I realised from my previous blogs that it seemed I was writing a full thesis so I will keep it short and straight to the point – (I always seem to say that though…)
lease forgive me for such a badly written previously post, never again shall I write after a shoot at 3am with drool seeping into my keyboard. ( no wonder the backlight on keyboard doesn’t work)
Gone Too Far, Shot on Arri Alexa with Cooke S2 Glass to Pro Res 4×4 with a projected aspect ratio of 1.85 is a coming of age comedy following estranged brothers who meet for the first time over the course of one day on a Peckham Estate. Adapted from the award-winning play by Bola Agbaje, directed by Destiny Ekaragha and funded/produced by the BFI/ Poisson Rouge films.
This is my 3rd feature and it was an absolute pleasure to work on and most certainly with Destiny Ekaragha.
Gone too Far has elevated me to a new heights to find even greater solutions for even more challenging situations. I managed to get to know myself in ways I have never known before and my cinematography has now become even more grown up.
During prep Destiny and myself had discussed the look of the film, one of the ref used was ‘Before Sunrise’ by Richard Linklater, if you have seen the film, there is a notable amount of steadicam used. Destiny wanted a “looser” feel as we followed the main characters journeys.
Drawing on experience I strongly believed that the rickshaw ( more on this later ) along with employing a vérité approach would tell the story best
We both agreed that the film should feel real, as there is much to be taken away from the film, having a vérité approach I believed built upon Destiny’s vision, the film does possess a social conscience and enlightens in one form or the other, it wears its heart on it sleeve and this should not be taken away by an intrusive camera alerting the audience of its presence.
Having Long takes, deep staging and juxtapositioning were some of the techniques used, not having an “over the shoulder” type approach but staging the blocking so the camera “naturally” or coincidentally finds each character. Over the shoulder shots were used when a point was to be made, almost directly but indirectly talking to the audience.
The rickshaw in layman’s term is basically a two wheeled trolley where the camera op / steadicam op sits or stands and the grip tracks to follow the scene. Beautifully engineered piece of kit – Optical Support’s Mantis Rickshaw more info here It can be configured with balloon tyres or 20” like bmx wheels for faster travel, normally a steadicam arm is hard mounted and is controlled by the operator. Of course such a flexible device is not limited to this configuration. I chose to sit and handhold the camera, with the balloon tyres installed. This rig gave me the flexibility to follow the action and jump out of the rig mid take unto a sidewalk or behind a character seamlessly during the shot, Tom Pittman ( Grip), Guy Davies ( focus puller) and myself had to be in Zen with each other. ( Zen 3) absolutely great fun !
During prep several tests were conducted to get the balance and focal lengths right for each emotional state.
Julian Sharma (2nd camera assistant) had managed to devise a quick release system for the block battery from the rickshaw as I managed the first few times to drag it behind me whilst jumping of with the camera, ooops !
I don’t know of any film that had been entirely shot with a rickshaw but for Gone Too Far it was the best Grip gear to tell the story best.
Rickshaw test 40mm
Necessity is the mother of all inventions.
I wouldn’t go as far as to say we invented something, but rather fabricated custom made a bracket.
“Moon on a stick” was born, Ed Riley Gaffer and myself had spent quite a bit of time rigging, testing, fabricating ways of having an easy-ish portable light for the actors, the amount of Frankensteiner’s we came up with are too long and boring to list but below is a pic of the semi finalist and finalist. Battery powered Jem ball with a fishing pole support Ed Riley special. A custom designed bracket was fabricated to house a Joker bug in a Jem ball, and comfortably run off batteries, this bracket has now found it’s way into many of the larger rental houses and is available upon request, our first of many contributions to cinema, as far as memory serves me, upon asking for it it never seemed to exist until Ed starting hacking away for it to be ready for Gone Too Far.
The name Moon on a Stick came about because one scene in Gone Too Far, we were actually filming under moonlight, the sun had set a few hours ago and the only thing providing light was the moon and the Jem Ball… bearing in mind this film is suppose to take place over the course of one day.
Jem Ball Cluster F*&^
Ok not very creative names here, The final fight scene of Gone Too Far, was to be shot at night. Destiny wanted a 270 view of the estate at night, there were meetings about the cost of pulling off such a feat with the budget, more meetings were held to have this scene take place during the day / evening. Destiny strongly believed it was a night scene and made clear to production it was to be shot at night. As Director of Photography I supported her all the way whilst bearing in mind the budget couldn’t manage the strain. Not only that but the night scene was also comprised of 8/9 pages with fight choreography and multiple actors to be filmed in two, four hour slots. 18.30hrs until 2200hrs sharp time restriction, filming on estate regulations.
I had to make the executive decision to have a B camera brought in, of course this didn’t go down very well with production and probably still hasn’t J but having only 4 hours to choreograph and shoot each night for 2 nights was from my experience impossible and not only that, we are on an estate at night, my experience also told me that firday nights on estate can be quite hairy. Low and Behold, a group of 6 kids, drunk and high stumbled upon the set, it was all about to kick off, security had to step in quickly to escort the actors off the set, I had also tried to get my crew to safety as quickly as possible.
“This is our estate, get off our F*&^ing estate waving bottles, fights nearly broke out, these kids tried to get into some of the crews and actor faces but thankfuly security got everyone to safety.
There was no coming back after that, the shoot had to be pulled, absolute chaos. But seeing we had two cameras we managed to of course twice as much coverage in the allotted time successfully, so the scene did not suffer.
With one camera, after an episode like that, it would be very hard to come back to do any kind of pickups what so ever. I know those two nights I have been told had blown a large chunk of the contingency, but with whatever contingency there ever was it definitely could not recover from such an event. ( hence my cinematography has just started growing a beard)
light an entire estate with Jem balls, all 16 of them, My gaffer rented out every single last Jem ball from Panalux, it was one of those WTF moments, my thought process behind using Jems balls was the fact that the Arri Alexa has a base iso of 800 and I didn’t want to destroy the ambient as I am more vérité in my approach, so had the Jem Balls up lighting the estate buildings, streets, trees, etc. there are several other reasons but these are probably amongst the strongest after the budgetary constrain.
Also time wise The one thing was that I had to balance all of these lights in the day, and only had a 30min window to tweak the entire estate just before it got dark.
This lighting setup allowed for quick setups within the 4 hour window and it was the most cost effective option period, which made Destiny’s night shoot a reality.
Two Moon on Sticks and 4 silk wrapped Jem balls on a F O stand as key.
Many deemed it impossible, but thankfully Ed didn’t.
I always used to imagine that each film I lens would become easier & easier in a matter of speaking – so not true. I now look at working on films like relationships and in one’s life each person’s relationship will be different, whether it being a mother / daughter relation, uncle / niece or two people being a couple. I don’t think it is fair to compare relationships, generally speaking it is thought of to be rude to compare your past partners with your new one, particularly intimately and for me this is how I feel and respect each film I shoot. Every project will differ no matter how from the last one, whether financially, schedule wise or just simply through the size of locations. One should appreciate and respect each project as it’s own and make the most, with ever how much or little we have resource wise.
Cinema vérité is part of the broader artistic tradition of realism and the cinematic tradition of documentary film making. These realistic traditions in are aimed at showing man’s real situation in life rather than at providing him with an escapist fantasy experience which and audience will enjoy watching and will pay for by coming out to the movies in very large numbers. Realism and cinema verite try to show man as he is and the world as it is because the film maker often has a social conscience and sometimes a political agenda. His purpose is to enlighten his audience, to show them the truth a he sees it, so they will have the information they need to live better lives or to, in some cases, to take political action to right the wrongs the film maker often exposes.