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Report on Gender Diversity Placement Tammy Williams on 'Sweet Tooth'

01 Aug 2019 1:10 PM | Amber Wakefield (Administrator)

These placements are an important part of our strategic plan to increase the numbers of women within the world of cinematography. They would not be possible without the hard work and backing from the Productions who agree to take on the placements. Productions not only meet the NZCS halfway in funding, but there is also a large amount of behind-the-scenes work to ensure these placements run smoothly. In this particular instance, we would like to thank the Line Producer Mel Turner and her team. Without your help, this placement would not have been possible. Thanks Mel and team!

Report from Tammy Williams

I was fortunate enough to shadow Aaron Morton NZCS on the five week shoot of Sweet Tooth, an American Network TV pilot filmed in Auckland in June 2019.

I spent a small amount of time in pre-production with Aaron, attending a camera test and a couple of location recce’s and production meetings. It was a good way for us to chat in a less busy environment and a chance for me to get my head around the script and the visual language that Aaron and Jim Mickle, the director, wanted to pursue.

From there it was on to a five week shoot for the pilot. The production was based at Auckland Film Studios in Henderson and we filmed between there, Bethells, Muriwai and Woodhill Forest. One of the greatest parts of the shoot for me was that we were changing the location of where we shot often so I got to watch how Aaron and Jim chose to shoot in different situations, ranging from studio set builds to on location sets. 

The first two weeks were a bit overwhelming but obviously great. Seeing a production of that scale and the talent of all of the people involved really blew my mind. It was pretty incredible to see the detail and concentration that each team put into their department, from Art Dept to Wardrobe and Make-Up / Prosthetics to VFX and SFX.

One of things I most enjoyed watching was how Aaron chose to light each scene and how he thoroughly thought through all the camera moves. The location lighting was much as I expected but on a bigger scale than anything I’ve had a chance to work with. The studio lighting was complex and layered and it gave me an appreciation for how much prep and thought has to go into designing the look of the film before turning up on set. 

In terms of gripping, there were cranes, dollies and many many sliders, as well as easirig’s and steadicam set-ups. 

I loved observing how each move was designed and stylish, but the emphasis was always on furthering the story. This understanding of storytelling and what was important in each scene began each day with the Director’s block and the conversations between Aaron and Jim about character movement and the camera movement related to that.

At any one time we had two to three cameras running, covering different action or shot sizes of each scene. I was lucky enough to have a chance to operate a few set-up’s on the third camera as well as run a couple of little mini splinter shoots throughout the job.

I spent a lot of my time listening in to Aaron’s conversations, talking to the gaffer Tony Blackwood, operator and steadicam operator Todd Bilton and talking to the Grips about their equipment and the decisions they made in regards to gear etc. They were all extremely generous with their knowledge. 

Aaron was also hugely giving in terms of sharing his insights and thoughts about what was going on. He didn’t mind me arriving early and listening to his and Jim’s conversations before crew call and put up with my constant questions with good humour.

Overall I’d say it was an extremely valuable experience for me and I feel like the information is still filtering through my mind. I’m looking forward to a project where I can really sink my teeth into some drama and hopefully draw on some the learnings from Sweet Tooth.

I’d like to thank the production and the NZCS for the wonderful opportunity. 

Tammy Williams

Report from Aaron Morton NZCS

I recently had an opportunity to have Tammy Williams shadow me as Cinematographer on Sweet Tooth, a pilot for the Hulu streaming service.

I think the diversity initiative by the NZCS and Film Commission is long overdue and anything we can do to increase the numbers of female cinematographers in NZ and around the world is a good thing.

Tammy was able to join me for some of the prep, which informed the time she spent on set once we started shooting. It was fantastic to be able to pass on what I was doing and why. 

Hopefully being there as the various problems and issues were identified and solved will serve her well on her own projects. We were working at a reasonably large scale but the fundamentals and strategy involved in keeping the shooting process moving forward can be transferred to any sized project.

We got Tammy involved with operating on many set-ups and she became a trusted part of Jim our Directors approach to achieving his photographic goals. It really was a huge help having someone as skilled as Tammy with us.

I look forward to being involved with the program again in the future.

Aaron Morton NZCS

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