighting company and invested in top-notch equipment. He recently purchased LED lights that are smaller, change colors and don’t burn as hot.
“The newer lights make a bigger difference with how you light a scene and how quickly you can light it,” Livolsi said. “The efficiency is much better, because the amount of power you are drawing is a lot less.”
Livolsi and his colleagues share camera equipment and he shares a studio space with a fellow creator. Although, most of his work is done on location, Livolsi has utilized the studio for shooting.
During projects, he finds enjoyment working towards a common goal with the crew.
“As an ex-athlete, I always have liked the team-oriented type of atmosphere and getting used to working with people,” Livolsi said.
Livolsi, who grew up in Glen Cove, was introduced to film and television production during his junior year in high school by his “all-time favorite teacher.”
“I was in the first television class in ‘77, when Glen Cove had just gotten cameras,” Livolsi said. “He was kind enough to let us take the cameras after school and just play with them, go out and do our shticks.”
Livolsi got his start in the production industry with Brockway Broadcasting in Huntington. He began working with audio for the television show “World of Photography” where he met famous still photographers.
“I developed a feel for composition and lighting through working with these photographers,” Livolsi said. “It’s not just about the lighting of it, it’s the composition and how you frame a picture.”
Since then, Livolsi has worked on film, television and corporate projects around the world. He has since narrowed his work geographically to the tri-state region but treasures his time abroad.
“From Cambodia to working in the Philippines a couple times to Mexico, it’s a different culture. Having done that and seeing how other people work has helped me build my brand better since I can do many different things and interact with many cultures.”
Livolsi is in his first year as an adjunct professor at Hofstra University teaching lighting for a television course. He said he wants his students to feel they are working on a set and runs his classroom like a production.
“What I like to say in class is, ‘We paint with light,’” Livolsi said. From a visual standpoint, I may not have a brush or paint, but my palette is what I need to light, whether it’s a room or outside… Lighting is subjective, it’s how you feel.”
For Livolsi, the most exciting part of teaching is witnessing his students grasp the concept of lighting.
“At my first interview, I told a director, ‘I’m young and still learning,’” Livolsi said. “He said something that’s stuck with me, ‘I’m 77 and I’m still learning.’ This has reminded me to keep moving and evolving.”