I am currently studying film, and more specifically cinematography at Unitec, though I have been keen on being a part of this industry for a very long time. My first exposure to filmmaking was the 48Hour Film Festival in 2014, and this extreme crash course sparked my passion for the screen. I have since been involved in various short films made among mates, and of course 48Hours every year since.
2019 was first year at Unitec, which introduced me to a much more professional world. Because of this, already my skills have improved drastically, due to having proper guidance and role models helping me forward. Sean Rundle and Donny Duncan NZCS are, let’s say ‘mentors’ to me, as I have worked with them both in academic and personal capacities. I am extremely grateful for the professional and personal relationships I have developed with them both and am excited to see how they grow in the future.
My major end goal is to establish a solid career in cinematography, hopefully becoming a DOP in a major industry (feature or otherwise), however for now I am focused on growing my skills as best I can through studies, and taking any and all opportunities that are presented to me. I love being involved in filmmaking, and even something as simple as being on set to watch the magic happen is enough to keep me happy for weeks afterwards.
I look forward to the many connections and experiences I will be able to create through the NZCS, and getting to know all of you, my (fingers crossed) future co-workers and partners in our chosen field!
~ James Ashenden
NZCS members and guests were treated to another inspiring event on Wednesday night as an audience to legendary stuntman, stunt co-ordinator and 2nd Unit Director, Vic Armstrong.
Out here from the UK to work on a large Amazon TV production, Armstrong’s reputation and list of credits in the business is massive, including a series of James Bond movies, Indiana Jones movies, and the likes of Total Recall, Starship Troopers, Eddie the Eagle, Thor, Gangs of New York and countless other huge action block-buster films.
His opening showreel has glowing testimonials from Steven Speilberg, Martin Scorcese, Harrison Ford and other highly respected film-makers.
The presentation was accompanied by a continuous showreel of excerpts from action sequences he either directed, co-ordinated or performed stunts in. There were many stories to accompany various clips, including tales of very near misses, such as a float plane mishap on Indiana Jones, and the critical timing of a leap from a horse onto a moving tank.
Vic also elaborated on backgrounds to the planning of complex stunts and the development of rigs, such as high speed descenders, to solve specific challenges, and the important relationships between Main and 2nd unit directors and DP’s.
We were privileged to have Vic take time out of a very busy production schedule to share his stories with us at short notice.
~ Donny Duncan, NZCS Professional Development Manager
The NZCS was offered the chance to host an event with Shane Hurlbut ASC at very short notice last month, as he was visiting NZ to shoot an international TV commercial. Tickets quickly sold out and a packed house filled the Dept of Post theatre on Feb 25th to hear a presentation on “Redefining Camera Movement”.
Hurlbut was at the forefront of utilising the power of the internet to educate and inform cinematographers worldwide and the Hurlbut Academy has evolved to be a leading force in this field and a great resource for upskilling at all levels of cinematography.
Being a very early adopter of the brushless-motor gimbal rig (MOVI etc), Hurlbut’s presentation showed an amazing variety of applications of this technology in the pursuit of serving the storytelling as effectively as possible. The very passionate and animated talk included behind-the-scenes clips, excerpted scenes, stills imagery, plans and diagrams to illustrate his methodology.
While the over-riding message of the presentation was to interpret the script and deliver the director’s vision as honestly as possible, there was a host of tips and tricks showcased on how “New School” technology can eclipse “Old School” technology to produce great results on tight budgets. One example was how a time-consuming crane or ladder-pod set-up can be replaced with a remoted gimbal rig on a triple-riser light stand – including a camera move, by gently dropping one stage of the light stand.
Hurlbut also showcased some more complex shots, including an elaborate set-up that began with a MOVI rig on a Technocrane, but then handed off to continue in hand-held mode (while the crane was quickly driven away to be out of shot by the time the camera moved around 360 degrees).
One strong message to come out of the evening was his views on director/cinematographer relationships. While every director works differently and the process is always collaborative, Shane has learned over the years that interpreting the script and driving the visual approach of the film, including elaborate planning and shot-listing the entire movie pays great dividends and saves time and money in the long term.
It was a real treat to have Shane Hurlbut here in person to deliver his presentation and answer questions and talk casually with the attendees. He very generously took time out to engage with the NZCS members and conveyed how impressed he was with NZ as a shooting destination and the high calibre of the crew he’s been working with locally.
~ Donny Duncan - NZCS Professional Developer
The 6th Jalón Ángel International Award are now open
For the sixth consecutive year, the Jalón Ángel International Photography Award is now open. This year, to mark the 25th anniversary of the creation of the San Valero Dominican Foundation (FUNDOSVA), a third category Education and cooperation has been added to the already veteran Travel and Portrait categories.
The admission deadline is 26th March, 2020
Entries can be submitted by clicking here
Participants can submit a photograph for each category: Portrait, Travel and Education and Cooperation. The prize consists of €1,000, an emblematic statuette and a diploma for the winner of each category. In addition, the jury, formed by professionals in the field of photography of recognised national and international prestige, may grant special mentions for each category. The new category honours the anniversary of the San Valero Dominican Foundation (FUNDOSVA), an institution of the San Valero Group in Santo Domingo (Dominican Republic), where education is a true engine of social and human development.
The director of the archive, Pilar Irala-Hortal, affirms that the organisation of the award is something that the Jalón Ángel Archives is very proud of. Year after year national and international participation has grown, which allows us to be in close contact with the latest photographic production and contribute to the international growth of the winning photographers."
The winners of the award will be revealed on 29th May 2020.
This initiative was set up in 2014 as a tribute to the photographer Jalón Ángel (founder of the San Valero Professional School, origin of the San Valero Group) and to mark the 10th anniversary of San Jorge University. Ángel Hilario García de Jalón Hueto has been one of the most outstanding figures in portrait photography in Spain. In 1926, he settled in Zaragoza where he combined his most personal and creative photography, specialising in travel with urban and natural landscapes and his studio portraits.
Further information at - www.jalonangel.com - in the 'Award' tab
The recent NZCS workshop in Christchurch on 14th January was a huge success with 30 people turning up to learn composition and lighting techniques from Auckland based DP Matt Gerrand
Gerrand, who won a gold last year for his work on #DefendNZ, thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to share what he has learnt along his journey. “A lot of what I’ve learnt is through experience, so I’ve always wished there was a platform for DP’s with greater knowledge to pass on that knowledge, rather than people having to start from the ground up.”
A broad range of experience levels turned up to learn and mingle, with NZCS member and Canterbury University lecturer John Chrisstoffels doubling as a model for part of the workshop. “It was refreshing to hear him teach with such enthusiasm and confidence. People skills are also important. It was not lost on me, and I hope others noted the respectful way that Matt spoke to the talent and his crew. Attitudes can make a huge difference on set.”
Chrisstoffels, who has been a cinematographer for 30 years, has seen the ups and downs experienced by the region in recent years. With TVNZ withdrawing in the early 90’s and many of the big local brands relocating north, locally made national commercials all but disappeared. More recently the earthquakes, coinciding with technical changes in the industry, brought new challenges to an already thin local industry.
Winning a gold for his feature film Human Traces, Chrisstoffels has been part of a recent resurgence in local productions. “Feature film making has always been deemed too difficult by North Island producers despite stunning locations and predictable weather. Peter Jackson made 2 of his first 5 films here in the 90’s.” Other recent films that utilised the region include The Stolen and The Changeover which won Andrew Stroud Cinematographer of the Year in 2018.
Greater interaction between the regions is something local gaffer Zac Beckett-Knight wants to see more of. “Canterbury has some awesome offerings in terms of locations but often gets overlooked as productions can't find the necessary filming infrastructure to service projects. It is here, and it is growing. There is a ground swell within the local community to take things to the next level. And there is ever increasing interest from productions outside of Christchurch to bring projects here.”
Beckett-Knight provided his combo truck for the evening and can see a huge benefit in the NZCS workshops. “Every DOP has different wants/focus/styles due to their learning process or influences and it's fun learning how they operate and problem solve on set so, as a gaffer, we can anticipate and give them more of what they want.” The broad spectrum of experience was also welcomed, with Beckett-Knight saying “It's great to see the up-and-comings asking outside-the-box questions and thinking creatively about light rather than functionally.”
Gerrand also emphasised the importance of community in a job that can often feel isolating. “It can be quite a solo journey as a DP, so to have a platform to be able to share, and people to receive is very high up in terms of what's needed, not just in Christchurch but across the country.” Community is a sentiment echoed by Beckett-Knight, “The region gains huge benefit from these sorts of workshops. Not only do they impart new skills too cinematographers, but they bring the community together regularly for catch ups and to chat about recent projects, new purchases and let them hone their craft through discussion in person.”
Thanks to Christchurch based cinematographer John Ross for this write-up, organising this event at short notice and collaborating with the NZCS, Screen Canterbury and local suppliers to make it a most successful evening.
With more workshops planned for the region in the year to come, connectivity between regions will continue to strengthen the cinematography community within New Zealand.
Donald Duncan - NZCS Professional Development Manager
Photo credit: Andrei Talili
Set in a quiet NZ street “ The Legend of Baron To’a ” Is a New Zealand action film with a retro wrestling throwback vibe
For this film, the Producer Kerry Warkia and Director Kiel McNaughton wanted to set up a look that would help build a slightly heightened reality in keeping with the wrestling style action sequences.
Creating such a look for a film with mostly day exterior scenes and tight schedules was a challenge. Director Kiel was also keen to use wide lenses and long Steadicam shots when on our hero street set, to see as much of the world as possible because of the importance the street played in the film. To create our look, we employed the Hawk V-lite Anamorphic lenses and Arri Mini. The Hawks have loads of character and the feel we were after. ImageZone provided our camera package and landed us the very tasty Hawks from Germany.
Wide lenses and blocking that traveled vast distances restricted what we could do lighting wise, so we used lots of handheld negative fill. 12x12 and 20x20 solids along with bambollas and floppies were choreographed to slide in at crucial parts of the shots to add shape.
Christian Dunn from Blacklight gaffed the job and worked hard to keep our color palette, swapping out entire streets of LED street lamps for old-school Sodium lamps.
Because we had such limited control of lighting in the exterior day scenes, we pushed our look hard when we had control in sets. We wanted to take these opportunities to help build the look and the world we wanted to create.
I opted for an Arri Mini/V-lite setup knowing we would be doing a lot of gimbal work. We stayed in the Ronin 2 the entire film other than a few car hard mounts and a handheld flashback.
The R2 was great for switching between modes quickly. We would often move from crane or tracking vehicle to Dolly and handheld gimbal within a scene. It took no time at all with this R2 build. We did many very ambitious shots on this film, all made possible by our Key Grip Daimon Wright. One of our go-to builds was the scissor crane on a dolly. This was great for getting the camera anywhere onset and we would often cover an entire scene from one build.
The fight finale was captured with 2 Mini’s both in Ronins. One lived on the crane and the other operated “majestically” or held by grips and operated remotely. This was a great way to cover the fight beats because it allowed the actors some flexibility and the shots to keep flowing.
We had a great stunt team headed up by Augie Davis who Kiel and I worked closely with choreographing fights and coverage.
All the fights were lensed and recorded using Artemis finder in the stunt rehearsal space and cut together before we did the real thing onset, giving us a good understanding of what would and wouldn’t work. One of our goals going into this film was to have our lead Uli Latukefu doing as many of his own fights as possible. Uli trained hard with the stunt team and was amazing. It made such a difference having a lead actor performing the stunt beats.
One of my main challenges was the connection between interior set and exterior location. The main interior sets were in a studio and the script required lots of interaction between interior and exterior street. One-shot required a transition from interior set out the window onto a tracking vehicle and developed into the next scene. For this, we employed a rear-projected set extension from Big picture NZ. A 20 kilowatt 4K projected plate of our exterior street set provided very believable backgrounds and a wonderful ambient light source.
I had a blast shooting this film with a great cast and crew who were all excited about making a very ambitious action film with an NZ flavour.
~ Cinematographer, Drew Sturge
2nd Unit DOP and B Camera Operator - Nina Wells
One day this will be unremarkable, but right now it looks like milestone. The South Pacific Pictures production in conjunction with Shaftesbury in Canada, drama series The Sounds recently completed shooting in Auckland with a 50/50 female and male camera crew.
There were no special favours. The camera crew was hired on talent, capability, work ethic, suitability and experience. When you do that, the only thing stopping a gender balanced crew is availability.
Director of Photography David Paul NZCS and 1st AC A Camera Daniela 'Nani' Conforte
Thanks, in part, to the efforts of NZCS and the Cushla Lewis Gender Diversity program, there were people like cinematographer Nina Wells ready to pick up the work. She will be credited as the 2nd Unit DOP and B Cam Operator – so far a rarity for Kiwi women, and was applauded for executing the job without missing a beat. What’s more congratulations are in order because Nina happens to be pregnant.
2nd Unit DOP and B Cam Operator Nina Wells with 1st AC B Camera Neal Wagstaff
Still, as an industry and a cinematography organisation we can’t sit back – even if day players occasionally pushed the female proportion on The Sounds crew to over half and half.
As an industry we need more female camera crew coming through, and camera crew mothers like Nina will need to know they will be welcomed back into the workforce where they left off.
1st AC B Camera Operator Neal Wagstaff
NZCS is working on that and with help and given time, a gender balanced camera crew will no longer be a milestone, it will be just another day on set.
Director of Photography David Paul NZCS and 1st AC A Camera Daniela "Nani" Conforte
THE SOUNDS - CAMERA CREW
Director of Photography - David Paul
2nd Unit DOP and B Camera Operator - Nina Wells
1st AC A Camera - Daniela "Nani" Conforte
1st AC B Camera - Neal Wagstaff
2nd AC A Camera - Jack Vincent
Camera Assistant - Laura Tait
Camera Assistant Laura Tait
2nd AC A Camera Jack Vincent
NZCS Cushla Lewis Gender Diversity Program Update
The NZCS is pleased to announce that another placement has been confirmed for the Cushla Lewis Gender Diversity Program.
In January, NZCS associate member Bailey Mitchinson will join the camera crew on the Jane Campion directed film “The Power of the Dog”, for a shoot in Auckland and the South Island.
The NZCS will subsidise five weeks remuneration on the shoot, and the production will cover another five weeks and out-of-town costs, to ensure continuity over the 10-week schedule.
Bailey will be mentored as camera trainee by the camera crew under 1st AC (B Cam), Ben Rowsell. Cinematographer Ari Wegner, ACS, has long been a campaigner to increase the numbers of women working in camera, lighting and grip departments. She is fully supportive of Bailey’s mentorship and anticipates a very diverse range of circumstances on the shoot.
This placement will almost exhaust the current funding for the program which has been supported by a grant from the NZ Film Commission. The feedback has all been very positive and we await news of future funding possibilities when 2020 budgets are finalised.
We are actively seeking other funding partners for this project as we wish to maintain the momentum and pursue our objective of opening up more opportunities for woman in the camera dept at all levels – to help increase their skill levels and move towards redressing the current gender imbalance.
Please contact me if you are a producer with an upcoming production that could support a mentorship. We are specifically looking at encouraging upcoming female cinematographers who are at the level of operating camera and/or shooting second unit.
NZCS Professional Development Manager
2019 has been a cracking year for the NZCS, and it’s been very satisfying to see many of our strategic ambitions up and running.
This was the year that the NZCS rebranded, building on the original design by Dale McCready that served us so well for the first 10 years, and with the help of designer Robin Charles from Lotech, designed a fresh look that will lead us into and through the next decade.
This was the year that the NZCS implemented the Cushla Lewis Gender Diversity Program that saw six female placements on significant productions throughout the country, including top end Productions The Luminaries, Sweet Tooth, Black Christmas and the upcoming Power of the Dog. It has been an important step for the NZCS to recognise the need to redress the gender balance within the Camera Department, and I am delighted that the Gender Diversity program has helped towards achieving that goal, resulting incidentally in a more than 200 percent increase in female members of the Society.
This achievement has been tempered by the unexpected loss of committee member and Gender Diversity instigator Cushla Lewis, who sadly passed away earlier in the year.
This was the year that the NZCS Awards shifted up a gear and into its new home at the Cordis Hotel. The standard of NZ Cinematographers keeps growing, and the Awards have grown with them. Big thanks to Amber Wakefield and Kelly Lucas for their sterling organisational work to get the awards up and running again with a minimum of fuss.
This was the year that the NZCS implemented its Professional Development program, after it was agreed that the focus of the NZCS should be firmly on our members and providing value for membership. Donny Duncan won the role of Professional Development Manager, and after some months of research and development, the year finished with our very first NZCS masterclass, a one day HDR workshop led by Ben Allan CSI ACS which proved very popular and most successful. We look forward to bringing you more masterclasses in the new year.
In addition to all those achievements the NZCS also hosted 16 evening events for our members, from underwater drone demonstrations to talks with legendary cinematographers like Russell Carpenter ASC, all with the aim of fostering knowledge and community within the NZ cinematographic scene and the wider industry.
Big thanks from me to our management committee who do a huge amount of voluntary work, our Executive Officer Amber Wakefield, a powerhouse of organisational skills and efficiency, and to our most excellent sponsors, without whose generosity and support we would not be in a position to provide this level of excellence to you.
I wish you all a loving and safe holiday season, and I hope that 2020 bestows us all with creative and financial prosperity.
Viewing test results in theatre at Dept of Post. Photo credit: Jess Charlton
After many months planning a strategy for our Masterclass program, the NZCS was pleased to facilitate an inaugural one-day session on HDR (High Dynamic Range) Grading, with guest cinematographer Ben Allan, ACS, CSI and colourist James Gardner from the Department of Post.
Despite a relatively short run-up time and a busy time of year, the attendance was robust at 20 – about the perfect size for the venues, and attendees comprised an interesting mix of cinematographers, colourists, post-production/editors, equipment suppliers, associate members and students.
It was a very inter-active morning session beginning with capturing Raw test footage on an ARRI Alexa in the Unitec film studio. Rather than shoot the standard test charts and static model, Ben devised a short drama scene where our model interacted in an existing set. Lighting suggestions were invited from our DP’s on the floor, so anyone had a chance to include an element that they wanted to see tested – ranging from over and underexposure areas, to the inclusion of various practical lighting sources like mobile phone and desk lamp, and a variety of colour hues. A Rosco Softdrop loaned by PLS was used outside the set window to simulate the Auckland cityscape.
Ben Allan ACS CSI lectures on HDR. Photo credit: Jess Charlton
The afternoon session began at The Department of Post with a slideshow and introduction to the HDR process by Ben and James. This resulted in a very lively debate with many questions from the floor.
Viewing the mornings’ footage in the grading theatre on an SDR and HDR monitor side-by-side, with James Gardner at the helm was a very instructive and entertaining session, and Ben Allan got to explain in detail, how a much greater range of brightness and shadow detail was possible in the HDR version displayed on the HDR monitor.
Ben Allan ACS CSI taking light readings in studio with model Jade Tannen
Maile Dougherty’s input as a post-production producer, recently working on the Netflix film “The King” in Sydney, also lent a most valuable perspective, and she had first-hand experience with some of the challenges of this relatively new technology.
The day concluded with socialising over refreshments, and the chance for participants to swap notes with old and new acquaintances.
Maile Dougherty shares experience on "The King" . Photo credit: Jess Charlton
A summary of some of the basic lessons learned over the day:
HDR (High Dynamic Range Video) is a new post-production standard that accommodates an extended brightness range offered by a new generation of HDR-capable domestic TV’s and professional monitors.
HDR video should not be confused with digital stills HDR (which refers to layered multiple images with different exposures) If you are shooting with a high end professional movie camera, you are probably already capturing HDR capable images.
Major international networks are now specifying delivery to HDR specs but there are at least four different standards in use, including Dolby Vision, HDR10, Technicolor HDR and HLG (for live broadcast applications)
The vast majority of viewers will still see your show in SDR (Standard Dynamic Range) so its very important to convince producers to budget in extra grading time for a “Trim Pass” to manually correct what will be automatically generated from the HDR master (and will not always be true to the original creative intentions)
James Gardner at Dept of Post. Photo credit: Jess Charlton
Feedback from some of the Masterclass participants:
“For me the biggest benefit was in being able to follow the whole process from lens to screen, and the input from the instructors as well as from the experienced professionals in the class was very valuable.”
“I’d been curious about the HDR process, and nits, amongst other aspects of the evolving technology involved with colour grading. Being able to sit in with a bunch of other curious members of our profession and get the low down with a variety of experts was very enlightening. I’m looking forward to the next masterclass. Pretty good value for money I reckon.”
“Great course, very well run - I walked away with a much better understanding of HDR . The price felt right too - very manageable, and everyone there was taking it seriously as only happens when you pay!“
“The one day format was excellent. It covered all the essentials a DP needs to be fluent in an HDR discussion with a producer and explained the tech very well”.
“I found it super interesting, was nice to have a course that was helpful in professional development & practical and not just a quick hands on look at new equipment”
“Interesting to see that HDR is not just "more" of what we already have, but a whole new can of worms”
“I finally got an understanding of what HDR is all about and where things are heading”
Camera crew shooting in Unitec studio. Photo credit: Jess Charlton
This Masterclass would not have been possible, without the generous help from the following sponsors in supplying equipment and resources:
- Metro Film for ARRI Alexa camera kit and Zeiss FF Supreme Prime lens set.
- ARRI Australia for contributing to travel and accomodation for Ben Allan ACS
- The Rebel Fleet for supplying DIT station and monitors
- Unitec Creative Industries for use of the studio
- Department of Post for supplying staff and facilities for the afternoon session
The NZCS plans to run a series of four masterclasses in 2020 and looks forward to collaborating with a variety of local sponsors. We will reboot another survey early next year to determine areas of majority interest for subsequent classes.
Thanks to the crew in the morning: 1st AC Ben Rowsell, 2nd AC Teresa Bradley, DIT Michael Urban, gaffer Adrian Greshoff, and model Jade Tannen.
Thanks to the following for helping publicise the event: Showtools, Film Crews, Crewlist, Directors and Editors Guild, Screen Guild and WIFT
~ Donny Duncan NZCS, Professional Development Manager
Ariel Camera LimitedCR Kennedy NZ Ltd
Māui Virtual Production Ltd
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