Friday, April 12, 2013

Bella Vista

"Bella Vista" is the name the Italians gave Missoula when they first came here. It means "beautiful view." This is the name of the feature film we have worked on for the past two weeks. I really wanted to blog as we worked on it, but there was no time left in our days. We shot 37 locations in Montana during a 12 day period.
"Bella Vista" is a feature length drama about culture shock. I (Jesse) was hired on as the 1st AC and Hannah worked as the Gaffer/Grip. We shot the film on Sony's new FS 700. I had never worked with this camera before, but it's pretty similar some of the other Sony models I've worked with. Alex Cuesta, the DP, wanted to shoot using old 35mm, prime Nikorr lenses. We also attached a follow focus, matte box, and monitor. Anders Bronnum worked as the 2nd AC, so we did all the techy camera stuff together and he ran the Slate. We also had Robert Bohannon shooting steadicam footage and "behind the scenes" on his RED Scarlet. Jeri Rafter and Brooke Swaney were our awesome producers. We had the pleasure of working with a great Art and Costume department: Max Kubisiak and Bonnie Kathleen Ryan. And the lead actor, Kathleen Wise, aka "Doris", was great on and off camera. But, no shoot could happen without great PAs, Taylor Lennox and Tommy Driscoll. We were really fortunate to have such fun, positive people to work with.

Vera Brunner-Sung, a professor of Media Arts at the UM, wrote the script and directed the shoot. This was her first feature film. Actually, I believe that this was the first feature film for a lot of the crew. There were some very experienced people, like our audio crew, Heidi and Troy from Digital Sorcery. These guys did an amazing job with audio, and we'd  highly recommend them for any film project. Natural sounds and good audio is really going to tie this film together.

We ran into just about every kind of weather, and the car we rented for one of the scenes broke down three times, but I think this was one of the smoother shoots I've been on. We had a great crew and all the pre-production and location scouting really paid off. Most of the shots were also locked down on a tripod, with actors on their marks, so the actual filming was really simple. It's a good change from filming wildlife. When the variable of animals are taken out of the equation, it's easier to make a successful production.

We did a shot outside the Freestone Climbing gym, which was really weird for us. It wasn't a location we chose and it kind of teased us because we had friends climbing inside. We cracked down and get the shots done, so the climbing will have to wait for another day.
We did another scene at a new Oula dance studio. Oula is a workout dance class. It was the end of the day, so we were exhausted, but the studio was full of woman bursting with energy. We must have done 5 or 6 takes of the same song and routine, but they kept up their pizazz and enthusiasm. I don't think I've ever seen people so expressive and energetic with every move.

I think the film is going to turn out great and we had an awesome experience working with everyone. Vera is predicting post production to last into the fall, so maybe expect to see some type of cut by October/November.


Thursday, April 4, 2013

Big Deer, MT

I just got back from filming a coyote hunt out in Eastern Montana. The show is called "Big Deer." Word to the wise - Don't shoot coyotes out of the car! This is what happens.  If you look through the scope, but don't see where the barrel is pointed, you might just shoot your mirror out.

I had about a nine hour drive to get out there and on the way realized that this is one of the first shows I've done in Montana. Crazy!!! I have to admit, it's awesome staying in Montana for a hunting show. Even though it was eastern Montana it was great terrain and good people. I always thought Eastern Montana was flat, but it still has some pretty gnarly terrain, and our guides hiked our butts off.
After about 10 minutes in our first location we had a coyote sneak up on us 50 yards away. They didn't wait for me to give them the "OK" to shoot and fired right away. I was lucky and got the camera on the coyote just in time. The rest of the trip we hiked all over the place looking for coyotes and saw several, but they were either too far away or the guides missed the shot. We did have good weather and it was great getting out and hiking the Montana mountains.

I filmed most of the show on the Canon 5d Mark II, which worked out really well. I also lugged around a sony camera with a long lens for filming the coyotes. It was tough moving the audio gear back and forth between the cameras, so I just ended up running both cameras most of the time. That way I had great audio on at least one of the cameras.
The last day we finally had another coyote encounter. It made for a really long day because we were up at 4:30am, hunted until around 1pm, and then I had a nine hour drive back to Missoula. I got back just in time for another shoot to start at eight in the morning.

The next shoot is a feature film called "Bella Vista". It should be a good change from hunting shows and most of it is shot in Missoula : )