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Cinematographer Drew Sturge reports on 'The Legend of Baron To’a'

28 Jan 2020 8:21 PM | Amber Wakefield (Administrator)

Set in a quiet NZ street “ The Legend of Baron To’a ” Is a New Zealand action film with a retro wrestling throwback vibe

For this film, the Producer Kerry Warkia and Director Kiel McNaughton wanted to set up a look that would help build a slightly heightened reality in keeping with the wrestling style action sequences.  


Creating such a look for a film with mostly day exterior scenes and tight schedules was a challenge.  Director Kiel was also keen to use wide lenses and long Steadicam shots when on our hero street set, to see as much of the world as possible because of the importance the street played in the film.  To create our look, we employed the Hawk V-lite Anamorphic lenses and Arri Mini.  The Hawks have loads of character and the feel we were after. ImageZone provided our camera package and landed us the very tasty Hawks from Germany. 


Wide lenses and blocking that traveled vast distances restricted what we could do lighting wise, so we used lots of handheld negative fill. 12x12 and 20x20 solids along with bambollas and floppies were choreographed to slide in at crucial parts of the shots to add shape. 

Christian Dunn from Blacklight gaffed the job and worked hard to keep our color palette, swapping out entire streets of LED street lamps for old-school Sodium lamps.

Because we had such limited control of lighting in the exterior day scenes, we pushed our look hard when we had control in sets. We wanted to take these opportunities to help build the look and the world we wanted to create.  


I opted for an Arri Mini/V-lite setup knowing we would be doing a lot of gimbal work.  We stayed in the Ronin 2 the entire film other than a few car hard mounts and a handheld flashback.


The R2 was great for switching between modes quickly. We would often move from crane or tracking vehicle to Dolly and handheld gimbal within a scene.  It took no time at all with this R2 build. We did many very ambitious shots on this film, all made possible by our Key Grip Daimon Wright. One of our go-to builds was the scissor crane on a dolly. This was great for getting the camera anywhere onset and we would often cover an entire scene from one build.


The fight finale was captured with 2 Mini’s both in Ronins.  One lived on the crane and the other operated “majestically” or held by grips and operated remotely.  This was a great way to cover the fight beats because it allowed the actors some flexibility and the shots to keep flowing.

We had a great stunt team headed up by Augie Davis who Kiel and I worked closely with choreographing fights and coverage.  


All the fights were lensed and recorded using Artemis finder in the stunt rehearsal space and cut together before we did the real thing onset, giving us a good understanding of what would and wouldn’t work. One of our goals going into this film was to have our lead Uli Latukefu doing as many of his own fights as possible.  Uli trained hard with the stunt team and was amazing.  It made such a difference having a lead actor performing the stunt beats.


One of my main challenges was the connection between interior set and exterior location.  The main interior sets were in a studio and the script required lots of interaction between interior and exterior street. One-shot required a transition from interior set out the window onto a tracking vehicle and developed into the next scene. For this, we employed a rear-projected set extension from Big picture NZ. A 20 kilowatt 4K projected plate of our exterior street set provided very believable backgrounds and a wonderful ambient light source.


I had a blast shooting this film with a great cast and crew who were all excited about making a very ambitious action film with an NZ flavour. 

~ Cinematographer, Drew Sturge


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