Month: February, 2013

Picture wrap: “Feedback”

Christian Duel CUMorgan's lookFDBK_martins-1

Just wrapped principle photography on an outstanding short film written by Risa Williams and directed by Derek Owen. The story features a bitter, tyrannical screenwriting instructor who is finally confronted by one of his students. The script was exceptionally well put-together and the shoot went relatively smoothly, especially considering how much coverage we were trying to achieve in a short amount of time.

The director and I wanted to create a classroom environment that was somewhere between a traditional classroom and an interrogation room. In retrospect I think we could have pushed a little further toward the “interrogation” look in some scenes, but Derek and I are both pleased with the overall results.

One of the biggest victories of the day was the sheer page-count: we shot 10 pages of coverage on location. To put this in perspective, 10 pages is a good day for even the biggest dramatic television shows, shows that can afford to shoot in much more favorable circumstances (e.g., on stage, with well-paid crews and all the right gear). I think what we accomplished was remarkable given the circumstances, and I attribute this success in large part to the experience and positive attitude of the crew.

The most rewarding part of this shoot for me was the incredible team that made it happen, and how many of them are not only accomplished film professionals but also old friends. It really felt like a family on set, and this is something that I’ve been looking for for a long time in this business. Special thanks goes to long-time colleagues Nate Miller, who operated A Camera, and gaffer Ryan French. We had a sizable camera department by short-film standards (seven people), and between all the handheld work and the full camera package (two Arri Alexas from Panavision) I have to say they did a phenomenal job. Can’t wait to work with this team again on the next project.

The view from Anchorage Street: strong wind across flat sand. Sun.

Superbowl roundup

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I’m a huge fan of short-format filmmaking, and no genre nails it with more production value, narrative economy, and emotional command than commercials. The best spots are essentially extremely well-funded short films designed and executed by some of the best filmmakers in the business. And how fortunate we are that so many great commercials are packed into a single American sporting event: the Superbowl.

I was very fortunate to spend a few years training on higher-budget commercials under gaffer David Lee and DP Guillermo Navarro, and the learning curve was both steep and rewarding. Because there is so little room for error, and the content is so image-driven, commercials very often shoot with the best crews, the best equipment, and the least amount of drama on set. And these make for an exceptional learning environment.

This year’s Superbowl spots did not disappoint. The prize of the bunch was Audi’s “Prom” (above) developed by Venables Bell & Partners, directed by Matt Miller, and exquisitely photographed by Joost Van Gelder. Strong work. A close second goes to Mercerdes “Soul,” (Merkley + Partners, NY), directed by Dante Ariola, with flawless cinematography by Philippe Le Sourd:

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Of additional note: Toyota’s “Wish Granted” spot had its charms, as did Coke’s “Chase,” and the Axe Apollo Lifeguard commercial hit a soft spot with its story of the little guy’s victory, a theme that I was pleased to see surfaced often in this year’s group.

Looking forward to more short-form projects and the huge potential they hold.

The view from Anchorage Street: rough waters, high wind, fast sailing.