Gone Too Far | Feature FIlm – London Film Festival World Premiere 2013 – UPDATED

 

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.

The Look

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

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.

 Solution 01

Coverage

 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)

 Solution 02

 Lighting

 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.

Convenience | Feature Film – Raindance World Premiere 2013 – UPDATED

Director : Keri Collins
Producer : Ray Panthaki
Production Co : Urbanway Productions
It was great to see and hear the motorised curtains slowly slide open from both sides to reveal the full 2.40 aspect ratio cinema screen at Raindance film festival 2013 for the world premiere of Convenience. It was a full house and it had been amazingly well received.  Being surrounded by such a big audience, who have no connection with the film laughing and enjoying the film is just one of the many reasons why I enjoy shooting movies. Such a great satisfaction.

Reviews have been great to boot!
Derek Malcolm recommends: Raindance

Two of the most attractive films coming up over the weekend are the world premiere of Keri Collins’ British comedy Convenience and Poland’s Love, a lively record of the ups and downs of the country’s best-known jazz band.
http://www.standard.co.uk/goingout/film/derek-malcolm-recommends-raindance-8858502.html

Well shot, often looking absolutely gorgeous, and with a cracking cast all game and happy to jump on a joke grenade for the sake of a punch-line, Convenience is more than a satisfying watch, it’s a truly rewarding one that offers hope in a fledgling film industry that sacrifices actual laughs for safe chuckles, coming off more like an American film than something from the Isles. Honestly one of the funniest films in a long time, you deserve to see this film, and should demand to if only to remind yourself how funny a comedy can and should be from time to time. Brilliant stuff.
http://reviews.boxofficebuz.com/review/convenience-raindance-film-festival-review

There was a Q & A after the screening and the inevitable question of budget came up, Ray Panthanki didn’t quite answer and asked the audience how much they thought they spent and everyone thought it was 6 figures. I am not in a position to discuss figures as I am neither an accountant nor producer but I can say it was far, very far from 6 figures. I mean it was like the distance between London and Scotland, if miles equated to money…

Which is interesting and dangerous at the same time…
The dangerous bit, many will expect much much, more for much, much less and this can / will affect the quality of films in one way or another. Also there is the “Joe Bloggs shot his film for a £10er so why are you saying £30 quid to make your movie?” approach. Well simply because you specified everything that costs £30quid as opposed £10…

There are many factors that make up the production of a “good” film and no element can exist on it’s own.
As a Director of Photography I am always challenged with “low budget” vs high production value whilst staying loyal to the script and maintaining the director’s vision.

Convenience I personally believe should be used as a case study of what is achievable with the right elements for very little, but in the end content is always King.

One of the many challenges I faced on Convenience was the police raid scene that comes towards the end of the film.  Keri Collins and myself were told 4 hours before shooting that we only have one police car and two “police officers”- absolute silence around the table with the entire production team starting to go pale very quickly.

One suggestion was to reschedule that night, but that had a negative impact on the rest of the schedule and pickups were not an option, so the scene was about to be dropped.

So I made the suggestion of doing a compositing shot. We lock the camera off on a tripod, film an empty plate of the gas station, then have the police car drive in from three different angles without creating overlap and you can achieve your raid. 

Straight forward comp without roto,  Despite the idea being called “silly” by one member of the crew it seemed to work quite well and we could keep the scene in the movie, it is the clip at the beginning of my reel.  As we were on digital the D.I.T did a quick test as everyone huddled around the monitor to see if it was convincing and sure enough it was,  a big round of applause and cheers as the scene was saved, but seeing it on the big screen and it being convincing was my ultimate satisfaction, no amount of thanks or no thanks could fulfil the achievement, OK taken it was something small, but under the circumstances it was big.

Unfortunately I was not at the grade for Convenience, but overall Gorilla post did a good job.

 It was an absolute pleasure working with Keri on Convenience.  We had spoken quite a bit running up to pre production about the style and feel of the movie, because of our turtle’s anus schedule it meant we had to make decisions  with conviction, adapting to unfolding situations at hand.  Convenience feature film was my second feature and was shot on RED MX with MKII Superspeeds for a final aspect ratio extraction of 2.40.

The film is 90% based in one location, a petrol station with 1 driving scene, a bedsit scene and an office scene, all being very short in comparison to the afore mentioned. Convenience was undoubtedly a labour of love for everyone. The entire cast & crew were extremely supportive & patient, personally I believe this attitude of positive energy was what gave us rocket boosters. Most of us had shared rooms, I know it was me and 8 others in one hotel room, yup that’s right 9 of us in one room, to say the least it was one heck of an experience, would I do it again? Well, errrr…

Some of us were light sleepers, some of us snored like jack hammers and others slept walk and slept talk. If one has never appreciated personal space then surely this would have been the time. To show our consideration to our fellow room mates, we all made a pact to not do any No 2′s in the bathroom, a sign of true dedication. In such an environment one of two things could happen, either some one or many would end up dead from the effects of cabin fever or we will grow to like each other in a big family sort of way and this is what truly happened and I have to say I will miss it, well not the snoring but the togetherness.

For this project production wanted to be editing as we shot. One option was to record proxies for an offline, but this became a bit troublesome in the sense of TC particularly with RED in 2012  ( am sure this has been overcome now )

Thanks to Jon Rennie of Gorilla Post, he brought his personal machine down, wait for it… installed with a Red Rocket Card, yup, one of the most sincere human beings I have ever met, clearly a dying species. Jon specialises in VFX, when you get a chance check him out at http://www.jonrennie.co.uk/

In our hotel room of 9, in the corner was the transcode machine with RedcineX pro installed, we would transfer and transcode what was backed up on set for Richard Blackburn our editor,. This gave us the opportunity to catch any pickups we needed to grab, it was fantastic watching the timeline grow as we shot. Of course without the RED Rocket Card, well this would not even be possible, we may still even be transcoding even a few weeks later. All handheld, with the occasional dolly on tracks, easyrig  and steadicam for the opening chase scenes through Soho.

Shooting night films in the midst of summer meant for obvious reasons a tight schedule, also our location was a live working gas station which was available to us from 22.00hrs until 06.00hrs and with a break for lunch, left us with 7hrs-ish shooting time, couple that with sunrise and depending on the shots or scenes would render 6hrs on camera. 7 pages a day consistently in 7hrs sometime 6, not for the faint hearted, but we got it done. I have never shot so fast as far as I can remember. It was one of those schedules if the 1st AD dropped a pencil we would fall behind schedule. With the short prep time  I never had a chance to fully employ “grade as go” on this shoot. However I managed to create a look inside camera as always, a slight curve was applied during the transcode, so the Directors, producers, investors and different agents could have a very good idea of what the final film would look like instead of viewing raw or flat images. I think this is psychologically important, technical crew understand the whole raw deal (pun intended) and sometimes ‘ordeal’ so can imagine the final image when it is graded. For those of us who do not always visualise in this way it is important to be able to display as close as possible what the end result will be, I think  personally  this can be somewhat related to S.A.D, because of overcast grey weather some of us have to have colour temp 6500 kelvin bulbs installed at home. So looking at flat grey images can also make you feel down, even from a shooting point of view, he says… okay I may have just gone off track a tad just now. With a 3 day turn around in the grade, it was essential we knew what we were going for from the get go and try to get it on set as much as possible. No matter what, there was always a form of problem solving everyday which made my role even more challenging and I loved it. 

No matter the budget big or small, films all bring their own level of obstacles and challenges. For me there is no differentiation between the two where my approach is concerned, I treat all films as if they are a hundred million except of course if it were two hundred million. Just because a film may have a smaller budget and restricts what can be done technically i.e. no jibs or cranes for example this shouldn’t deter you from making a good movie and being creative, however of course it does help… Please do not get this confused with trying to create a shot that is impossible if the tools and manpower do not exist, as it is a waste of time, trying to hang your hat where you can’t reach it…

 

Will update post as film develops.

 

 

Riot On Redchurch Street – Theatrical Release

riot-on-redchurch-street-at-cannes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Riot on Redchurch Street directed by Trevor Miller  received a special screening at the Marché du Film Theatre located in the Palais at Cannes 2013 and will have it’s first theatrical release on the June 28th 20.00hrs 2013 at the Rich Mix Cinema in Shoreditch East London, literally right around the corner where we shot the film. .  Also Coincidentally  Gone Too Far feature  directed by Destiny Ekaragha will have its Theatrical Release later in the year    Quite looking forward to having two theatrical releases in one year.

Riot On Redchurch Street | Feature Film

 

A love triangle that takes place between an East London rock-roll manager and two of his clients – a girl singer on the verge mainstream success and the young, front-man from a local punk-band who’s starting to crash and burn. As the star-crossed lovers tear each other apart, a showcase gig in Shoreditch turns bad, igniting anglo-muslim racial tension – now there’s a riot on Redchurch Street that can only end in blood-fire and redemption.

Director : Trevor Miller
Production Company :  Redchurch St Productions
Shot  on S16mm Fuji ETERNA 400T 8683 and Kodak Vision 3 500T Super 8 Color Negative Film 7219 for a final aspect ratio of 1.85.

Riot on Redchurch Street will always have a special place in my heart, Riot made me realise who I am.
Also for the following reasons

  1. It was the first feature film I shot just months after graduating from the NFTS in 2011
  2. Shot 95% 16mm and totally independent. I never wanted to shoot digitally,  nor on 35mm, for my first film.
  3. It was also one of the last films to run through the bath at iLab before it relocated from Soho to Unit 10, Kendal Court out park royal sides 

I could go on and on but i would say these are some of the most significant three. I always wanted my first film to be shot on 16mm and have a John Cassavetes feel about it, I guess deep down inside this is where my heart lies who knows…   it was surely serendipitous that I would meet Trevor Miller Director who was after the same thing. Shot entirely on location in 18 days and 9 locations ( not 3) this was an extremely challenging shoot, I guess as it was my first but also the number of pages we had to get through in day as well as locations. The lighting package was tiny, a few redheads, a 2.5 HMI,  some florescent tubes and a couple of dedos. I also had a home made portable lantern that Brian Tufano  had given me the heads up on how to construct, aka The get out of Jail light. From the use of Asda bedsheets, to home made ND filters and custom processing of film stocks, all the stops came out to get this film in the can.

throwing-up-in-sinkRiot had pushed me beyond what I thought at the time could actually have be achieved, but  with some imagination, determinations and some balls I truly realised anything was / is possible. Kept me on the edge every single day and night. Originally the film was destined to be shot on a Canon 5D, then Sony F3 but the very unfortunate event ( psunami) that struck Japan in 2011 had affected us not shooting on the F3, can’t exactly remember why precisely. Then the conversation of film came up. never looked back since. 

Another interesting point to make was that Trevor had felt very very strongly about the direction in which post production ie grading was heading , he came to me with the idea of not wanting to go through a traditional grading  D.I process , which meant whatever we got in camera is what we get. This freaked production amongst many and he was advised  not to take this route. For me this was strange,  exciting and a bit disconcerting at the same time, but deep deep down inside me past 21st street by the booth with no telephone, the idea excited me greatly. Grade as you go was created. hand-holding-spliff
Coming from the days of creating looks from with in the colour matrix menu of the Sony and Panny cameras using waveform and vectorscope instrumentation with test charts was something I would initiate before  most shoots as some productions may not have enough money for a full grade or the turn around was very quick, we’re talking back in 2004/2005 here. This was mainly done on shorts, documentaries and some television programs so in a sense I was always doing this BUT  applying this to a feature was a bit more of a challenge.  

Normally my go to stock would have been Vivid 500T, because of its rich blacks and saturated colours I thought immediately this was the best way forward, as it was the best stock bar none for an instant out of camera look in my opinion, but I wanted something different, something that was closer to our story in feel, look and colour.
I worked from home creating a look from a digital photograph of one of the locations over the next few days. I sent this into the lab as a reference. I then shot some tests with different stocks to see how each of them reacted to the LUT, from here I decided that the 400T was the best stock for the movie being that its an overall lower contrast stock than the others and the way it renders skin tones was beautiful, but also skin tones resembled skin tones after the look had been applied.  It was also very important for me that the look should be coming from the film stock rather it being solely a complete digital manipulation.

cliff-and-dappa-john-in-front-corner-shopI had worked closely with Martin Mcglone and Nigel Horn from idaillies formally known as ilab. running the bath at different speeds, pushing and pulling +1 & 2 and even 3 stops. Dan Redrup – chief grader from idaillies  then applied this to the Eterna 400T tests I shot. In the lab we tweaked on a Spirit 2k with Pogle Revolution at the telecine stage. After some more tweaking and evaluating and re-evaluating  we nailed it. From here onwards it was very much a button push to apply the intended look. I called Trevor down to the Lab and he was very much pleased with the results. During the shoot, we would review dailies and he would just mention to crank this up a bit or maybe a touch more yellow. Of course each scene would be “graded” accordingly, by the time we shot the last roll of film, all rushes had already been graded and telecine to hard drive in our chosen file format awaiting , to be edited.
This is by far a much much faster and cost effective way of working I believe. Of course this has to work in accordance from getting it right on set, the colours, contrast and exposures, these have to be spot on without failure soething I am particularly meticulous about.
Grade-as-u-go is I would say is an attempt to create a framework where the director can edit basically what we shoot. In effect its a way to put this ‘look’ in the hands of the filmmakers rather than other people. I would say it is very fluid and flexible and makes creative-choices more important than a fix-it-later attitude. Ultimately by dispensing with an extraneous grading process we made the most honest and immediate story.

All the frame grabs in this post are untouched in terms of any colour correction or adjustments.
Check out the full cast & crew at imdb and the movie’s homepage here