CocoRosie – Child Bride

When Emma Freeman asked me to be a part of the CocoRosie music clip “Child Bride” she sent me the image below as a reference.

It was a simple wedding photo. A girl sitting next to her husband on her wedding day.

Child Bride

It was the first time I’d been exposed to the practise of girls marrying so young. According to Girls Not Brides, every year 14 million girls under 18 are married and one in seven girls in the developing world are married before they turn 15, some as young as 8 or 9.

Many are not emotionally or physically ready to become wives and mothers. Despite often citing cultural reasons, it’s usually more likely to be for a dowry “price”. As wives, it also generally means these girls lose their access to any education and independence.

CocoRosie were inspired to write a song that dealt with the dark journey of a child bride.

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Emma wanted to create a dark and fable like imagining of a child brides journey. She didn’t want to make it culturally too specific as it’s practised in many countries and by many cultures.

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Talking to Emma, I realised that in fact she wanted something that was completely UN-Australian in terms of it’s look, something would be more “European”. That meant trying to avoid the harsher Australian sun and typical Australian landscapes. Luckily she had found some amazing locations about 20 mins out of the small tourist town of Daylesford in rural Victoria.

The clip was shot over 2 days with a very tiny and dedicated crew. We were actually very lucky with the weather. We were hoping for overcast conditions to keep the low contrast non-australian look going. Our first location was Lake Daylesford itself, a very “english” looking lake where we set up a tiny rowboat with our “groom” played by Jasper Begg and child bride to row across.

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Using the RED EPIC and the Canon 30-300 supplied by Inspiration studios I was able to pick off a number of shots as our groom attempted to row across the lake ! We shot 5k WS on the RED using Redcode 7:1 . I knew we’d also be doing a lot of handheld and I love the RED EPIC for it’s really small form factor and higher frame rates compared with say an Alexa.

I was able to *just* get into the rowboat along with the groom and our bride. Apparently the boat was sitting very low in the water ! I was able to shoot some terrific sequences of the groom rowing and our bride taking this journey to her new home.

The RED EPIC is very flexible in that it can very easily be converted down into a smaller form factor and putting on small primes like the Zeiss Superspeed CP2′s You can make it ultra compact. So with the 50mm CP2 Superspeed fitted and the frame rate dialled up to 100FPS, I went for a row on the lake. Quite tricky in the confines of the tiny row boat that had been dressed by designer Tim Burgin.

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Emma had also found an amazing non-native pine tree forest on a steep hill. At least one of the good reasons for shooting in winter is that the sun sits so much lower in the sky. Emma wanted to shoot some more travelling sequences where our groom was moving through this fable like landscape taking his bride home and we shot some lovely handheld sequences on the steep slopes of this pine forest mountain.

We also had to create the images for an imagined sequence where our bride has arrived at her new home and is imagining escape. Again the heavens were kind to us and we had a sudden burst of sunshine. Letting down her hair we set her running through the forest and got some lovely shots. Also done very simply, just hand held at 100FPS.

Lighting was very simple for this setup. I used a 6×6 Ultrabounce outside the window and added two of the amazing CreamSource lamps to it. With the lace of the curtain that was already dressed into the frame, I had a lovely soft ambience for the room.

Nearby we had a field of grass which would be an imagined place of escape, where she again would enjoy the sun on her face and the wind on her hair. Once again the good karma of this job meant that the weather was great. We had a small burst of sunshine that was perfect for our idealised and imagined escape.

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The second day was based around an amazing interior that Emma had found. The building was actually built in the 1860′s and had been in the same family continuously. It hadn’t been lived in since the 1900′s and I happened to open a box inside that was filled with newspapers from 1933 !

With some simple dressing it became the home of our child bride and her parents. We shot a very moving sequence where her mother prepares her for marriage on her wedding day. She’s being bathed, having her hair brushed and braided, her red wedding gown being put on.

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Director Emma Freeman flanked by Emman Debattista and John Ibrahim

Emma had always planned to shoot our young bride, the amazing 8 tear old Imogen Verocchi lip syncing and singing the song, but because she was so young, we weren’t expecting that she would be up for it. We tried a couple of takes and she was struggling a little, but on the third take with a little coaching from Emma, she suddenly totally rose to the occasion.

She sang it with defiance and a knowing that had me and my focus puller in tears as she sang. That one single take is what it’s in the clip now and is one of the most special and amazing shots I’ve ever been a part of.

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The final sequence of the day was the wedding itself. Shot near dusk at a nearby exterior we had a short amount of time and some great extras to make up the wedding party.

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Post was relatively simple with the awesome Blue Post providing an initial transcode and final delivery. The final grade was done by Annelie Annelie Chapple at Blue Post Sydney using Resolve.

I’m so proud of this clip and for being given the chance to contribute to growing awareness of this important issue.

Special thanks to my crew including the fantastic focus puller Grant Sweetnam, Gaffer Adam Hunter, grip Mark “Magic” Hanneysee and data wrangler Tim Burgin

Direct link is here

Director, Producer & Editor: Emma Freeman
Producers: Leanne Tonkes, David Leadbetter
Cinematographer: John Brawley
Production Design: Tim Burgin
Stylist: John Ibrahim
Costume Design: Emman Debattista
Make Up & Hair Stylist: Claire Leighton
Camera Assistant: Grant Sweetnam
Data Wrangler: Ben McCullough
Gaffer: Adam Hunt
Grip: Mark Hanneysee
Art Department Assistant: Alisa Luxford
Director’s Assistant: Jackie Fazekas
Production Assistant: Oliver Tummel
Colorist: Annelie Chapple
On-line Editor: Jo Spillane
Post-Production: Blue Post
Visual Effects: Scott Zero
CAST
Child Bride: Imogen Verrocchi
Husband: Jasper Baggs
Mother: Alice Chaston
Father: George Zachs
Ceremony: Russell Petherbridge, Joan Mackenzie
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Lighting was simple.  Acouple of cream source lamps into a 6x6 Ultrabounce for the Bride's house

Lighting was simple. Acouple of cream source lamps into a 6×6 Ultrabounce for the Bride’s house

Director Emma Freeman

Director Emma Freeman

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About johnbrawley

Director Of Photography striving to create compelling images
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9 Responses to CocoRosie – Child Bride

  1. jake.carvey says:

    Wow, john. Great work as always – that piece is insanely haunting. Great work from Imogen and the supporting actors. It truly brings chills. Love those crushed blacks, providing deep contrast to the gripping skin tones. So many skin textures and color variations across the characters, peeking out to find whatever light finds them.

  2. Ron Coker says:

    Beautiful cinema-photography. Well done.

  3. David says:

    Hi John – a lovely clip – congratulations. Those buildings are brilliant – what a find!
    I had no idea child marriage was so prevalent even in modernising countries like India (assuming the stats are accurate). However, you implied it happens in Australia because it is on the ‘where does it happen’ list. All countries appear on the list only to offer the viewer the chance to click on the link to get the stats for that country. If you click on the ‘Australia’ link to get the statistics you will find there are no statistics for Australia, just like many of the other western countries, presumably because it doesn’t happen to any measurable degree here – at least not formal/legal marriage anyway. The map on the ‘Girls not brides where does it happen’ web page shows at a glance where it does happen.
    Otherwise thank you for promoting a good cause.
    Regards, David.

  4. riccardocovino says:

    amazing and touching clip.
    one of the best things I’ve seen lately.
    That’s what art, technology and talent should be used for, thanks John for sharing this little pearl.

  5. Haunting! It brought tears to my eyes. Absolutely marvelous performances and images. It made my weekend and more reinforces my dream of becoming a DP.

  6. Beautiful work, though as far as India and the Middle East is concerned it is slightly inaccurate in its portrayal of the process.

    ‘Child’ marriages usually happen in two cases:

    Both girl and boy have not reached puberty and/or their legal age – (India leads here)
    Girl hasn’t reached a legal age but has attained puberty – (Many countries – even ‘developed’ countries)

    The video shows a small kid with a grown man, that is very rare.

  7. Lovely photographer and passionate write-up, as always, John. Touching video; haunting, really. I can see why you would cry on the day. I haven’t been moved to tears yet due to an outstanding performance, but I’m looking forward to it. Also: those Creamsource LED lamps look rather enticing. Maybe you can help me out: I’m wondering if those are the Doppios with spot lenses. I appreciate the information. Thanks so much!

  8. Natal says:

    Keep in minds that the definition of a “child” in many of those places is not necessarily the same as in Western countries. Most countries in the world have 16 as the age of consent, many are younger than that (14-15) and in some places it is even as young as 12. You are looking at the issue in a ethno-centric view as if your own culture is the only morally correct one (an attitude otherwise known as racism), but other cultures see things differently.

  9. NaturalWoman says:

    Beautiful clip, which truly does justice to this amazing song. I saw the song performed live last night: it made me cry. Cocorosie are such powerful artists and I salute them for tackling feminist issues

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