Very happy to say that Inflo’s Broken Heart Syndrome will be playing TIFF this year – click the still to watch a clip!
After a brief but beautiful music video shoot in Jamaica I returned to Toronto and dove right into my third film with INFLO, working alongside Dusty to bring Broken Heart Syndrome (also known as BHS) to life. We shot the film over eight days in locations across Ontario, including Brantford, Creemore, Mississauga, and all over Toronto. I’m particularly excited to have featured in the film my own neighbourhood in the west end, as we did a ton of shooting in and around the Trinity Bellwoods part of town. Running up and down the streets with Steadicam operator Mike Heathcote on an unnaturally warm day in early February reminded me again of why I love shooting movies.
We captured BHS on the RED MX, for which I need to give thanks to Panavision Toronto. Alongside me was 1st AC Alex Leung (seen above), Gaffer Dan Whitton (also in the photo, standing by our 12-by griff in a classroom at Central Tech high school) and Key Grip Justin Yaroski – the dream team.
More on BHS as the edit unfolds…
Back in May I shot a musical with director Sonia Hong and producers Olga Barsky and Claire Lowery called A DRAGGED OUT AFFAIR – a campy satirical tale about forbidden love between drag queens from competing nightcubs and rival social circles. Starring four of Toronto’s most well-known queens in outrageous, vibrant costumes designed by Donnarama (one of our leads and a brilliant performer), we shot the musical short over four days on the theatre stage at St. Vladimir’s in downtown Toronto. Sonia and I talked a wide range of references within the musical genre, from Glee and All That Jazz to Hedwig and the Angry Inch, and agreed that our visual priorities had to be movement and colour. The production design, headed by Miranda Morricone and art directed by Summer Gaal, made that challenge easier on my team: the sets pop off the screen, and it was a pleasure lighting and framing scenes so rich with colour and texture (not to mention humour!). The project was shot on the Red in 4K, then later colour graded at Alter Ego in Toronto by Tricia Hagoriles. Special thanks must go out to Videoscope and Charles Street Video for supplying the camera, lighting and grip, as well as Mike Armstrong (gaffer), Todd Thompson (key grip and fantastic jib op) and Josh Fraiman (1st AC).
A DRAGGED OUT AFFAIR will premiere at the Toronto Reel Asian Film Festival on Thursday, November 11th, 2010.
ADOA screened at Toronto’s InsideOut film festival in May ’11 and the lovely Sonia Hong was awarded “Best Up-and-Coming Filmmaker”. Sonia, Olga Barksy and Claire Lowery make an awesome team, and I’m happy to have been a part of it on this film.
Chelsea McMullan’s beautifully haunting dance film SLIP will be screening tomorrow, June 4th, and Saturday June 5th at the 2010 CFC Worldwide Short Film Festival. We shot the film back in ’08 upon immediate arrival back to Toronto after shooting DEADMAN (we were still living in a trailer in rural B.C when Chelsea found out she got the Bravo!FACT grant to make the film.) Here’s what the festival has to say about SLIP:
“In one perfectly orchestrated tracking shot, the most private of spaces – a women’s change room – is fluidly explored. Female bodies of all shapes and sizes dance across the space, creating an endearing movement piece.”
After we wrapped I had posted something about the making of the film here. SLIP was my first project on the Red and the cool, clean image quality proved to be a perfect fit for the atmosphere we were hoping to achieve with this piece. A while back the film aired on Bravo, but tomorrow will mark its big screen premiere. A huge thank you must go out again to Sean Sealey, whose Steadicam work is simply incredible. See for yourself…here’s a sample of SLIP on my website.
SLIP TOOK HOME TWO AWARDS ON JUNE 6th @ THE CFC WSFF AWARDS CEREMONY: Best Experimental Film and the Kodak Award for Best Cinematography. Congratulations and thank you to everyone who helped bring SLIP to the screen.
“I produce more than just a reproduction. There is a difference between photographing skin and photographing soul. I need to like the people in front of the camera- then I can do more to support them with light.”
-Christian Berger, AAC
Yesterday at the Berlinale a really great seminar was led by renowned Cinematographer Christian Berger, AAC, whose most recent work can be seen in The White Ribbon. A long time collaboration with Michael Haneke has allowed Berger to continue working in a very naturalistic style, often using available and minimal lighting. During the talk he frequently emphasized the importance of providing physical space to the actors, a philosophy that explains his ability to design long, moving takes (with Steadicam, as seen in The Piano Teacher) or minimalistic master shots that slowly reveal information or the essence of a situation.
It is this approach that inspired Berger to develop the B&B Cine Reflect Lighting System, an ingenious lighting solution based on reflectors of various textures and sizes used with a parabolic HMI “Panibeam” light. The unit itself provides a mere 1200 Watts, but the distance of the throw offered by the bounce material, called Paniflectors, is remarkable. Ultimately, the single unit can be redirected via Paniflectors to become any number of light sources of varying qualities and intensities.
Berger demonstrated how a mirrored Paniflector the size of a postcard redirected the light of the Panibeam unit (discreetly placed far from set in an adjacent alleyway) onto the rooftop of a neighbouring apartment building 75 feet from us. The benefits of lighting this way are obvious- less equipment, less power (the 1.2KW light can be run off of 15A household power, like any other) and, of course, greater emphasis on the ingenuity of a creative DP and crew (the rigging possibilities convinced us all that lighting this way was just much more fun). The lack of additional lighting units on set was particularly important to Berger when working with children on The White Ribbon. With his Paniflectors in place outside location windows, illuminating each scene with soft bounced light, he was able to keep his interior day sets entirely free of any film lighting equipment whatsoever. Lighting through windows on otherwise inaccessibly high apartment buildings also becomes much simpler with this system. I’m eager to give the rental houses in Toronto a call about this as soon as I get back!
On a side note, a bizarre debate was sparked today when Georgian director/producer Rusudan Pirveli, a guest on a Berlinale panel, discussed shooting Red on her debut feature. She gave a piece of advice to the crowd and told us to stop insisting that we shoot 35mm film when trying to get low budget projects financed. This prompted an audience member to declare that the Film and HD formats are as far removed from one another as music is from painting. Regarding HD technology he argued, “This is not cinema.” Good on Rusudan for her reply: “Technology means nothing- what is becoming more important now is taste and talent.” Do we really still need to be having this conversation?
Writer/Director Travis Ainley contacted me in May 2009 with an incredibly bold script called THE CHESTER KIDS. He told me he wanted to shoot it documentary style- improvised, handheld, available light and minimal film lighting- and on a shoestring budget. We would be shooting the feature film north of Toronto on Georgian Bay. Travis began talking references with me- Buffalo ’66, Dancer in the Dark, The Squid and the Whale, The Wrestler, Larry Clark’s photography- and I knew that his project was something I wanted to be a part of.
THE CHESTER KIDS, shot on the Red One over the course of 20 days, tells the story of two young men, Stu and Harry, best friends since high school who are now clinging to whatever remains of their disintegrating friendship in the years following Stu’s move from Chester.
Travis requested one thing of me from the get-go: “Don’t make the film too pretty.” It was great to reconnect with a rougher, more instinctual shooting style and not only feel free to experiment but actually be encouraged to do so by the director. The film was shot entirely handheld (by far my favourite way to operate) and the shallow depth of field in many of our scenes made for some beautiful improvised focus pulling by 1st AC Joshua Fraiman, allowing Travis and the actors immense flexibility in their blocking. Montreal-based Gaffer Simon Lamarre-Ledoux and I came up with some inventive ways of using our small lighting package (HMIs, Red Heads, small Arri fresnels), and most of the film’s night interiors were lit using only practical fixtures running 100W and 150W bulbs. I stuck with ISO 250 for the majority of the day scenes and dialed in ISO 500 for night scenes.
Among the production convoy touring our many great locations in the small town of Stayner, Ontario and nearby Collingwood was a Winnebago equipped with a Baselight colour correction suite set up for our dailies and data management. Watching the film unfold on location helped us tremendously by enabling us to sift through the material we were getting on our tight shooting schedule.
The loose aesthetic combined with a sensational cast and courageous script make this one of the most exciting projects I have worked on so far. I’m incredibly excited to see the film once the cut is locked, and I can’t wait to revisit this project in the final colour grade.
See an article in The Enterprise Bulletin about the shooting of The Chester Kids, including an insightful interview with our amazing producer Chris Agoston.