Cushla Lewis Gender Diversity Program:
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 funding from NZ Film Commission, and the hard work and backing from the productions who agree to take on the placements. Productions not only meet the NZCS halfway in funding (and in cases like this one, more than halfway), 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 Line Producer Chloe Smith for making this opportunity possible.
Report from Bailey Mitchinson:
I was given the role of ‘Camera Trainee’ on the film The Power of the Dog, with Jane Campion directing and cinematographer Ari Wegner ACS, and quickly stepped up as a truck loader/2nd AC which was incredible.
Some of my responsibilities were to make sure all our camera gear was packed each day, stored and maintained. I put in slates, coordinated with Kath Thomas (script supervisor/the best), set up monitors and handsets and worked with the lighting department to get colour temperature readings to ensure consistency of location shots outdoors to studio. It was also important to me to always be identifying how I could support everyone in my team, which took priority.
Ari was constantly busy, though is so open in the way that she works - clearly, calmly and respectfully communicating with Jane, grips, lighting, art, etc. - that it made learning from her very accessible, just from being welcome to be a part of communications that I would normally not be involved in. My team allowed me to neglect a lot of my menial responsibilities (the truck was a mess), which is rare, to allow me to get the most on-set time, learning all the nuances that you could never pick up otherwise.
I was able to build on my existing technical skills, Dan Foeldes (A Cam 1st AC) and Ben Rowsell (B Cam 1st AC) were always willing to pass on their knowledge and go into depth with how everything works and why, and I especially appreciated Ben coaching me with practical hands-on skills (filter changes, camera builds, etc). Nick Willoughby (A Cam 2nd AC) and Jimmy Bollinger (B Cam 2nd AC) encouraged me to step in for them on a regular basis, becoming ‘my trainee’. I love them.
I’m sure there’s always a strong sense of camaraderie on away-jobs, though both my personal and professional development benefited from the way the crew bonded within, and across departments. It was exceptional. The open and supportive culture that we had was an environment that fostered huge development for me. This included the warmest, constructive feedback from other departments as well as my own. I intend to do everything I can to contribute to creating an environment like this going forward in my career.
For me the greatest value of a placement like this is having that wider support-net. It’s hard to navigate contracts and gain confidence in what you’re entitled to as someone less experienced. It’s hard to ask for a wage that represents your role and skill set accurately. It’s been such a privilege to have had that on this job, thank you. I’d also love to thank in particular; Chloe Smith, Tanya Seghatchian, Libby Sharpe and Moira Grant - for the opportunity, for taking the time to regularly check in, and for being real good to me.
Report from Line Producer Chloe Smith:
The production has extended Bailey's tenure beyond the NZCS/NZFC contribution and this should be taken as further affirmation of her positive experience, positive presence and contribution to the on-set team and this production. We fully support the NZCS gender diversity initiative, and the memory of Cushla Lewis who was such an important protagonist in establishing this opportunity.
Report from Ben Rowsell, B Camera 1st AC:
Bailey Mitchinson joined the camera team under the NZCS gender diversity program. Bailey & I first met at the airport en route to the South Island location, and I was relying on her NZCS affiliation and reputation with camera crew from previous jobs.
The camera team was headed up by Cinematographer Ari Wegner, ACS, who travelled with her regular 1st AC Daniel Foeldes, and LA based Kiwi Grant Adams, SOC, as Operator & Steadicam Op. Bailey quickly settled into her role working alongside local 2ndACs Nick Willoughby and Jimmy Bollinger to provide valuable support for the on-set shooting crew.
The main set operated primarily as a single camera shoot, with Ari calling in A or B camera teams depending on the requirements of the scene. Bailey quickly had a comprehensive understanding of our equipment and was able to support either camera team as required. When not required on the main set, B Camera would splinter off to shoot additional content, and having someone as competent as Bailey to shuttle gear between sets was invaluable.
Director Jane Campion and 1st AD Phil Jones wanted to run an intimate set, and Bailey was quiet but attentive, always on hand to help with the gear, assist with blocking, etc.
When we returned to Auckland for the studio set work, Bailey was able to step up when one of our 2nd ACs was absent, and did an excellent job. At the end of her term Line Producer Chloe Smith generously agreed to extend Bailey’s contract to the end of the shoot.
In March 2020 along with many other productions in New Zealand and around the world we were cut short by the Covid-19 lockdown, with a block of the film still to be shot. With the intent to complete the shoot later in the year I'm looking forward to having Bailey back again as part of the team and hope to see her in the future on other jobs.
TPOTD shot with Alexa LF & LF Mini Cameras, and Panavision Ultra Panatar 1.25 X Anamorphic Lenses from PVNZ.
I started with an Arri 2C with a varo pot motor gip, built and modified it with a regulated battery pack to shoot sync then I brought a sync flat base, I love geared heads so much I brought one too (my old faithful Moy which still comes on set with me regularly). After finishing a Bachelor of Visual Arts degree I took that geared head and Arri and I began my career in filmmaking photographing as many short films and music video as I could (over 150 music videos back then) all with the intention to get involved in miniature effects… And along came the RED ONE… and everything changed S-8, 16, 35 became a memory… It was cheap, immediate and the directors and producers I worked with loved that.
Much has changed technologically over the last 20 years yet my love for lighting and framing has remained regardless of the tools be it film, digital or even phones! Lighting is still lighting and that's what I love most (and I still want to shoot miniatures…) Now my craft involves not just on set photography but it has extended into lighting design and pre-vis lighting rendering to virtual production.
I have been a member of the NZCS in the past, Kevin Riley asked me to be involved in helping with the NZCS when it formed in 2008 which was a step NZ cinematographers had for a long time deserved. NZ Cinematography in its formative years built from whats on hand to a sophisticated industry with global respect and skillsets that surprise even the best. Nice work, deserving of letters after ones name. It’s good to be back on the list.
~ Richard Harling
Deserted Brussels. Photo: Marc Swadel
The schedule was three days of IMAGO activity, with representatives from countries all over the globe, and it was to be a triumphant meet up – with The ASC officially joining, Uruguay as well, a vote for a new President, and of course the IMAGO International Awards for Cinematography – the only peer voted awards of its stature anywhere.. in short – a testament to how great things were going in the world of Cinematography.
I arrived into Brussels, from London on the 11th March, and wandered over to the venue from the train station. I was looking forward to catching up with old friends, Ron from the ACS, and also meeting Denson Baker, who was up for an award at the bash on Saturday night. Walking into the meeting room, it was in full flight, I quietly sat down at the back, as the IAGA business was being discussed, and at a juncture In the proceedings was welcomed in –‘ ‘And we welcome Marc Swadel from the NZCS – all the way from New Zealand!’ Which is a standing joke – as usually I just hop on the train over from London. Except this time, I HAD flown in from NZ the day before! Louis-Philippe Capelle SBC, who was chairing the meeting, said ‘ Oh.. well you have come a long way for some bad news ..’ the bad news being, just 10 minutes before, they had agreed to cancel the entire she-bang – due to the ensuing COVID-19 shitstorm that was starting to engulf the continent.
We got the IMAGO meeting all done in one day - as countries around the world were closing down the borders - and many had to leave throughout the day to avoid being stuck at the border. I had to get the earliest train out the next day for the same reason.
The Awards were cancelled/postponed. Denson was poised to come on over, but just sat it out in London - which was a real shame! Would have been nice to have seen him get the limelight :)
Like the NZCS, through good management and stewardship - quite healthy. BUT with the Awards being canned/postponed - a potential very large financial hole opened up. Luckily, as this year the awards etc. are in Brussels, the home territory for IMAGO and the SBC. Louis-Philippe, who is the key organiser, is busy trying to defer venue and hotel bookings and get credit notes towards possibly holding it at a later date, or for next year..
A New IMAGO Logo
A new logo has been designed - which was meant to be unveiled - but he UK design company couldn’t make it over to present.. so it will revealed at a later date!
New IMAGO Office
IMAGO has a new office in the same building as FERA - the European Directors federation - whom IMAGO have joined with to fight for Authorship rights in the EU, and the building also houses the International Federation of Reproduction Rights Organisations (IFRRO) and La Maison Européenne es Autrices et des Auteurs (MEDAA) – the Writers Guild. This is a really positive move – there is a strong European ground swell to get more royalties and rights recognised for the creators of film and TV in Europe – and if this fight can be won, then it will hopefully be a condition of funding for any film or co-production funding from within the EU.
Application for EU funding
Elen Lotman ESC is putting together an application for EU funding for IMAGO, for this coming fiscal year.
IMAGO Fees/New Members
One thing that was discussed, was the fact that many smaller societies can’t afford the 22 Euro per member levy for IMAGO membership. We looked at how the fees work, a suggestion was to make a minimum of 100 Euro for smaller societies, so they can come onboard. I suggested that the bigger societies 'sponsor' a smaller one into the organisation - as many smaller societies don't have much $$ to play with - case in point - Estonia - which pays 600 Euro - which is 80% of their member society dues!
And here are the winners, and the nominees:
The IMAGO International Award for Best Cinematography in FEATURE FILMS:
Winner: 1917 - Roger Deakins BSC ASC
Nominees: The Spy / Spionen / Anton Mertens SBC
Blizzard of Souls / Dvēseļu Putenis / Valdis Celmins LGC
The IMAGO International Award for Best Cinematography in TV DRAMA:
Winner: Patrick Melrose 'Bad News' - James Friend ASC BSC
Nominees: Liebermann / Vienna Blood - Xiaosu Han / Andreas Thalhammer AAC
Victoria - “Comfort & Joy” - Denson Baker NZCS ACS
The IMAGO International Award for Best Cinematography in DOCUMENTARY:
Winners: Honeyland / Medena Zemja - Fejmi Daut MSC and Samir MSC
Nominees: By the Name of Tania - Virginie Surdej SBC
Sidik and the Leopard (Sidik en de Panter) - Roy van Egmond NSC
Anthropocene - The Human Epoch - Nicholas de Pencier CSC
In conclusion, a real shame those nominated did not get their night in the spotlight, and we as Cinematographers did not get to celebrate what we do.. but cancelling was the right decision. It just wasn’t worth the risk – the last thing we would want is attendees going home to all corners of the world and potentially bringing the virus with them! In the month or so since that weekend in March – this decision has been shown to be a wise one. A total lock down, and a freeze on work globally, which has bought everything to a grinding halt. Due to a decisive PM – NZ is looking a whole load better than most countries, and hopefully gets to slowly climb back into a semblance of normalcy over the coming months – which could bring a large number of inward productions to NZ – as most of the rest of the world will still be in worse shape..
Whatever happens – keep safe and keep healthy!
~ Marc Swadel, NZCS Committee Member
Monday 16th March was just one day of the year but a significant day as a few NZCS members mobilised to shoot short films for various indigenous directors for Native Slam short films.
The NATIVE Slam is an international Indigenous collaboration challenge. Each year, in the days leading up to Māoriland Film Festival, Indigenous filmmakers team up in New Zealand to make a short film.
A NATIVE Slam team is made up of one Māori filmmaker host and two international Indigenous filmmakers. They have just 72 hours and no budget. Since its inception in 2016, seventeen short films have been created that have played in film festivals around the world.
WHAKARONGO: Dorhryen Allen-Heremia and Naylah Tarei
NZCS Cinematographer members David Paul NZCS, Jess Charlton and Mike Jonathan with Richard Curtis; plus Associate Member Ray Edwards, all shot for their respective directors in different parts of Aotearoa.
WHAKARONGO: Naylah Tarei and Dorhryen Allen-Heremia
I, David, headed to Whakatane to shoot WHAKARONGO or Nicholas Riini, Ngai Tuhoe (known to many of you as a top gaﬀer but a talented director/writer in the making plus a fantastic chef if you’re ever lucky enough to enjoy his kai) and, Alaskan native, Salmon boat owner/captain, Artist, Film director, Anna Hoover from Naknek, Alaska, and Saami native Reindeer herder/ Filmmaker/Journalist, Aslak Pallto from Sapmi, Finland ( via facetime catch ups as Covid -19 stopped Aslak making it to Aotearoa).
WHAKARONGO: Directors Anna Hoover and Nicholas Riini co-directing
NZCS Associate member Daniela “Nani” Conforte Vasconcellos joined us in Whakatane, smashing it on the 1st AC front.
WHAKARONGO: Nani and Joey sorting a wee technical.
Each team had to go hard to shoot their ﬁlm in one day. We shot until after the sun had set, which meant, as we had the wonderful Sony Venice camera from Imagezone and the dual ISO 500/2500 up our sleeve, it was dark, but not for the Venice.
ATUA: DOP Jess Charlton framing up a shot.
Nicholas must have put his gaﬀer hat on overnight as we woke to a beautiful soft light day with a huge ½ silk covering the sky all day ( a consistent veil of high cloud). With the Venice and the lens / ﬁlter combo and diﬀused sunlight, we had gentle, sort of pastel-like images of our actors in the surrounding beauty of Ohope beach and estuary where we shot.
WHAKARONGO: Actors Naylah Tarei and Dorhryen Allen-Heremia, David Paul NZCS
Being a fast turn around ﬁlm, although I was keen to use the full sensor on the Sony Venice but not give the editor 6k ﬁles to deal with, I set the camera to 6k / 2.39:1 so we utilised the full-frame sensor width but recorded to 4k XAVC300 (10 bit, 4:2:2) for manageable ﬁles and all footage loaded into Premier Pro seamlessly. In doing that, we set our own boundaries as well, with the native 2.39:1 aspect ratio in the Venice. No room for re framing in post if we didn’t like the composition. The frame was the frame.
WHAKARONGO: Dorhryen Allen-Heremia (Dop: David Paul NZCS). With no lighting allowed the natural approach was removing light when shooting interior to create shape. So I was lighting , but not using any lights. Adjusting the curtains in a room or opening / closing a door , can even use where crew may stand ( very still ) during the shot to create subtle shadows. Left of frame whilst operating I’m also deliberately blocking some window light from bouncing oﬀ the wall preventing too much ﬁll and Joey ( soundie) was also happy to stand to the right of the window whilst still booming / recording sound. I used his position to soften / reduce some light coming in on the right.
One of the few rules of Native Slam is no lighting allowed, which I certainly relished and am sure, as did Jess and Ray. Our grip gear was near non-existent also. Options were handheld or tripod.
Ray, also supported by the Imagezone team and Jess using her Panasonic EVA-1 camera kit were in diﬀerent regions shooting their ﬁlms with their respective indigenous directors, no doubt in their element enjoying the creative freedom that oddly the imposed restrictions often create.
As cinematographers and crew, we also beneﬁt, as we get to share, discover new voices, learn new ideas and interpretations which can only enrich our work.
ATUA: Co-Director Chantelle Murray, Dop Jess Charlton, Co-Director and actor Bailey Poching, AC Mike Potton and Co-Director Brown Bitty (not in photo) filming at Hokio Beach
As Nani and I drove back to Auckland, we chatted how fantastic our weekend was. We thought of the other teams knowing they’ll have also had a great time, learned new things, made new friends and shared their experience. It was the very heart and soul of ﬁlm making about whanau ﬁrst and collaboration. Diﬀerent cultures and voices, merging into one story, yet each being heard, sharing ideas and learning from each other.
ATUA: Dop, Jess Charlton
I look forward to seeing this happen more often with greater support for Maorilands and Native Slam. It’s about developing our indigenous ﬁlm makers which NZCS is fully supportive of and looks forward to welcoming more indigenous members coming up through the ranks, as they will do, to be part of leading New Zealand cinematography into the future.
I’m also sure some new acting talent has been discovered. I can attest that the two wahine taitamariki in our ﬁlm were amazing, never been in front of a camera before, but they owned it.
~ David Paul NZCS
I am currently studying film, and more specifically cinematography at Unitec, though I have been keen on being a part of this industry for a very long time. My first exposure to filmmaking was the 48Hour Film Festival in 2014, and this extreme crash course sparked my passion for the screen. I have since been involved in various short films made among mates, and of course 48Hours every year since.
2019 was first year at Unitec, which introduced me to a much more professional world. Because of this, already my skills have improved drastically, due to having proper guidance and role models helping me forward. Sean Rundle and Donny Duncan NZCS are, let’s say ‘mentors’ to me, as I have worked with them both in academic and personal capacities. I am extremely grateful for the professional and personal relationships I have developed with them both and am excited to see how they grow in the future.
My major end goal is to establish a solid career in cinematography, hopefully becoming a DOP in a major industry (feature or otherwise), however for now I am focused on growing my skills as best I can through studies, and taking any and all opportunities that are presented to me. I love being involved in filmmaking, and even something as simple as being on set to watch the magic happen is enough to keep me happy for weeks afterwards.
I look forward to the many connections and experiences I will be able to create through the NZCS, and getting to know all of you, my (fingers crossed) future co-workers and partners in our chosen field!
~ James Ashenden
NZCS members and guests were treated to another inspiring event on Wednesday night as an audience to legendary stuntman, stunt co-ordinator and 2nd Unit Director, Vic Armstrong.
Out here from the UK to work on a large Amazon TV production, Armstrong’s reputation and list of credits in the business is massive, including a series of James Bond movies, Indiana Jones movies, and the likes of Total Recall, Starship Troopers, Eddie the Eagle, Thor, Gangs of New York and countless other huge action block-buster films.
His opening showreel has glowing testimonials from Steven Speilberg, Martin Scorcese, Harrison Ford and other highly respected film-makers.
The presentation was accompanied by a continuous showreel of excerpts from action sequences he either directed, co-ordinated or performed stunts in. There were many stories to accompany various clips, including tales of very near misses, such as a float plane mishap on Indiana Jones, and the critical timing of a leap from a horse onto a moving tank.
Vic also elaborated on backgrounds to the planning of complex stunts and the development of rigs, such as high speed descenders, to solve specific challenges, and the important relationships between Main and 2nd unit directors and DP’s.
We were privileged to have Vic take time out of a very busy production schedule to share his stories with us at short notice.
~ Donny Duncan, NZCS Professional Development Manager
The NZCS was offered the chance to host an event with Shane Hurlbut ASC at very short notice last month, as he was visiting NZ to shoot an international TV commercial. Tickets quickly sold out and a packed house filled the Dept of Post theatre on Feb 25th to hear a presentation on “Redefining Camera Movement”.
Hurlbut was at the forefront of utilising the power of the internet to educate and inform cinematographers worldwide and the Hurlbut Academy has evolved to be a leading force in this field and a great resource for upskilling at all levels of cinematography.
Being a very early adopter of the brushless-motor gimbal rig (MOVI etc), Hurlbut’s presentation showed an amazing variety of applications of this technology in the pursuit of serving the storytelling as effectively as possible. The very passionate and animated talk included behind-the-scenes clips, excerpted scenes, stills imagery, plans and diagrams to illustrate his methodology.
While the over-riding message of the presentation was to interpret the script and deliver the director’s vision as honestly as possible, there was a host of tips and tricks showcased on how “New School” technology can eclipse “Old School” technology to produce great results on tight budgets. One example was how a time-consuming crane or ladder-pod set-up can be replaced with a remoted gimbal rig on a triple-riser light stand – including a camera move, by gently dropping one stage of the light stand.
Hurlbut also showcased some more complex shots, including an elaborate set-up that began with a MOVI rig on a Technocrane, but then handed off to continue in hand-held mode (while the crane was quickly driven away to be out of shot by the time the camera moved around 360 degrees).
One strong message to come out of the evening was his views on director/cinematographer relationships. While every director works differently and the process is always collaborative, Shane has learned over the years that interpreting the script and driving the visual approach of the film, including elaborate planning and shot-listing the entire movie pays great dividends and saves time and money in the long term.
It was a real treat to have Shane Hurlbut here in person to deliver his presentation and answer questions and talk casually with the attendees. He very generously took time out to engage with the NZCS members and conveyed how impressed he was with NZ as a shooting destination and the high calibre of the crew he’s been working with locally.
~ Donny Duncan - NZCS Professional Developer
The 6th Jalón Ángel International Award are now open
For the sixth consecutive year, the Jalón Ángel International Photography Award is now open. This year, to mark the 25th anniversary of the creation of the San Valero Dominican Foundation (FUNDOSVA), a third category Education and cooperation has been added to the already veteran Travel and Portrait categories.
The admission deadline is 26th March, 2020
Entries can be submitted by clicking here
Participants can submit a photograph for each category: Portrait, Travel and Education and Cooperation. The prize consists of €1,000, an emblematic statuette and a diploma for the winner of each category. In addition, the jury, formed by professionals in the field of photography of recognised national and international prestige, may grant special mentions for each category. The new category honours the anniversary of the San Valero Dominican Foundation (FUNDOSVA), an institution of the San Valero Group in Santo Domingo (Dominican Republic), where education is a true engine of social and human development.
The director of the archive, Pilar Irala-Hortal, affirms that the organisation of the award is something that the Jalón Ángel Archives is very proud of. Year after year national and international participation has grown, which allows us to be in close contact with the latest photographic production and contribute to the international growth of the winning photographers."
The winners of the award will be revealed on 29th May 2020.
This initiative was set up in 2014 as a tribute to the photographer Jalón Ángel (founder of the San Valero Professional School, origin of the San Valero Group) and to mark the 10th anniversary of San Jorge University. Ángel Hilario García de Jalón Hueto has been one of the most outstanding figures in portrait photography in Spain. In 1926, he settled in Zaragoza where he combined his most personal and creative photography, specialising in travel with urban and natural landscapes and his studio portraits.
Further information at - www.jalonangel.com - in the 'Award' tab
The recent NZCS workshop in Christchurch on 14th January was a huge success with 30 people turning up to learn composition and lighting techniques from Auckland based DP Matt Gerrand
Gerrand, who won a gold last year for his work on #DefendNZ, thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to share what he has learnt along his journey. “A lot of what I’ve learnt is through experience, so I’ve always wished there was a platform for DP’s with greater knowledge to pass on that knowledge, rather than people having to start from the ground up.”
A broad range of experience levels turned up to learn and mingle, with NZCS member and Canterbury University lecturer John Chrisstoffels doubling as a model for part of the workshop. “It was refreshing to hear him teach with such enthusiasm and confidence. People skills are also important. It was not lost on me, and I hope others noted the respectful way that Matt spoke to the talent and his crew. Attitudes can make a huge difference on set.”
Chrisstoffels, who has been a cinematographer for 30 years, has seen the ups and downs experienced by the region in recent years. With TVNZ withdrawing in the early 90’s and many of the big local brands relocating north, locally made national commercials all but disappeared. More recently the earthquakes, coinciding with technical changes in the industry, brought new challenges to an already thin local industry.
Winning a gold for his feature film Human Traces, Chrisstoffels has been part of a recent resurgence in local productions. “Feature film making has always been deemed too difficult by North Island producers despite stunning locations and predictable weather. Peter Jackson made 2 of his first 5 films here in the 90’s.” Other recent films that utilised the region include The Stolen and The Changeover which won Andrew Stroud Cinematographer of the Year in 2018.
Greater interaction between the regions is something local gaffer Zac Beckett-Knight wants to see more of. “Canterbury has some awesome offerings in terms of locations but often gets overlooked as productions can't find the necessary filming infrastructure to service projects. It is here, and it is growing. There is a ground swell within the local community to take things to the next level. And there is ever increasing interest from productions outside of Christchurch to bring projects here.”
Beckett-Knight provided his combo truck for the evening and can see a huge benefit in the NZCS workshops. “Every DOP has different wants/focus/styles due to their learning process or influences and it's fun learning how they operate and problem solve on set so, as a gaffer, we can anticipate and give them more of what they want.” The broad spectrum of experience was also welcomed, with Beckett-Knight saying “It's great to see the up-and-comings asking outside-the-box questions and thinking creatively about light rather than functionally.”
Gerrand also emphasised the importance of community in a job that can often feel isolating. “It can be quite a solo journey as a DP, so to have a platform to be able to share, and people to receive is very high up in terms of what's needed, not just in Christchurch but across the country.” Community is a sentiment echoed by Beckett-Knight, “The region gains huge benefit from these sorts of workshops. Not only do they impart new skills too cinematographers, but they bring the community together regularly for catch ups and to chat about recent projects, new purchases and let them hone their craft through discussion in person.”
Thanks to Christchurch based cinematographer John Ross for this write-up, organising this event at short notice and collaborating with the NZCS, Screen Canterbury and local suppliers to make it a most successful evening.
With more workshops planned for the region in the year to come, connectivity between regions will continue to strengthen the cinematography community within New Zealand.
Donald Duncan - NZCS Professional Development Manager
Photo credit: Andrei Talili
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
Prices include GST(c) 2008- 2018 New Zealand Cinematographers Society