In my earlier post, I talked about how I just got back from working on a feature film shoot in China, called “Little Sister”.
Well the film is finished and is premiering at the Toronto Film Festival. So if you’re in town in September go check it out! Unfortunately, I’ll be out of the country in south east asia for some shooting and documentary research.
Let me provide a recap to my involvement in the film.
The “Little Sister” production rented my camera as the “B cam” and I was going along for camera support and to help shoot VFX plates for the production. For 3 months (57 shooting days) the production traveled from 5 different remote villages through out south west China and finishing just outside Beijing. It was an intense shoot.
When I arrived, I quickly learned that the VFX shooter I was to work under had a scheduling conflict. The director, Richard Bowen, quickly put me “in charge” of acquiring all the VFX shots. I can remember Richard handing me a backpack full of camera gear saying, “I’m sure you’ll figure it out.”
So for the first half of the production I was on set following the shooting and taking copious notes for all the shots that needed VFX background plates. I measured, recorded tilt, lens, aperture and focus data in my camera log. All the while I helped support the two RED cameras and data backups on the shoot with my crew, Samuel Lam, Max Chan and Megan Olinger.
Then about 40 days into the shoot I would ship off to a remote location in the Baoshan Mountains 8,000 feet above sea level. Probably the most amazing village I’ve ever seen. My task here was to shoot the distinctive mountain range that would be inserted into the background of the various scenes. We where effectively making five different villages look like one. The key aspect of that illusion would be our “hero” mountain range.
For 10 days I would get up before sunrise, throw on a 40 pound pack filled with camera gear and hike up 500 vertical feet up the mountain and shoot. Then with some planning I would hike down the mountain and hit various spots along the village and river to cover the various background shots needed. I would hike one thousand vertical feet every day, up and down stone stairs, along steep farm tiers and irrigation channels to find the perfect shots.
During the heat of the day (and it was HOT) I would huddle up inside my shady guest room and test my shots by comping the shots I had taken that day with footage from the shoot using Motion and or After Effects. Weather, sun angle and camera angle where all important factors in trying to get the shots to match. Hiking back to the same place 3 or 4 times wasn’t out of the question – just to get the shot I needed.
All and all it was an amazing adventure.
To end, here are some of my photos (and a select group of other crew photos) from the shoot: