15
Mar 16

A bit of depth

  
Firstly, I have to apologise for the lack of posts recently – have been both rather busy, and frustratingly, rather sick. 

Anyway, dipping way back into the archives with this shot, to 2010 and my first studio – Studio M in Zetland. Now, typical Sydney, that beautiful 1920’s warehouse has been replaced by generic apartments. But then, well, it was just a tad magical. 

This image is of one of my oldest friends, Amy. She’s a very soulful person, someone who seemingly has a connection to something beyond and I wanted to show that.
So I pulled out an old lighting technique – a dingle tray – a shallow pool of water which a light bounces into, reflecting onto your subject. Used by cinematographers for the last century to simulate the light from a water reflection, in a photograph it gives you something far more subtle – a sense of water and depth without ever knowing why.
Normally you put a black down underneath the water so the reflection is colourless, but this time I put down heavy blue and balanced to that. The result seems to generate that sense I felt about Amy. 


11
Mar 16

The DOP and the director 

  
This wonderful shot is behind the scenes from our music video for L-FRESH The LION last week, shot by DOP Lucas Tomoana.

I thought I’d explore the relationship between a director (i.e. me) and their DOP – director of photography, aka cinematographer. 
The 3 critical relationships for a director are with their producer, editor and DOP. As film is perceived as a visual medium before all else, the DOP is the one who helps you realise it. 
He or she is your right hand, the one you rely on for feedback, usually before anyone else. Whether it’s a music video like last week, a commercial or drama, the DOP is your first point of call.
It’s vital to establish trust between the two of you. Without trust, or if that trust is lost, the whole thing can turn into a disaster.
When time gets crunched on set and you’re desperately trying to figure out if you have enough shots to make the scene work, your DOP is the one you turn to. When you have a half formed idea, your DOP will evolve it into a fully realised concept and approach. And when you find the right person, it often becomes a working relationship for life. 
Photographers might ask – why don’t you shoot it yourself? The simple answer is that you need to focus on so many separate elements as a director, the mechanics of shooting would interfere. Also, it’s a whole different skills set. That might sound weird considering both filmmaking and photography use cameras and lighting; but while both are very much the same, they are also vastly different with their approach.
Photography is the photographer’s medium, but we all know there’s also stylists and retouchers and talent and make up artists etc involved. Filmmaking is the filmmaker’s medium, and that starts with the DOP.


03
Mar 16

A quick noir.

img_7130-2

Apologies for the radio silence this week, have been slammed on a few different jobs and prepping the clip we’re shooting this weekend.

Today I thought I’d share a little portrait I did for actor Andrew Steel from last year.

He wanted noir. Classic noir.

These things are always fun to shoot – use some blinds, get the light shooting through them, some classic wardrobe and a smoke and suddenly you’ve got noir.

Lots of squinting later, we got this shot.


01
Mar 16

The shifting of locations 

 Last week I posted about our recce to two locations, and my decision to shoot in the more dramatic of the two. That location was the mangrove wetlands in Bundeena, pictured above.

Unfortunately and frustratingly, the national parks came back to us yesterday with a firm no. It is understandable – they’re concerned that a mass of people walking through the wetlands could damage the root systems of those wonderful trees.
Thankfully, I have a backup. 
Changing shoot locations can sometimes be a simple matter of substitution. And sometimes, a different location will completely upend the narrative and tone. In this case, I’ll have to rework the narrative structure in some places but that’s all.

Such is the nature of filmmaking – endless problem solving.


29
Feb 16

Crafting performance and the nature of music videos.

L1in100000_btsdayone280216_viainsta

Yesterday we started shooting the music video for L-FRESH The LION’s 1 in 100,000, which I’m directing.

The track is seriously awesome. If you haven’t heard it yet, I highly recommend you do! (It released everywhere last Friday.)

Anyway, yesterday was day one. Of four. Which is quite a long shoot for an Australian music video. The reason we’re doing it over 4 days is the scale of our narrative, which necessitates some relatively far flung locations that will need time to capture.

The narrative section will be shot later in the week. Yesterday was all about L and his performance.

Performing for clips is always a strange process. When you go to a gig and watch someone perform live, while they’re usually playing a rehearsed set, that set evolves as they react to the crowd and the conditions around them. That’s where the energy and power of gigs comes from.

Not so with clips. We have to create that energy from scratch.

The very nature of filmmaking also works against us – multiple takes, different shot set ups, the craft of where your marks are and how you can move, keeping time with the various speed changes needed to film it successfully etc – these can all take their toll and sap the energy of the artist. Thus you lose that vital connection.

It’s even harder when it was as paired back as was yesterday – just L by himself with a small crew. No extras, no set, no anything else really. Somehow I had to find a way to make his performance connect.

This is one of the most vital parts of being a director. My job is to make sure that his performance is as vital as any gig, fits both the overarching concept and the narrative, and perhaps most importantly, feels truthful.

I do this by setting a very specific tone on set, which is light-hearted and fun, but also focussed and very very determined. We do not leave until we have the performance needed in the can. So we play the track loudly. We cheer him on; give him an audience to react to, even if all he sees is a camera lens and some lights burning his retinas. I make sure to hold him to the boundaries set for the clip – narrative notes, guides to his character and the physical space within which he could move – so that his performance fits everything else. And then I just let him go. Do his thing.

An artist like L makes it easy. He is the consummate performer – ready for anything and able to adapt to everything. It is always a pleasure to work with L and I’m proud to call him a friend.


25
Feb 16

The spectacular vs. the dramatic. (Dramatic won.)

Long Reef scout

 

So, Monday’s recce was a bust. The location was under construction and we spent a whole day going back and forth for ultimately no gain. In a situation like that, all you can do is roll with the punches and find another location with the right feel.

Yesterday I went on another recce. Couldn’t drag our awesome DOP Lucas Tomoana along as he’s up North on another job… And it’s vital to have another opinion while doing this… So I managed to drag my partner instead and we made a day of it.

Strange process recce’ing. Yesterday we went to two widely separated locations driving for hours to spend relatively only a few minutes at each. One was an hour south, the other about 40 minutes north. Both through traffic.

One more spectacular, the other more dramatic. Both water locations and both tricky to work, particularly since the ideal tide patterns do not coincide with the best light. But this is the nature of both filmmaking and photography – endless problem solving.

I’m going with the more dramatic location. While it’s not as pretty, narratively it’s more powerful, more authentic and ultimately will resonate more with my audience.

This image shows Long Reef in Dee Why – the more pretty location. If you’re in Sydney, I highly recommend you get up there at some point.


23
Feb 16

A love of lighting 


Here’s a behind the scenes shot of my lighting set up from Sunday’s beauty test with make up artist Kelly-Marie Waters and models Annette Melton & Tannie Tong from theright.fit.

Light. It affects us in so many different ways. Different light can make us feel happy, feel down, awestruck at the majesty of creation or fearful for our safety. And as photographers (and filmmakers), we use light to tell our stories.

Many photographers, whether starting out or highly experienced, are wary of lighting their work. Some prefer natural light. Some think it’s too hard. Personally, I feel it’s a skill one should learn, part of the craft of photography. And it can take many different forms.

To those who worry about it being hard, well, it is. But so is driving when you first try it. Lighting is just a skill, a set of techniques you learn just like you learn how to drive.

I’m self-taught and never assisted. I taught myself how to light – it look practise and many, many failures over years. And I’m still teaching myself.

I don’t just light to make something pretty, or dramatic. I light to tell stories. And there are many stories to tell. Sunday’s test didn’t need a narrative – it was a beauty shoot. So the lighting was about sexiness, about colour and about fun. The lighting helped tell that story, and then the models used the light to make the shot work.

All this technical stuff – lighting, focal lengths, framing, post etc All of it is irrelevant without a connection with the subject. Photography is nothing without an emotional connection. So the first thing before all else is to work with your subject, whether a model, portrait subject or a landscape. The best images have that connection. Then lighting pulls it all together.


22
Feb 16

Recce fails… Some days it just doesn’t work.

  
Location scouting can be a bastard.

Today we drove out to Lithgow, roughly 2 hours west of Sydney. Inevitably, we got stuck in traffic for well over 40 minutes, and there were endless kms of roadworks too.

When we got there, we found the whole location under construction – completely unusable. Was there any indication on the council websites that this would be happening? Of course not. 

So, a day wasted. But such is. There will always be days like this, part of the journey.


20
Feb 16

A snap and it’s forever 

 Again dipping into the archives, going well back to 2009 to behind the scenes on the Denim and Thread campaign.
What a fun job. More than 6 years later, it still holds pride of place in my folio. 
This is a funny business. Most of the work you shoot generally isn’t the most interesting (comparatively) – it’s a job and you’re paid to do it. And that’s a wonderful thing – getting paid to do what you love to do. It can feel a bit creatively bereft though. But sometimes, rarely, you’re allowed to make something special. 

That campaign was special. I put up the hero a while ago – https://www.instagram.com/p/_VuYEURG5a/. 

This is a quick snap I pulled off while we were setting up for another shot – we were all in the zone, so quickly – click! Another moment noted forever.


18
Feb 16

Build right.

Louis Issac

Louis, aka Kid Fiction, is a mate from high school. A truly excellent musician and producer; Louis spent years recording other people’s work, waiting to get the stems from other people’s work, yet more recording then rerecording of other people’s work, and then inevitably waited a hell of a long time to get paid for said other people’s work.

While of course gigging and working on his own music as well.

That all got a little tiring.

So for the past year, he’s only been focusing on his own work. Writing, producing, playing, rewriting, reproducing, mixing, mastering etc etc it all builds up and builds up. You lose perspective.

Before we shot this portrait, he showed me something like 11 EP’s he’d put together. Would he release any of them?

Well, no. Perhaps one… Maybe.

This is a good thing. Louis’s trying to make some special.

In the technology world, the culture often seems to be ‘build the product quickly, ship it, then iron out the kinks later’.

But as creatives and artists, we rarely beta-test. We tend to build once.

And if we’re any good, we want to build right.