31
Mar 16

The first time with L…

  
As we count down the days to release for the L-FRESH The LION’s 1 in 100000 clip, let’s look at the man himself – L-FRESH. I quickly grabbed this shot while he was watching playback on his performance on set.

L’s now a friend, but I first worked with him years ago on yet another music video. However, the shoot for this one did not go at all smoothly…. In fact, pretty much everything went to hell. We had rain issues, location issues, safety issues, lighting issues, generator issues and wardrobe issues. Even our issues had issues… The whole day went out of our control.

But before the shoot day, we had collectively made the decision that all the artists (there were two featured artists in the clip, L was one of them) would be on set for the entire shoot. Oops.

L’s section was meant to be shot in the afternoon. However, because of those issues, L had to wait around for something like 19 hours before we could get to him. 19 hours! That’s friggin’ crazy.

And yet, when we got him on camera, instead of being tired or flat, he was absolutely amazing. His first take floored us. His second take was even better.

We all loved his music, but everyone on set became a true fan that day. I’ve shot L a few times since, both stills and video, and have seen him perform any number of times. He still floors me every time.

And you know what? A lot of the same crew are on this clip today because of that.


28
Mar 16

Difficult costumes…

  
We’re about to lock off the edit for our clip for L-FRESH, so I thought I’d share one more behind the scenes shot.

The wardrobe that James, the actor playing the Figure, is wearing is both heavy and extremely hot. At the first fitting on a cool evening, he started sweating after wearing it for only a few minutes.

Can you imagine how horrible it was for him in the 34+ degree, humid desert location without any shade? Clambering over rocks of course. That costume was also very difficult to manage and kept going awry too. Looked amazing, but an utter pain to work. 

We were all battling heat fatigue that day. But James really did it tough. What a trooper! And as you’ll see in a week or so when we release the clip, he did an amazing job. (PS. the editor thinks we should have put the umbrella in the clip…. I think she’s bonkers)


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.


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.


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.


16
Feb 16

The weird and wonderful world of recce’ing.

Location scouting in Helensburgh

Yesterday we were on a recce (location scout) for a job.

Recce’ing is vital. You scope out potential locations and figure out if they fit your brief and concept. Can we shoot here? Are there strong angles? What’s the light like? Do the colours work? Most importantly, does it work for the narrative – is there a motivation to be there?

You also need to check if the location is workable logistically. Is there parking? Toilets? Is it safe? Is it a long distance to the shooting area from your unit base (where we keep the unused gear, make up, wardrobe, catering etc and often where the vans and cars are parked)? Do you need special equipment to work the location – cranes, cherry pickers etc?

Recce’ing is also fundamentally weird. Sometimes you’re by yourself or just with a key creative like our DOP Lucas yesterday. And sometimes you have a whole team of people with you – the producer, the DOP, the gaffer, the art directors, the stylist, etc. Basically, you all stand around and point. Then have a discussion. Then point some more. Then move to a different spot and point a little more. Then usually have a polite argument. Then point just a tad more. And then you move on to the next location.

But they’re also adventures. You get to explore. Often unexpected, unusual and sometimes even unlikely places. And then you plan how to transform those places for an image or for a film.

Those places become magic.


15
Feb 16

The years that shape us

Ollie

Last week on instagram, I posted a double shot of Ollie, and mentioned how he’d gone through a tough year.

I thought I’d add one more to the mix.

It seems everyone who lives a creative lifestyle goes through these intense years. They are crucibles that shape us, but sometimes we come out misshapen. This is something that happened to me several years ago, and it took a long time to get over.

On the flip side, sometimes they shape us into something more resonant and powerful too.

 

 

 

 


08
Feb 16

Bring it back bring it back baby.

After something like 3 years, I’m bringing back the blog.

Why? Because of instagram actually. I stopped it previously because I felt like there was nothing worthwhile to say. Since joining insta about 6 months ago, that sentiment has changed.

Hopefully this blog will be insightful. And sometimes quite silly. Both are needed at times.