It all began innocently enough as a 3 hour test shoot using Canon’s new Cinema EOS C300 digital cinema camera. Boston Creative Pro User Group (BOSCPUG) Founder/Producer and buddy Dan Berube received a C300 loaner on short notice from Canon to carry with him so he could have it on hand at the San Francisco SuperMeet which Dan produces. Realizing the opportunity, Dan dialed up Boston based cinematographers Chris Loughran, Ben Eckstein and myself to see if we were interested in collaborating on an impromptu shoot for BOSCPUG with Dan and his brother, cinematographer Donald Berube. Working together collaboratively has been something Dan had been talking about doing and this seemed like the perfect opportunity for a BOSCPUG collaboration. Michael Murie from Notes On Video was also invited to do a BTS on the shoot.
Dan pulled it together rather quickly. We gave a shout out to my friend Baylee Ricci who does some acting to see if she would be willing to model for the shoot. Then Dan called Felt Boston, a popular bar and pool hall located next to The Paramount Center at Emerson College in Boston to arrange the utilization of their space. They agreed. Suddenly with very little planning we were on the set of what would become the BOSCPUG collaborative short “Hustle.” At the time, however, we had no title for the film. Film? It was just a camera test! Nor did we actually have a story! We had a few lights, a Kessler Crane Lite, a Kessler Pocket Dolly – even a Glidecam.
Don and Dan Berube had just been trained on the C300 at Canon and were already familiar with shooting with the camera. Don set up the C300 and its C-Log camera profile for filming and we were ready to go . We lit the set and started shooting establishing shots of Baylee at the pool tables with a few guys who came along to assist. Ben Ekstein brought along a big Panasonic 17″ LCD monitor, an Arri 1K with a Chimera soft box, an Arri 650 and a couple of 300 fresnels. Chris Loughran added his Glidecam, Dan and Don had a nice assortment of Canon “L” Series lenses: 16mm – 35mm, 50mm, 85mm, 70 – 200mm IS and some smalI LED lights. Dan also arranged with LensProToGo to provide two additional “L” Series lenses, a 14mm and 35mm, of which LensProToGo provided great service. I brought the Kessler Pocket Dolly and the Kessler Crane Lite (thanks to Mike Sutton and Kessler Crane).
Chris, Ben and I took turns setting up various shots. Don was invaluable working with us by showing us where all the buttons were located and the easiest way to change ISO and f stops. After about an hour the C300 became very easy to operate. Ben got some really smooth slider shots on the Kessler Pocket Dolly. Towards the end of the shoot Don and I set up the Kessler Crane and shot the crane moves and Chris rocked his Glidecam around Baylee and the pool table at which she was “hustling.”
Our time to shoot at Felt Boston was limited, so in order to save time we disconnected Ben’s 17 inch monitor so we could be more mobile. But we didn’t notice an orange ac power cord between the tables during one of the high shots with the crane. That cord was later removed in post by Autodesk Smoke artist Tim Montgomery and the film was then graded by DiVinci Resolve Colorist Rob Bessette at Finish Post of Boston. See what both Tim and Rob did here.
Dan originally wanted this camera test to develop into a story, but because of the short notice in receiving the C300 loaner and the limited time we had to shoot at Felt Boston, the best we could do was to film these various scenes. It wasn’t until the shoot was nearing the end and I was taking a quick bathroom break…
when I had an “epissany” in the stall. I suddenly remembered the Scorsese film “The Color of Money” and decided right there in the men’s room that Baylee could become the pool hall hustler, beating all the guys for money at the end of the film. I ran back upstairs, threw the idea at Dan, who okayed and we immediately started shooting closeups of sinking balls in all the pockets, mostly handheld because the clock was ticking. Then we did a few more closeups of money changing hands.
Then Chris mounted the C300 to the Glidecam for a couple of interior shots of Baylee at the tables. We then moved outside of Felt where Chris followed Baylee with the Glidecam as she strolled down the rain soaked street past the Paramount Center with a knowing smile. Those became the closing shots of the film.
Our time was up at Felt that night so we wrapped. Dan was flying out to the San Francisco to produce the San Francisco SuperMeet so he asked Chris to piece together a rough cut while he was away. Dan imported the C300 footage into Final Cut Pro and handed both the project and the footage on a hard drive to Chris.
When Dan returned from the SuperMeet he really took the reins on the edit to build what is now the story of “Hustle.” Dan found a good outtake of Pablo, the actor with the long hair, in which he seems disgusted and walks out after realizing he’d been hustled by Baylee, which further developed his character. “Hustle” was finally starting to take shape. But after Dan worked towards a final cut, we thought “Hustle” still needed a few more pickup shots to really make it cohesive. Dan felt that it needed an establishing shot of Baylee walking into Felt Boston right after the opening crane shot of the Paramount Theater to make it clear to the viewer that Balyee was in fact going into Felt and not the Paramount. In addition, we wanted to get a nice overhead closeup of pool balls breaking to be inserted with a smash cut edit so we could bring the viewer inside Felt; a closeup shot of Pablo’s hand slamming money on the table right before he walks away; a closeup of Baylee’s grinning face after she sinks a ball to seal the deal that she was in fact the hustler; and finally, we needed to re-shoot the opening crane shot of the theater marquee with the C300 (I had shot the original scene myself one night with my 60D on spec). So Dan booked Felt Boston again for a quick shoot to get 6 more shots that would be added to Dan’s final cut. Both Dan, Don and Baylee met me outside Felt where we wasted no time. The 6 pickup shots were as follows:
1. @ :00 Don and I set up the Kessler Crane for the new C300 crane shot of the Paramount marquee
2. @ :08 Baylee walking into Felt Boston. Here we had to wet down the sidewalk with buckets of water to match the rain soaked street from the first shoot.
3. @ :18 closeup of the stick on the cue ball
4. @ :20 overhead crane shot of balls breaking for the smash cut
5. @ 1:46 closeup of Pablo’s hand slamming $50 bills onto the table (we actually used Dan’s hand for the shot)
6. @ 2:00 closeup of Baylee’s winning smiling
Now we needed a soundtrack. We were looking for a real raunchy jukebox sound. We used Led Zeppelin’s “When the Levee Breaks” as a proxy for Dan to edit to because of the nasty harmonica and of course Plant’s searing vocals. But because of copyright issues we knew we would have to replace it for the final BOSCPUG short. Chris offered to help record an original track since he’s is no slouch on guitar (he’s actually scored some stuff himself including the open to this TV show “The Vanity Project” on which he was also the DP).
And I have been known to grab a guitar and blow a few blues riffs on the harmonica now and then. So we all decided that Chris and I could create our own soundtrack that would somewhat resemble an instrumental similar to Levee Breaks, but instead of doing a cover of the tune… we would make it our own. So Dan, Chris and I got together for a fun day of recording this original soundtrack. We rocked out on a couple of guitar tracks, some keyboards and blues harmonica using Logic Pro. Dan also brought “Hustle” to Soundtrack Studios where Brian McKeever did an excellent job on adding all of the foley you hear in the short.
There you have it. That’s the skinny on how a short test with the C300 became “HUSTLE.” It was a great experience collaborating with some very talented folks from BOSCPUG and within the city of Boston. The good news is… there’s already more collaboration in the works.
Check out Rob Bessette’s excellent work as a Colorist (Rob graded “Hustle”) with before and after shots here.
Scott Simmons has just posted more insight into the making of “Hustle” with “The C300 short Hustle and some before and after images” over at ProVideoCoalition.com
Check out Michael Murie’s cool “Hustle” BTS shoot from Notes On Video
Special thanks to Mike Sutton and Kessler Crane for use of the Kessler KC-Lite Crane and Pocket Dolly; and to LensProToGo for their great support; and to our “other” star of the short – FELT BOSTON
All footage was captured using Canon C-Log Gamma mode.
Lenses used were Canon “L” Series glass: 14mm, 35mm, 16-35mm, 50mm, 85mm, 70-200mm.
Glidecam 4000HD was used for stabilizer shots.
Kessler KC-Lite Crane was used for crane shots.
Kessler Pocket Dolly was used for dolly shots.
Edited in Final Cut Pro 7 just prior to Canon releasing their XF Plugin for Final Cut Pro X.
Graded in DaVinci Resolve by Rob Bessette at Finish Post to test the dynamics of the Canon C300′s XF codec, which held up beautifully with no issues through finishing.
Tim Montgomery of Finish Post used Smoke to remove an orange AC cable from three shots in the background and to show how well Canon’s C300 XF codec stood up in post.
Original music recorded in Logic Pro by Chris Loughran with Chris on guitars and keyboards and Rick Macomber on harmonica.
Foley for “HUSTLE” by Soundtrack Studios
Still photography by Don Berube and Rick Macomber
BOSCPUG. Be a Part of It. boscpug.org
SPECIAL THANKS TO:
Baylee Ricci: facebook.com/pages/Baylee-Ricci/186673944729344
Canon USA: cinemaeos.usa.canon.com
FELT BOSTON: feltboston.com
Finish Boston: finishedit.com
Soundtrack Studios: soundtrackgroup.com
Rick Macomber: macomberproductions.com
Ben Eckstein: benjamineckstein.com
Chris Loughran: chrisloughran.tumblr.com
Donald Bérubé: donaldberube.mobi
Rob Bessette: finishedit.com
Brian McKeever: soundtrackgroup.com
Tim Montgomery: finishedit.com
Michael Sutton: twitter.com/#!/MNS1974
Kessler Crane: kesslercrane.com
Blackmagic Design: blackmagic-design.com