Q. This is your most prominent feature to date, what has it been like?
Daffodils was a huge challenge for me.
In its simplest form, the idea is that the songs are the internal, private thoughts of the characters. What they think, but what they wouldn’t say. So when a character sings, other people in the scene don’t hear them. The way we approached this is to essentially shoot the scene twice. Once as a pure drama pass, and a second time as a singing pass, and these are cut together in the edit. It sounds pretty straight forward, but this approached evolved through a long process from the adaptation of the stage play to a film script, then through early discussions with the Director, and then we shot tests to see how this would work in editing.
In addition to the creative storytelling approach, the complexity around shots and editing was quite difficult to keep clear in your mind. You have a number of songs that go across many different time periods, so you can have a character in one scene, singing a particular lyric, then they step into another time period and set and they are singing the next lyric in the song. So a lot of the typical control you have in editing, to shorten or lengthen scenes, is something you don’t have as much control over.
The hardest part was probably the schedule. I’ve done a fair bit of fast turn-around TV and I’m used to working within the constraints of time and budget, but Daffodils was hugely challenging to get everything done in the time available and to the standard that everyone expected. There were never any simple days. We were bouncing around the time periods with extensive wardrobe and makeup changes, lots of sets, lighting and location changes every day. We had car scenes with low loaders and rear projection, ship exteriors in studios, lots of extras, and almost every day had significant music performances. All the music had been pre-recorded, but we also recorded all the singing live, to give a more natural dramatic performance. Often, we had musicians playing instruments live on-camera or off-camera, so the music could be more interactive and responsive to the actors and directors needs for the scene. All of this stuff together meant every day was a big challenge to complete the callsheet.
Q. Why did you choose a high key lighting style?
My approach to lighting for this film was quite different to things I have done in the past. Essentially, the main story is about the two characters Rose and Eric, but it is told through the eyes of their daughter Maisie. That offered us freedom to embrace the idea that when you look back on memories and you see someone else’s story, it becomes your own version of events that is filtered through your particular view of these people. Coupled with that, I really liked the idea of making movie stars out of this story of typical kiwis. So many classic movies and movies stars come from the American Hollywood system. They took their own stories and they elevated these people beyond the ordinary, into stars of the silver screen, and I loved the idea of taking a story about ordinary kiwis and making them look like movie stars. We aimed for lighting and lenses that made them beautiful and gave a real romantic, cinematic feel.
I also had huge input from some key collaborators. Adrian Hebron (Wookie) who was the gaffer on this film was a big piece of the films look. We had a large numbers of sets, a huge amount of locations and we were busting though a lot of setups every day. Wookie was the guy who always had his eye on what was coming up in the days ahead, as lighting resources and crew size would often be changing to keep pace with the variety of scenarios.
Also the input of the colourist, Claire Burlinson, was a huge creative part of the final look. Her artistry, energy and opinion really elevated everything. Claire brought a lot of colour tones and colour combinations that I would not normally ask for. I love the colour grading process, and I like to utilize all the tools we have at our disposal these days in the digital environment. I want that stage of the film to work just as hard as everything that has gone before it to make everything as good as possible, and I want a colourist that is an artist with their own opinions that engage deeply with the emotional subtext of the story, and marry that up with how an audience is going to experience the film.
Q. What were the most satisfying aspects of the film?
Working with Production Designer Brendan Heffernan was a hugely rewarding experience for me. The process of bringing this world to life came from Brendan’s production design. He produced a few key pieces of concept art that really helped define the world for all of us, and between David the director, Brendan and myself, we were able to go through this iterative process to slowly build a world that was working for all departments.
Q. How was it working with the Director, David Stubbs?
David and I have worked a lot together over the years, and we have established a pretty good way of working together. The relationship between a DOP and Director can take quite different forms. Some directors have every shot of the film in their mind and the DP’s jobs is to logistically make that happen. David has a really good instinct for storytelling and drama and I love working with that at the forefront of everything. As a DP there are so many choices technically, how to move the camera, lighting, when to cut, lenses, cameras etc, and my approach is to always be about story and acting first. If you don’t understand the underlying emotional subtext of a scene you can’t make technical choices that fit. If you have a shared understanding of what the important storytelling elements are, you can suggest alternatives that still deliver the story points. I approach everything from story first and acting first. Like most DP’s, I love the hardware of cinema. I’d fill my house with obscure lenses if I could, but I’m also a real believer in technology comes second. First is storytelling and time and space for the actors and director to work. Getting that drama working in front of everyone’s eyeballs onset is the most important thing, rather than starting with fancy camera moves and having everyone follow that.
~ Mathew Knight
Photo credit: Nathan Felangue
Following on from my talk for the NZCS on Mortal Engines, I was invited by Brett Smith of ARRI to speak on the use of lighting in Mortal Engines at the NSW chapter of the ACS in Sydney on Thursday 21st March.
As NZCS President it was great to reconnect with my friend NSW President Roger Lancer and make some new friends at the beautifully adorned ACS clubrooms on Sydney's North Shore.
It has a great camera museum and I believe it houses the one of the most comprehensive collections of ASC Cinematographers magazines in the world. I was speaking alongside Sean Dooley from ARRI who was introducing some new camera tools, Phil Erbacher who had a photo selection from the Arri Symposium in Bavaria, and DOP Velinda Wardell who was speaking of her experiences working with Arri LF beside Dion Beebe on I am Woman, the Helen Reddy biopic.
The evening seemed to go over very well, and it was good to establish some face to face connections with our colleagues across the Tasman.
Simon Raby NZCS
Photo credit: Roger Lanser
Photo credit: Simon Raby NZCS
Fewer than 1 in 15 cinematographers are women.
With support from the NZFC, we are running a 'Gender Diversity' programme. Our overall objective is to inject a new level of diversity into the camera community by supporting more women in the earlier stages of their career, increasing visibility and therein building change. We are acknowledging the base of women who already work in the camera department and giving them an opportunity to up-skill in their role. Visibility is critical to profiling a career path enabling women to key positions who are then more likely to engage other women.
Under our Gender Diversity scheme, we are seeking women to place into short term paid mentorships that would boost their knowledge base by being attached to an experienced DOP doing both observation and practical work on a significant production. This method is a direct result of a women's' roundtable initiative to redress the gender imbalance in Camera. It is explicitly aimed at countering the low percentage of women currently populating the field of Cinematographers.
We are in the process of generating various positions with Productions as they arise. Depending on the size and duration of the Production the placements can vary in both length and role. From five days to five weeks and for a variety of positions suitable from emerging cinematographers to camera trainees. This past month we have placed Kelly Chen with Denson Baker NZCS ACS on ‘Luminaries’ and Ainsley Calderwood with Drew Sturge on 'The Educator.’ We will shortly be considering applicants for an attachment with Aaron Morton NZCS on 'Sweet Tooth'.
For those who are not currently members, it may mean joining because this initiative is open to members only. The NZCS is working purely for the advancement of knowledge within the community and getting a better balance of gender amongst cinematographers is one of our current priorities. An associate membership fee costs $207 per annum and this process can be completed by clicking here.
You can express interest here by emailing a current copy of your CV and showreel (if you have one) for us to hold on file. Then we can keep you in the loop if applicable opportunities arise.
As we provide a short list of candidates to the DPs to select and interview, there is no guarantee a placement will result from membership with us. However, we have a very minimal pool of candidates which is part of the driving reason for putting together such an initiative in the first place!
If you have any questions or just want to chat about it further, please feel free to get in touch.
As cinematographers one of the roles we play are to interact closely with the actors and crew on set, and as HODs we are responsible for establishing a safe and trustworthy environment where performers and technicians can give their best work. Mental safety and health as well as physical safety and health are paramount considerations onset.
On 6th March Amber (Executive Officer) and I attended a safety course around Rainbow inclusivity onset which falls under our gender diversity inclusivity philosophy. The four hour course was instigated by the Rurungi web drama series around LGBTQIA community funded by NZ on Air for Automaus Ltd. The session was run by Inside Out who you can find more out about here - insideout.org.nz
It is estimated that one in twelve people identify as a sexual minority, meaning they belong within the LGBTQIA community. This means on a crew of forty eight, there are likely to be four sexual minority individuals present.
Sexual minorities have a long history of feeling ostracized and persecuted for their sexuality. Statistically they are five times more likely to attempt suicide than cis gendered population, 59.4% likely to self harm and 41.3% likely to be depressed. This is attributed to minority stress from the following causes - stigma, discrimination, rejection from friends, isolation, disconnectedness and perceiving a lack of respect or understanding
One of the best ways we can support a vulnerable minority is to use language that is respectful of their position. Language is a powerful tool, you reflect what you hear, and language is loaded with traditional biases that the user is often unaware of when they speak. Using language that is mindful helps to make people feel respected and safe.
The session we attended put us through various exercises about understanding the categories of sexual minorities and what the potential misuses of common language may be . There are complicated and personal pronoun possibilities when it comes to ‘he’ or ‘she’ and we discovered how easy it was to fall into language stereotypes when we resorted to such binary identifiers in everyday conversation.
The simplest safe and respectful way is to refer to them by their name, so there is no need for a pronoun. It is also now considered safe and correct practice to use the pronoun ‘they’ or ‘them’ in the singular when referring to someone of uncertain gender pronoun.
It is considered ok to ask an individual upfront if they have a gender pronoun preference and it is also ok to make mistakes in the process of practicing respectful language.
So in summation, when being mindful of onset inclusivity, with sexual minorities it is all about the gender pronoun and practicing its correct use for the individual to feel included and respected.
In December I shot a webseries called ‘Butt Dial’, directed by Annie Duckworth. It was a particularly interesting shoot because we decided to shoot the whole thing on a phone – a Samsung Galaxy Note S9, using the Filmic Pro app. It was also an interesting shoot because it was shot entirely in toilets!
Shooting with phones carries its own set of advantages and challenges. It worked because the story demanded to be shot on a phone, as it is supposed to resemble a facetime call between two friends. Using a phone also reduces the space you take up, a big advantage in bathroom locations! I don’t think the project would have worked on any other camera.
There were also some challenges. I shot in a log profile and at the highest settings available, but having never edited/graded phone footage before (besides the test!), it’s difficult to predict how it will look once it’s been onlined. I also found that the frame rate tended to drift a little bit and not be a 100% accurate 25fps.
Another fun aspect of the shoot was our small female crew. It was a female driven concept, so it made sense to make it a 100% female crew. It can be done!
Butt Dial will be on TVNZ On Demand in April.
BTS photos kindly provided by Zihan Chang.
~ Ainsley Calderwood, NZCS committee member
The film 'Suspiria' shot by Luciano Tovoli, and directed by Dario Argento, is seen as the high point of 1970's Italian, and indeed European horror. This Masterpiece of mood, lighting and mayhem, has recently turned 40, and has spawned a current remake, and also a book. I caught up with Luciano and had a conversation about all this.
Luciano, how did you come to be on the project?
Dario Argento contacted me direct - to propose to me to be the 'Suspiria's Cinematographer. I accepted.
What was the film you had worked on before Suspiria?
Leading up to this, I had worked on several Italian films and some French. Most notably Michelangelo Antonioni's masterpiece “The Passenger”.
Was the look of the film your idea or a request from Dario?
Of course Argento had already a vision but my involvement in the film helped him to transform his dream in a precise colour dramaturgy. I made myself a lot of tests on colours and presented the tests to Argento who approved them, and we started to shoot the film without more meetings or consultations.
Can you remember what stock, camera and lenses you used?
The camera was a Technovision Camera with Technovision Anamorphic Lenses and the stock was the classic 5248 Eastmancolor.
What shot in the film are you most proud of?
Maybe the close up of Jessica Harper in the taxi at the beginning of the film.
Tell us about the most difficult shots.
Difficult.. The “grand final” with explosions and coloured lightning. Not one single shot of the film has been treated in post production.
Where there planned shots that didn’t make the film?
No. We fully realised all our imaginations.
There is the remake of ‘Suspiria’ directed by Luca Gaudagnino which has been released this year – did you have any contact from them?
No. Not any contact. I read Guadagnino declaring that he was immensely impressed by the colours of 'Suspiria' when he saw the film at the age of fourteen. This touched me a lot and ideally I give him all the liberty to do whatever he wants, and he is too intelligent and talented to try to make a faithful remake of 'Suspiria'. That would be in any case impossible.
What is your view on the film being remade?
No special opinion. Freedom for everybody to express his talent.
A crucial part of being a Cinematographer, is being in control of, and guiding the look of the film. With a film as singular as 'Suspiria' this is doubly so. When we talked in Finland, you mentioned a transfer to Blue Ray that went very wrong – and you had no idea. What are your experiences of film to digital transfers?
My experiences are absolutely positive especially when I am called to collaborate, but that it is not always the case. In my absence many errors can be made by a Colourist left alone. Unfortunately it happened for me four times with disastrous results.
With the ascent of grading, and Colourists, do you think that Cinematographers are losing the rights to be truly authors of the image?
Colourists are not my enemies but better they understand that the inspiration and realisation an the rights of the images belongs to the guy, the Cinematographer, who made the film. The Colourist can be victim of the tragic illusion often unfortunately under the encouraging eye of a Director, to believe to magically become the author of the images but it is only an illusion! I do not blame them as I blame the Producer and more the Directors. In those cases I consider all of them like furtive night thieves putting their hands on some (pure images) that belong morally and artistically, essentially to others.
In those unfortunate cases the poor Colourists are only the physical instrument of the “crime.”
Quite sad it is to note how even before to be legally recognised Authors of the Cinematography and Co-authors of the film as we indubitably are, we risk very seriously to loose our status. For that IMAGO can be a defensive wall !
You recently were interviewed for a fantastic book, by Piercesare Stagni and Valentina Valente entitled «On Suspiria and Beyond». Was it a surprise that 40 years after the film, there is such love and interest for the film?
What impresses me the most, is that two young Italian film historians like Valentina and Pierceare, as thousands or tens of thousands and more of young and mature spectators all over the world continue to consider 'Suspiria', after forty years, as an exemplar essay of employment of colours on dramaturgical terms.
Let’s talk about the book. I don’t think I have ever seen such a book – a talk about a film, from the Cinematographers perspective – how did it come about?
We started at the beginning of the past year one very long interview around my career and we realised that we had enough material to print five books, and that was just speaking of the few of my films that, crossing the steep barrier of the Italian language, travelled the world. Frightened by this perspective and 2017 being the quadrennial of Suspiria we escaped the danger, deciding to analyse only this one !
Luciano - what have you been up to recently?
Voluntary work for IMAGO as chair of the Authorship Committee. And recently I shot a film in my Tuscany with a young first time director.
A quick and final, question regards Directors. You have worked with some of the more maverick directors in European film history – Argento, Antonioni, Schroeder, and Scola. Where you drawn to working with these directors, or where they drawn to you?
I would like not to forget Vittorio De Seta, Maurice Pialat, Francis Veber and Andrei Tarkowski between the many who gave me the priviledge to collaborate at their films. With very few exceptions I have always been called by the directors through the vision of one of my films. Not through agent recommendations, not through producers calls and with this very simple system I made, at today, more than 80 films for theatres and exceptionally only two documentaries for television, a medium of which it's meaning of expression, is too much and too often misused on it's real potentiality.
The Book 'On Suspiria and Beyond: A conversation with Cinematographer Luciano Tovoli'
By LucianoTovoli, Piercesare Stagni and Valentina Valente (Artdigiland Press 2017) can be bought on Amazon, or direct from the publisher in Milan who can print a higher quality 'on demand' copy on request – contact Silvia Tarquini (firstname.lastname@example.org).
by Marc Swadel
(Committee Member NZCS/Cinematographer member ACS)
On 1 July 2018 Inland Revenue has updated an expenditure determination regarding people working in the screen production industry. If you are required to work away from home, the determination will apply to you.
The determination allows that from 1 July 2018, we are able to receive up to NZ$80 per day in per diem allowances.
Per diems are paid exclusive of GST, so when you prepare your GST invoice, you will need to calculate GST on the per diems received. So if a per diem is paid is $80 and the GST is $12 this will be included on their invoice as $80 + GST of $12 = total of $92. On the PAYE schedule the per diem is included but this is only at the $80. If a contractor is not GST registered, it is just the $80.
Read the full guidelines here
The 2018/19 Data Book print edition is out now and to celebrate their 30th birthday they are distributing the latest copy free to the first 200 industry guild members that contact them and 30 exclusively for NZCS members.
This years Data Book is crammed full with the latest information about New Zealand’s screen production industry professionals.
The book also includes Studio and Crane Charts and other useful information for people looking at shooting films, television, web series or commercials in New Zealand.
The print edition – like the online version – includes over 300 categories.
“It is hard to believe this is Data Book’s 30th birthday. This year the book has gone from strength to strength,” says Data Book publisher Kelly Lucas. "We have increased the number of pages and listings which is a great sign of the strength of the industry and people engaging with the book and online. Website traffic has grown as well attracting continuing to attract a large number of New Zealand traffic and visitors from around the world. The feedback from last years book has been fantastic with people still wanting a print edition so we have published it again this year while the audience is still there, we also want to give back to the industry for supporting us so we have decided that the first 200 Industry guild members to contact us can receive a free print copy.”
The print edition of The Data Book costs $46 (inc gst) but if you are an industry guild member you can receive your copy for free (limited offer) please email Kelly Lucas with your name and preferred postal address on email@example.com or phone 021 996 529 or check out the website http://www.databook.co.nz for the online version and get your free listing.
Camera Trainee Duration: 1 April – 30 August 2019 (4 weeks of prep + entire shooting period ). Reports to A Camera 1st AC. An entry level position aimed at giving a very junior camera assistant the exposure of working on a large scale production. They will assist the 1st and 2nd AC’s onset. The aim would be for them to step up to a 2nd AC role on a large feature film. Candidate needs to be either a film school graduate with an interest in being in the camera department or someone who has just started working within the film industry, in the camera department.
They will then select a pool of candidates from the applicants to meet and interview and then choose the intern from there.
Of all the tools a cinematographer employs, the most important we have are our eyes. Recently there have been an increase in news articles outlining the damage that increased exposure to blue light waves does to our eyes.
Whilst we cannot completely avoid screen exposure to blue light spectrum, we can be mindful of the potential long term hazard. Many screens on computers and phones offer a warmer version of the screen, which can be taken advantage of when we are not colour balancing our work. In addition blue blocker lenses are now available for spectacles, which I wear whenever I am not required to assess colour accuracy. Don’t forget that sunglasses can also be excellent weapons in the fight against excess UV light exposure when working outside.
The links below offer more information on the issue, as well as providing some interesting background on how our eyes actually work.
- Simon Raby NZCS, President
Prices include GST(c) 2008- 2018 New Zealand Cinematographers Society