The Making of Genesis
In August I was approached to shoot and direct a mini documentary piece for the launch of the Panasonic GH3 camera. The team being assembled to put the film Genesis together was Philip Bloom (DP), Bruce Logan ASC (Director/DP) and Elliot Rosenblatt (Producer). This was a great team to be along for the ride with. I’ve known Philip for years and we are good mates, I had already worked with Bruce on two projects (Revenge of the Great Camera Shootout and a Music Video I directed), I also knew Elliot already. The goal was to document the process of putting the GH3 through it’s paces on a typical film shoot with a full crew in a rigorous production environment.
Documenting this demanding and exhausting production meant that I would need to be up in their faces a lot in order to cover what they were doing. Our pre existing relationships made this flow very smoothly indeed.
The production was filmed over a 3 day period with both day time and night time shoots which made for long days. The nature of this shoot meant that I had to be ever present, but not get in the way of their production. This meant choosing the right kit to keep me mobile and able to work quickly to set up shots. The camera was provided and it was the Panasonic GH2. For this job I was a one man band so I used an OIS zoom lens with a long range so I wasn’t swinging prime lenses every 5 minutes and missing the moments. 14-140mm Panasonic Lens. The trade off here is that you compromise on the aesthetic of fast primes but gain speed and freedom of your position. The shoot was mostly hand held for me but I used a Monopod for stabilization and for the interview shots. I rigged the GH2 on a Zacuto baseplate with a Zamerican arm on the left side so I could use it as a grip and a mount point for the EVF. This gave the setup a little more weight which made it steadier for hand held shots. For the night time shots it was important to use a very fast lens so I borrowed Philip’s Voigtlander f0.95 25mm lens. This is a gorgeous lens and allowed me to operate in the low light conditions.
I decided that I needed to shoot preemptively on this rather than reactively, in order to capture the moments as they unfolded from the right position. It’s too late when you see the action happening and then decide it would have been a good shot from another angle. So it was key to ask questions about what was going to happen on each setup. Where their action would be? Where the camera crew and lights would be positioned and what was their field of view? This way I could quickly decide where I could cover it from and try to get some interesting angles of the crew working an also get enough coverage to build mini sequences from.
The locations were fantastic, we shot at a desert inn motel in the Mojave Desert in California, Downtown Los Angels on streets and in alley ways and on the Subway. During the Subway scenes we were shooting totally guerilla style so that meant no permits and we needed to be very discreet and have minimal impact. This is challenging enough when you are just shooting for one production, but I needed to cover this for the behind the scenes video as well. This is where shooting on such a small camera was a great advantage. I stripped the camera right back to just body and lens. Then, the challenge was to get the coverage I needed without drawing attention to what Philip and Bruce were shooting. It was a small crew with Director, DP, first AD, Camera Assist and Actress along for the ride. We kept communication discreet and moved quickly as a team on and off trains in order to get the shots without being busted by security. This had a level of excitement and adrenalin to it that was great fun.
The technique I used to build the piece in the field was to shoot coverage that I could make mini sequences out of rather than just BTS shot after BTS shot. Then during the interviews I would ask them specifically about the moments that I had good coverage on. And if they talked about other key moments I would make notes to shoot specific coverage for those sound bites. So the goal was to have a cohesive piece that wasn’t simply generic shots underscored with voice over. This gives the piece a more solid structure in editing.
The camera was setup with the smooth picture profile and shot 1280×720 at 60P. This was a technical requirement for delivery to Panasonic in order to keep consistency with other productions they were running concurrently.