Friday, January 03, 2014


I really feel like I'm living in the future. 2014 is here and it's already marching ahead.

The good news is I've booked out work eight months in advance this year, beginning with pick ups of last year's Burning Man documentary in 3D, intended for IMAX release. That will be shot with stereo matched lenses and dual RED Epic M-X cameras shooting in 5K at 48fps. We'll continue to use either the Atom or Quasar rigs from 3Ality Technica. The Epics proved themselves in the Black Rock desert and I've become a believer in the RAW work flow. I just wish I could get my hands on a Dragon now.

My travel gigs pretty much completed around September last year which allowed me to get into some more studio work, and a lot of projects around the home. Studio work was a welcome change of pace after hitting the road last year. 2013 had me in Telluride, June Lake, Lake Tahoe, San Diego (x2), Philippines (x2), Philadelphia, Wisconsin, Nevada, and Japan briefly. This was after a heavy end of year travel schedule in 2012.

2014 bookings are pretty much in and around Los Angeles so far, and leaning on the studio side. I enjoy my work as a DP, I work very hard for my clients trying to earn that title,  but showing up to a pre-lit studio and focusing on operating is a luxury that is not lost on me. Sometimes it's nice to show up, bond with the crew, rehearse some moves and be home in time to cook a nice meal and play with the dog.

I'm currently prepping a narrative feature film scheduled late April/early May. It will be my first narrative feature, (though I've shot many short narratives and 5 feature length doc's).

I'm excited to be exploring works for visual references. It's been a great experience revisiting classics like "Casablanca" and studying the great work of Curtiz/Edeson and deconstructing their visual style. I've re-learned so much from that single film, it's a virtual master class in filmmaking. And it's right there, in my personal BluRay collection, it's always been there, waiting to be rediscovered. The way they were able to move those heavy cameras around on their crude cranes back then is inspiring.

The reason I'm referencing "Casablanca" is because there is a parallel to our project. Our film is about an agoraphobic, someone who is shut in, unable to leave his environment, just like the characters in Casablanca. Everyone is a prisoner unless they have the precious letters of transit. And that theme is emphasized in the lighting and wardrobe choices. You begin to notice subtle shadows on the walls that resemble prison bars and horizontal stripes worn by the lead actors resembling prison uniforms. Subtleties that may go unnoticed but I believe add up to a feeling which contributes to the tone of the film.

I've also taken notes on "Silence of the Lambs", "When Harry Met Sally" (meant only as a sample of a very simple style to fall back on when time and budget no longer permits more stylized work), "House of Cards", "The Game", and more to follow.

Another project I was pleased with last year was a contest entry for a cross promotional campaign between Denny's restaurant and the movie "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug". This was a low budget 60 second spot where the director tried to convey a funny, fictional story about a woman who breaks up with her fiance because he's not a dedicated fan of J.R.R. Tolkien's famous novels. I worked with a very talented gaffer, Alex Gaynor, and used overhead book lights lit with Source Fours as our key light, which was new for me, and a fantastic approach for soft lighting our leading lady.

Near the end of the year I shot a feature doc. for SkyMovies UK on Disney Animation Studios lot featuring all the living directors. I was given full access to the studio which was simply an amazing privilege. I spoke with the software designers that animated 400,000 individual strands of hair on the lead character's head in Disney's newest animated feature, "Frozen". We interviewed ALL the living director's from "The Little Mermaid" to "The Lion King" and "Aladdin", and "Beauty and the Beast", right up to "Wreck It Ralph", and "Frozen". It was a blast and a great way to cap off the year and start the holiday season.

I hope to continue the trend of 2013 into 2014 of working on projects that are personally interesting to me and intellectually challenging. Most of all I want to continue collaborating with creative, talented people, and working with crews that are willing to share their wonderful secrets, and produce projects where everyone shines.


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