December 8th, 2009
I recently had the privilege of being a camera operator on Eva Madden-Hagen's latest film, "What Remains". She recently won Film Nova Scotia and CBC's bridge award. The film portrays a newly engaged young women, excited to tell her grandparents the news, only to find out her grandfather has disappeared. (There is so much more to the plot than that. Im sure my brief explanation does no justice to what will surely be a beautiful film).
It was such a treat for me to be a part of this film. Rarely in our obsessive world of documentary film making do we at Hemmings House work on dramas such as this, so for me I was more than happy to deviate from the norm. Ironically, it was my documentary shooting style that got me the job in the first place.
The film was shot over 3 days in and around Halifax. There was a solid crew of about 30 professionals from around the city, all doing their part so precisely to make everything look just right.
It is such a cool feeling to be a camera operator on a film. People work so hard to get the the set looking awesome and you are the one who reaps the benefits. Your essentially the first person who gets to see what the film will look like. (in all truth the editor does, but still).
And shooting drama is so much different and easier than shooting documentary. In docs, you have one chance to catch that vital moment that you don't even know is coming. Whereas in a drama, you know exactly what is going to happen, then you get four or five chances to get exactly what you need. If you get it on the first go (which you should) then you can try other things.
All the while the crew is huddled around 2 small monitors watching your moves. This film was shot with two cameras about %95 of the time. Eva has done her homework and really wanted the film who have real gritty and 'dirty' cutaways and have a certain feel to it.
Christopher Ball was the Director of Photography. Chris has a world of experience and was great to work along side. He was also the other camera operator.
The whole film was shot on a Sony EX3 with a Pro35 adapter with a set of beautiful Zeiss primes. The other camera was a Sony EX1 mounted with a Letus 35mm adapter with Nikon primes. We had to do quite a bit of testing prior to shooting the film to ensure the 2 cameras would match up. Surprisingly, they matched up nicely. The Zeiss lenses were sharper than the Nikons and both sets has a slightly different colour temperature, but all in all they worked nicely along side one another. Because the two cameras are going to be cut against each other, it was paramount they we are closely matched as possible.
I had one steadicam shot to pull off in the entire film. This is always an anxious moment. Especially when everyone else on the set is watching you. It was a simple scene though of following two women from a bench in the backyard to getting in the car. They nailed it in a few takes, but I have to make sure I nail my shot because its rather long and continuous and this was one the rare moments where there was only one camera shooting the scene. The actors and actresses in the film seemed to nail basically every take, so it made everyone's job just a little easier.
The director Eva really did an awesome job on this one. She certainly checked her ego at the front door and was so focused on making the best film possible. She knew what she wanted, but was always open to suggestions. The producer Rebecca Sharratt assembled a very cool crew. The vibe around the set was a pleasure and everyone was so great to work with. Seemed like everyone decided to leave their egos behind on this one, which is the way it always should be. You know, you always hear about how many egos there are in the film industry. Of course there is like in any profession, but they are few and far between in my experience. It's got to be one of the things I love most about it. Collaborating with other people passionate about what they do, coming together and ensuring the sum of its part are greater than the whole.
"What Remains" will be airing on CBC at some point in the not so distant future. Keep your eyes peeled for it!