This film was a challenge from the word "GO"........there was only a small window of time where both main artistes were available, JUST 25 DAYS.
I had heard that "The Dallas buyers club" had been shot in 28 days so I knew it could be done with the right scheduling and planning. So we set out to make it happen.
I knew there was going to be very little time for fancy lighting. I would have to use natural light most of the time and tickle a bit of my own light in here and there.
Firstly, I worked closely with David Bryan the production designer. We planned for the interior sets to have plenty of suitable practical lighting so the room interiors were virtually pre-lit. This enabled me to use very little additional lighting. It also gave us full flexibility on camera to shoot 360 degrees, without having to waste any time re-lighting.
We could have had a truck load of lighting, dollys and cranes but we would not have had the time to use any of them.
The photography was done in an observational style. Some scenes were so powerful you just had to let it all unfold infront of camera and gently flow with it.
I found it emotional working with Tom Ray and the main cast all on set at the same time:
It's a true story with real people. There they were, right in front of me helping to make some of the scenes possible, (like the climbing of the stairs sequence). They were taking themselves back to an intensely sensitive, painful, emotional, true event and having to re-enact it.
It must have also been difficult for Jo froggatt and Tom Riley but we all dived in and got the scene shot. It wasn't a nice place to be at times, reliving Tom and Nic's trauma.
Technically I come from a VFX background having worked in a special VFX studio in Soho and running an Arial Image Optical department.
When VFX where required Bill and I kept it as simple as possible. We always worked out the best approach on set for achieving the VFX without encumbering the performances of the actors. We shot multiple in camera passes so the post production team could remove Tom Riley's arms and legs seamlessly.
We needed lenses that would work in very low light. I decided to shoot with Canon K35 Ultra speed lenses and the Arri Alexa Mini. It was an amazing combination; light and flexible and very fast to use and setup.
Having internal camera ND's saved us hours on camera.
I found shooting and 2.39.1 aspect ratio in our interior locations, which were very small, a serious challenge. It was difficult to get a pleasing balanced framing, especially if someone was sitting at the table and someone was standing up. It was not dissimilar to shooting through a letter box in a very small room.
You had a choice...Who's head do I crop off ?! Working with a very easy going director like Bill, these problems were very quickly discussed and overcome. He was very helpful:
"Right, in this scene you are all standing up", in the next scene, "you are all sitting down"!
We could have shot in a studio and done wall removals to get that perfect camera angle but hey the film simply wouldn't have been shot in the time.
I think this achievement was exceptional - a full length feature film, shot in just 25 days.... with only 2 lenses and just 2 lights.
That was a true challenge !