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NZCS members enjoy shooting Native Slam Short Films

04 Apr 2020 12:55 PM | Amber Wakefield (Administrator)

Monday 16th March was just one day of the year but a significant day as a few NZCS members mobilised to shoot short films for various indigenous directors for Native Slam short films.

The NATIVE Slam is an international Indigenous collaboration challenge. Each year, in the days leading up to Māoriland Film Festival, Indigenous filmmakers team up in New Zealand to make a short film.

A NATIVE Slam team is made up of one Māori filmmaker host and two international Indigenous filmmakers. They have just 72 hours and no budget. Since its inception in 2016, seventeen short films have been created that have played in film festivals around the world.

WHAKARONGO: Dorhryen Allen-Heremia and Naylah Tarei 

NZCS Cinematographer members David Paul NZCS, Jess Charlton and Mike Jonathan with Richard Curtis; plus Associate Member Ray Edwards, all shot for their respective directors in different parts of Aotearoa. 

WHAKARONGO: Naylah Tarei and Dorhryen Allen-Heremia 

I, David, headed to Whakatane to shoot WHAKARONGO or Nicholas Riini, Ngai Tuhoe (known to many of you as a top gaffer but a talented director/writer in the making plus a fantastic chef if you’re ever lucky enough to enjoy his kai) and, Alaskan native, Salmon boat owner/captain, Artist, Film director, Anna Hoover from Naknek, Alaska, and Saami native Reindeer herder/ Filmmaker/Journalist, Aslak Pallto from Sapmi, Finland ( via facetime catch ups as Covid -19 stopped Aslak making it to Aotearoa).

WHAKARONGO: Directors Anna Hoover and Nicholas Riini co-directing 

NZCS Associate member Daniela “Nani” Conforte Vasconcellos joined us in Whakatane, smashing it on the 1st AC front.

WHAKARONGO: Nani and Joey sorting a wee technical. 

Each team had to go hard to shoot their film in one day. We shot until after the sun had set, which meant, as we had the wonderful Sony Venice camera from Imagezone and the dual ISO 500/2500 up our sleeve, it was dark, but not for the Venice. 

ATUA: DOP Jess Charlton framing up a shot.

Nicholas must have put his gaffer hat on overnight as we woke to a beautiful soft light day with a huge ½ silk covering the sky all day ( a consistent veil of high cloud). With the Venice and the lens / filter combo and diffused sunlight, we had gentle, sort of pastel-like images of our actors in the surrounding beauty of Ohope beach and estuary where we shot. 

WHAKARONGO: Actors Naylah Tarei and Dorhryen Allen-Heremia, David Paul NZCS 

Being a fast turn around film, although I was keen to use the full sensor on the Sony Venice but not give the editor 6k files to deal with, I set the camera to 6k / 2.39:1 so we utilised the full-frame sensor width but recorded to 4k XAVC300 (10 bit, 4:2:2) for manageable files and all footage loaded into Premier Pro seamlessly. In doing that, we set our own boundaries as well, with the native 2.39:1 aspect ratio in the Venice. No room for re framing in post if we didn’t like the composition. The frame was the frame.

WHAKARONGO: Dorhryen Allen-Heremia (Dop: David Paul NZCS). With no lighting allowed the natural approach was removing light when shooting interior to create shape. So I was lighting , but not using any lights. Adjusting the curtains in a room or opening / closing a door , can even use where crew may stand ( very still ) during the shot to create subtle shadows. Left of frame whilst operating I’m also deliberately blocking some window light from bouncing off the wall preventing too much fill and Joey ( soundie) was also happy to stand to the right of the window whilst still booming / recording sound. I used his position to soften / reduce some light coming in on the right. 

One of the few rules of Native Slam is no lighting allowed, which I certainly relished and am sure, as did Jess and Ray. Our grip gear was near non-existent also. Options were handheld or tripod.

Ray, also supported by the Imagezone team and Jess using her Panasonic EVA-1 camera kit were in different regions shooting their films with their respective indigenous directors, no doubt in their element enjoying the creative freedom that oddly the imposed restrictions often create. 

As cinematographers and crew, we also benefit, as we get to share, discover new voices, learn new ideas and interpretations which can only enrich our work. 

ATUA: Co-Director Chantelle Murray, Dop Jess Charlton, Co-Director and actor Bailey Poching, AC Mike Potton and Co-Director Brown Bitty (not in photo) filming at Hokio Beach

As Nani and I drove back to Auckland, we chatted how fantastic our weekend was. We thought of the other teams knowing they’ll have also had a great time, learned new things, made new friends and shared their experience. It was the very heart and soul of film making about whanau first and collaboration. Different cultures and voices, merging into one story, yet each being heard, sharing ideas and learning from each other.

ATUA: Dop, Jess Charlton

I look forward to seeing this happen more often with greater support for Maorilands and Native Slam. It’s about developing our indigenous film makers which NZCS is fully supportive of and looks forward to welcoming more indigenous members coming up through the ranks, as they will do, to be part of leading New Zealand cinematography into the future. 

I’m also sure some new acting talent has been discovered. I can attest that the two wahine taitamariki in our film were amazing, never been in front of a camera before, but they owned it. 

~ David Paul NZCS

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