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DOP Adam Luxton discusses his experience shooting 'This Town'

27 Jul 2020 1:42 PM | Amber Wakefield (Administrator)

Scheduled for cinematic release on August 6th, This Town will be the first Kiwi film to release in cinemas Post COVID lockdowns. 

Written, directed by and starring David White (Meat), This Town features Robyn Malcolm (Outrageous Fortune), Rima Te Wiata (Hunt for the Wilderpeople) and Toi Whakaari graduate Alice May Connolly in lead roles. 

This Town follows one man’s attempt to return to normality, and one woman’s utter determination to prevent it. Charged but acquitted for a terrible crime, Sean (David White) is now the most infamous person in the small community of Thiston. But his attempts to move on with life are made difficult by ex-cop turned petting zoo and adventure park owner Pam (Robyn Malcolm), who’s convinced that Sean is a guilty man walking free.

We asked DOP, Adam Luxton, a few questions:

Cinematographer, Adam Luxton

What was your vision for shooting the film?

I was quite keen for it to kind of look like Pingu. We were shooting wide, graphic frames at deep stop and everything started to feel a lot like miniatures somehow. It's a really unfashionable cinematography style, but it felt really fun and like we were doing our own thing. We would just set up a big wide frame and then dress and dress and dress the shot. We wanted to see everything; all the little art department jokes a styling and everything. The whole film's initial idea was to play out in those wides, which I thought would have been really odd and original. As we went on, the film needed modulating for rhythm and story sense, so we started shooting more coverage, and it started to feel a bit more conventional. But we had a whole bunch of weird rules. Everything had to be straight on, squared up to the set or the horizon, or to any referencing structure in the location. Often that would mean we would end up shooting our scene completely front-lit, but that was just what we did to obey the rules we had. Then we would only cut down the line or to a camera position at 90 degrees to the master. So it was always odd. It came from a really particular kind of documentary style that David had been evolving for a number of years. It took some getting my head around! I'm not sure if anyone will ever shoot a movie like that again. 

Were there any specific challenges, and how did you overcome them?

Lots of challenges. The film had a tiny budget, lots and lots of locations and a huge cast. And about two weeks out from shooting David decided we'd make it a two camera shoot. So we were maxed out across the board really and there was a lot of compromise in various areas to get the whole thing to work. But it did work! Which felt against the odds a lot of the time. I think David and the producers of the film can feel pretty stoked about that.

Who comprised your team?

In the camera team was Damian Seagar, who was the gaffer, B-cam operator and 2nd Unit DoP, then Fenton Dyer and Laura Tait were the AC's. Bill Bycroft came down for a shooting block too. They all worked really hard. And that are all pretty great humans too, which is really important to me. 

How did shooting on location in Hawke's Bay add to the unique style of the film?

Well, it meant that we were able to make it at all. Auckland is such an inhospitable place to film in at the moment. Getting permission to be anywhere or do anything is costly and takes time, so on a tight budget things quickly get sticky. Shooting in Central Hawkes Bay was the opposite of that. People couldn't help enough. Everyone wanted to help. If we wanted to close a road for a shot we'd just call up the council and they'd tell us to stick out a road cone. So we bought a few road cones and did our own traffic control. I'm probably not allowed to say that. But that's what it was like down there, it was like shooting a film in the 80's or something. It was relaxed, people were cool and interested. We got a lot of mileage out of our budget there. The weather wasn't too flash though... 

Can you tell us about your favourite shot or sequence of shots from the movie?

Don't know, I haven't seen it yet. But if David's shot with the enormous chainsaw made the cut, then that's my favourite shot.

You can watch the trailer HERE.

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