The usual story at the start of a new blog post, I apologize for the lack of such! Been busy in the second half of 2015.But I've finally gotten this brief chance to talk about the look of a film I'm very pleased with. Time and Again, written and Directed by Aidan Largey. A co-production from Causeway Pictures and What's Next Films.
When I was asked to accompany Dir. Aidan Largey on his latest film journey, I couldn't wait to read the script. It's always a bit like Christmas when Aidan is on a new project. With the help of his producers Margaret McGoldrick and Leo McGuigan, they always seem to bring together the most wonderful cast & crew, whom are always there simply because they want to be. That always makes a big difference in the quality of production.
The script was sweet. Really sweet. The story followed a young boys adventure with his best friend in inveting a Time Machine to allow him to go back in time and meet his deceased mother for the first time. Something that tug at the old heart strings.
For me, it was something different. The screenplay offered a huge variety of different emotions and complexities to translate into an image. Scanning through the different scenes screamed a collection of different moods, colour palettes, diffusions and contrast ratios. Which was a lot of fun for me.
As contextuals, Aidan and I looked to the works of Sam Mendes for "American Beauty," JJ Abrams for "Super 8," and the list goes on. What was important for us, was to capture the magic that filmmakers like Steven Spielberg did in their childhood epics. It's all hard light beaming through rooms filled with smoke, big eyelights and warmly toned keys that are soft, very soft.
My formula became clear in terms of lighting. Keep it soft, keep it warm, keep it simple. My best friend on this became a set of 300 fresnals and this amazing set of pop-up chimera 3x3 diffusion frames. I swear by these frames now, honestly. Budget restraints didn't allow me a Gaffer and/or spark so it really came down to myself and whomever could lend a hand. But these frames came with a 1/4 and 1/2 silk, they were light and versatile. I found myself grabbing one for every closeup, placing it as close to the subject as the composition would allow, giving me the softest and widest spread of light.
Giving the nature of the look of the film, I primarily shot wide open at T2 with the Zeiss ZF lenses. My first time using these lenses, and to be honest, I'm not impressed with how they handled themselves. To me, they looked a bit "muddy." It's hard to explain, but they came with a bucket load issues like major colour fringing and breathing. I'm all for vintage glass on digital sensors, but not so much these.
We shot on a Canon c300 mki externally to a Samurai 422 recorder for a nice healthy cLog prores image. The c300 is a great camera for small projects tight on cash. Its a very versatile tool and in fact saved our ass a bit when it came to the trolly rig scene. 1st AC Cel Bothwell was able to strip it down bare bones and using only a few magic arms and c-stand bits, clamped it to the trolly to give us this lovely dynamic tracking shot. Though looking back, I remember having serious issues with the shake of the trolly creating some un-usable jelly footage. This was solves by laying a track down, and strapping the trolly on top of our platform dolly. Worked a treat.
One thing that is greatly notable about the camera is it's performance in the low lights. And for production that can't quite afford the beefier lamps, this is helpful. I know for the garage/workshop scene, I wanted to create shafts of cool daylight spilling in from outside, blending with the warm tungsten of the inside. And when your biggest lamp is a 2.5k HMI, you can just about get away with it by keeping your interior lighting small enough. Ofcourse, introducing as much negative fill on to the subject helps also, with the use of 4x4 floppies.
I had a bit of budget lighting kit on this one, so I did what I could to throw light into the scene and create some sort of sculpting. It got harder as the angles got wider! A 650w or 1k bounced into a large Polyboard is a classic go to tool for me to grab for any situation. And I often found myself using it as a nice soft kicker, that wraps around the jaw bone and cheek. Just enough to separate the character from the background and help them pop in the frame.
For the eyelights, if my key light was not doing them justice, I'd introduce a 1x1 LED panel close to the actor which was out of frame, and have it on very low intensity. Enough to pop the eyes, but not fill intoo much sought after shadow and shape in the face.
Aidan and I talked a lot in prep about how the camera should move, and even react to the scenes that play out. We tried to keep it fluid and dynamic on tracks with slow push ins to enhance the drama in key emotional breakthroughs with characters. We did break out the handheld for the pivotal moment in the film, ie the resolution. I don't want to give too much away, but you'll see the difference it makes to scene when/if you see it.... so I believe.
To be honest, this wasn't a tricky shoot for me. Sometimes when the scene is set, the cast are rehearsed, and the Director knows what he needs; the lighting and camera just fall into place. It becomes obvious how it should look.
So without further a due, I'll wrap it up. Again thanks for reading and thanks a mill to my team
- Cel Bothwel - Focus Puller
- Erin O'Rawe - 2nd AC
- Matthew McGuigan - Stills/On set hand
And for the last day when Cel left us;
- Erin O'Rawe - Focus Puller
- Aaron MacAuley - 2nd AC
Until next time,
BTS Stills by Jim McMorrow