When i started this blog a few years ago, it was intended for ventilating my thoughts, feelings and adventures in filmmaking. It turned out that talking about what drives, enthuses or infuriates me is not all that easy. Sometimes even not allowed. For example, i’ve visited Iraq five times from 2007 through 2009. Each of them classified missions, with almost all material (footage&stills) part of a rigorous non-disclosure agreement; leaving me with nothing to show or tell. Another example is my work for the Dutch justice department (via a subcontractor) which can also not be discussed here.
Other projects, such as the documentary work for Steven Spielberg’s “Survivors of the Shoah” and – another example – the interviews i held with people in the last days of their lives, are both very private and sometimes copyrighted and owned by families or a foundation. Footage i shot in a coroner’s mortuary in England last october are absolutely indescribable, let alone publishable in any way…
So, this blog became a tech blog during 2008 discussing anything ranging from prosumer camera equipment, shooting workflows, picture styles to post-production and using DSLR cameras for professional productions. This changed a bit during 2009, when i was asked to do the camerawork for a short movie (“Free Fall”) for the Dutch Aids Fund, that was shot using a Sony EX1 camera plus a DOF adapter. I spent ages experimenting with the camera’s settings and different DOF adapters and lenses. Nevertheless did i spent a lot of time (and money…) on this short movie that year. We did the postproduction mainly in 2010 and the movie was released to film festivals in march 2010. When my mother died in may that year, i realised that she’d never seen “my” movie, simply because i didn’t know that she didn’t have a DVD player. She probably spent some time trying to put it in her CD player, or stuffing it in the VHS. Dear old mom.She was 83 and had enough of life. I am fortunate to have shot a three hour interview with her, taken in december 2009.
During 2009 and 2010 my team and i were hit by the worldwide recession in many different ways, resulting in a temporary breakup of the “fellowship” – trying to make a living in the film business or beyond. For me that meant partly doing multimedia productions and programming for websites and press publications. I’ve done some experimental filming with different cameras and i had a few camera jobs. Not all that exciting to blog about… Using the Panasonic GH2 in combination with the Atomos Ninja recorder and creating the shooting conditions and workflow for low-budget indie film production are getting on really well, thanks to the cooperation of Panasonic Netherlands.
We (Marvels Film = Patrick, Karel, Aukje, Denise, Bas, Martin) organised a great after-party for our short movie early this year (2011) and released the short into the public domain through YouTube (watch here).
But, the beast has awoken (again)… 😉
I’ve started to work on a script for a feature film in january and Patrick and i are working hard to turn it into a white-version screenplay (script) as we speak. We’re also casting at the moment and planning test shoots and auditions sometime during may. We are hoping to get the initial funding to shoot 3/4 of the script (omitting expensive scenes – those to be shot abroad and star cameo appearance) and then cut a teaser to assist the further fundraising.
The story has the Italian working title “i miei geni” (my genes) and tells the true story of a young woman in search of her biological father. As a kid, her desire to know who her father is, is constantly hampered and sabotaged by an abusive and violent mother. After a final confrontation and great row, she leaves home at the age of eighteen to go on a quest to find her father – alone. She has only a few leads that lead her to Italy via France, where some “complications” distract her from her route, resulting in arriving to late to meet her real father, who has died and been buried at an Italian small-town graveyard just days before her arrival. No spoiler here, because this is not yet the (surprising) end of the story! And i refuse to reveal more… 😉
There is one part, just one or two scenes for a specific character, that plays in France. For that role (can’t get into detail now), we are currently speaking with the agent of Jean Reno. Mr. Reno would be perfect for that character. This is not an easy route, promises to be expensive, but would be a great “cameo”. Also a great name to have for the movie, and it will help the further fundraising. Jean Reno is my favorite actor!
For other important characters, we’re having talks with the agents of Dutch actors, AND we have casted our main character.
As with our last little movie, there will be a dedicated website and weblog for this new movie – so more news and details to come…
We are hoping to start shooting this year. We are also hoping for camera sponsorship, from either Sony or Panasonic, in order to achieve filming this picture using one of their top-range ProSumer camera’s (e.g. Panny AF101, or Sony F3) – that’d be an exciting and prestigious operation – not only for us, but also for the camera’s manufacturer. The movie’s target is international film festivals and cinema release. It’d be an affordable alternative for the Red camera rental we had initially in mind and give us some more budget headroom for renting better (the best) actors. We have even looked into using several Panasonic GH2 DSLRs for the job, but i’m still not confident of it’s performance, although this magic little camera delivers beautiful footage when it’s output is recorded with a digital recorder such as the Atomos Ninja or the Convergent Design NanoFlash. It still has one F-stop less dynamic range than the AF101 and even less compared to the F3.
Woops, almost got stuck into technical issues again there! But the tech stuff is an important part of my work. I use to film on traditional film stock for over 20 years, not worrying much about technical camera issues.
The camera did the click-click-click thing or not. A light meter, a few filters, a battery, and a strong back was what we needed. Black&white video assist and having to watch the dailies tomorrow to discover that doghair in the gate, in all shots… Great times? I don’t think so. Unpractical, unaffordable and hopelessly outdated. I love the new challenges, i love the digital workflow, and i love making beautiful images.I love tinkering with cameras and stuff, but i always try to find a balance between dealing with the technique and shooting a beautiful image, that might even be less perfect out of a pure technical viewpoint. To cut a long story short: i have seen terrible, horrible stuff shot with Red cameras and the absolute opposite coming from sub-1ok$ cameras. It’s the hand that operates the gear, and i have to admit that i’m sometimes jealous of the images people are able to squeeze out of their little budget cameras. Not giving a sh*t about megapixels, dynamic range, picture detail and lens specs seems to be the main ingredient, go for the looks! I’m trying to find the middle of the road… I have to care about film-out and how footage “performs” on the big screen.
Tough decisions have to be made, having a lot to do with budget for renting equipment and production expenses, but also with the number of people involved on the set – cast and crew. Talking with agents and distributors. With suspect sponsors and sponsorship brokers…
I’ll keep you informed! Follow my tweets: @martinbeek
This leaves me cursing you with this old Chinese curse: May you live in interesting times!