I want to give you a little background on Fathers and Daughters. Gabriele Muccino is the director of this feature who is known for his work on Seven Pounds and The Pursuit of Happyness. I absolutely love those films. Gabriele is a visionary leader who is both decisive and thoughtful with subtle choices. I was very excited to be available for this project and to have the opportunity to collaborate with him.
Gabriele is a fan of the Steadicam and has used it in all of his movies. I wanted to show him the latest technology available in how to move the camera to see if it appealed, so I sent him a number of MoVI links, specifically Vincent Laforet’s Behind the Scenes as well as his MoVI movie. Gabriele wrote back to me, “Oh, my God. This is unbelievable.” We went on a mission to shoot the film, probably 80% of it, on the MoVI. This is something that has never been done before.
The Freefly System‘s MoVI is a tool that you use for these shots that are all in one, passing off the camera, and different gimmicks. I’m not into gimmicks. I choose a tool because it creates the right emotional connection for the movie and for the character.
Day 1 started with with a MoVI shot, pushing in on Amanda Seyfried, who plays the character Katie in our film. We pushed in on this character as she’s having sex in a bathroom at Columbia University.
We walked the MoVI, which is usually done in majestic mode, where the operator pans and tilts the camera with the use of his hands. As the operator tilts, you tilt the MoVI and it tilts; you pan the MoVI and it pans.
You can also do it with the RC remote control of pan and tilt.
We took it a step further and went to Hot Gears and had them code a system so the digital MoVI could talk to an analog Hot Gears. Hot Gears are these wheels that most operators are very accustomed to that pan and tilt. Instead of trying to do shots with wanky little RC controls, you’re able to do it with a set of professional wheels.
That’s how we did our first shot, and it was absolutely amazing. Everyone was on edge because it was a completely new system and really unique. I wasn’t sure how the director would react to the shot, but it was a wonderful experience and everything worked out very well.
For the next location, we moved to the Columbia University hallway. This is where Katie hooks up with a character named Evan and she ends up having sex with in the bathroom. The beauty of this location was that it had a monstrous hallway, and we chose the Canon C500, which has 12 stops of latitude. It doesn’t have 14.5 like an Arri Alexa.
I had to put large double nets outside the windows to take the background down so it didn’t blow out so much. There are four ways to take down the light level outside windows. The first is the double net.
It tends to defocus the background in a weird way, so you have to be careful with this technique. The second is hard gel, which is Neutral Density in big sheets of plexiglass, but these can be very expensive.
The third option is with soft gel, which requires a very patient person to apply it so it does not have wrinkles, like a car tint.
The double net is the most budget friendly and I had to accept what it did to the focus on the background.
The fourth approach, which is even more expensive, is to have enough lights to boost up the interior light so that it comes close to equaling the outside values. Since we were on a lower budget film, I was not able to bring in extra lights. You have to make compromises when you are shooting and this was one that I was willing to make. It was about Katie and her emotion, not worrying about a window looking too overexposed.
I was able to do this shot with the MoVI, all in majestic mode. We were able to operate this perfectly in a walk and talk, backpedaling down a hallway where the characters Evan and Katie got together. The light and the balance of the warm practicals coming down and hitting the sculptures in the hallway was their lighting, existing lighting.
What problems did we have to overcome? Day one we quickly realized the limitations of our Teradek Bolt 2000 HD wireless system.
I could not see a signal at the end of the hallway where the scene started and that was the most dodgy for exposure. It was a black hole that I did not have the money to light, so I was hoping Katie got out of there quickly and into the hallway where I did have money to light. It was so frustrating not to be able to see it, so I went mobile and had our video playback guy Doug Stanczak wire the Teradek Bolt to my Flanders CM250 OLED 24” monitor along with an Anton Bauer HCX. I went blasting down the hallway to handhold this monitor so that I could adjust the exposure and make sure it looked great. This was our work around, not sexy in any way and heavy, but these are the things you have to do in the moment. It is critical to be able to think on your feet and use common sense, as it will always show you the way.
I brought in this beautiful soft light from above that came through the skylights to illuminate their journey down the hallway.
How did I light it?
I wanted the hallway to feel neutral so that the statues felt warm. The actors start at a very warm stairwell and enter the main hallway walking side by side, lit from the Arri M40 lights coming through the crescent windows. Once the characters, Katie and Evan, land at the end of their journey they are cross lit by two Arri M18s hidden behind columns on Mombo Combo stands at 21’. This was the perfect edge light that separated them from the darker background. For fill, I added an M18 up into the ceiling (not on the diagram) to open up their dark side to camera.
Our final shot was an exterior shot. We have the MoVI in low mode and I ran in about ten miles an hour, through students, crisscrossing and walking around the campus and end in a rocking intro close-up.
How did I light it?
I wanted this to feel late afternoon. I set up one large 18K Fresnel light with Rosco 1/2 CTS gel. I used a 4 x 4 Floppy to separate each head so that we did not get multiple shadows. To enhance us seeing our actress Amanda early on in the confusion of all of our students walking back and forth across frame, I bounced an Arri M90 into a 4 x 4 Mirror Reflector with Rosco 1/2 CTS to feel like it was kicking off of a window that we do not see out of frame. This illuminated her in almost a spotlight kind of way. This was our intro shot of Amanda and I wanted it to feel different and special.
Copyright Info- Movie: Fathers and Daughters, Studio: Voltage Pictures, Director: Gabriele Muccino, Date: 2015