Any time someone asks me to be DP on a shoot with a Canon Cinema C300 I pretty much drop everything and acquiesce. Especially if that someone is my pal Paul Antico of Anticipate Media, who just happens to own one. Paul and I had been discussing doing another collaboration with his C300 after working together recently on the first Boston Under 3 Minute Film Challenge. We also wanted to shoot something that would showcase how beautifully the C300 performs in low light. We came up with “Wonder No More,” The story, written and directed by Paul, is about a young woman who basically gives her boyfriend (played by her real boyfriend Joe Cooke) an ultimatum via text while walking home after work one night in downtown Boston.
Then, through a volley of poetic texts, he leads her through the city to places that were special to them both. Using beautiful city nightscapes as our backdrop, this would be a great way to exhibit the dynamic range of the C300 and weave a short story into the “test.” We found local actress Heajee Leah Kim, who recently had a minor role in the Hollywood film “TED,” WARNING! (uncensored trailer) which was also shot in Boston.
With her black hair against the evening street lights, Heajee was perfect for this role because we could really try to pull out the detail in her hair in post while trying maintaining her fair complexion without blowing it out. We were lucky to have my CBS colleague and friend Aaron Strader with us to assist as lighting director using my two small battery operated Switronix Torch LED BOLT lights. During this shoot we only used the LEDs to fill any shadows in Heajee’s face or to highlight her hair, keeping the BOLTs dialed way down to match the intensity of the city lights.
There were two scenes where we used the lights to accent on master wide shots as seen below. In the opening master shot you can see them cross lighting Heajee from the walls and in the wide shot of Heajee standing alone looking at the city skyline again we used the BOLTs, this time setting them on the ground.
One of my favorite shots in the film is the one below, which was shot wide open at f2.8 using the Canon 17-55mm IS lens. You can still see enough detail to make out the Zakim Bridge in the bokeh behind Heajee’s face.
For this shoot Paul wanted me to give it a handheld look. I’m a big advocate of the monopod vs handheld unless there’s constant moving around and bending down. I like the look of a monopod because you can get a slow fluid movement while stationary, but at the same time it takes that shake out of the shot. And I was able to pull off my favorite trick: collapsing the monopod leg and using it as a counterbalance which can add somewhat of a glidecam feel to a shot. Of course this will only work with light cameras like the C300 or DSLRs.
This was a real run and gun style shoot. Guerilla shooting at it’s best. Completely portable. When we hailed a cab for a driving shot, we asked the cabbie to just take us around the block so I could get a few images moving through the city.
The C300 form factor is so small and light, I was able to hang out the taxi window to capture this cool steady driving shot without holding up a taxi applying suction mounts for camera support. I’ve actually done this trick many times with a very heavy Sony XDCam 700, which balances nicely in one hand as long as you hold the handle tight and don’t drop it!
Another one of my favorite shots was the one of Tony from the North End smoking as Heajee strolls by. Actually I must give credit to Aaron for seeing this wonderful scene as my eyes were buried in the C300 EVF. Using my gift of gab to get Tony and the boys to play along… I was able to recreate the street scene and inject a slice of life Italian style into our film.
This exercise in storytelling by night light was not only lots of fun to shoot, it was also a learning experience for me with the C300 in seeing just how far I could push its limits, and also to see how far I could push Heajee’s limits walking around the cobblestone streets of Boston in heels.
Starring the beautiful Heajee Leah Kim and her real boyfriend Joe Cooke.
Written, Directed, Edited, and Co-Produced by Paul Antico
Cinematography and Co-Produced by Rick Macomber
Production and Lighting Assistant: Aaron Strader
Sound Design by Paul Antico
Music: Waiting for the Ice to Melt by Sarah Schachner (on Vimeo’s Music Store)
Voice of Joe’s Text Messages: Paul Antico
Filmed in Boston MA one late summer night in August, 2012.
Special thanks to Switronix.