100 Bloody Acres – Bloody Half Way

100 Bloody Acres...the half way point.....

So much for my notion of doing more regular updates on the progress of 100 Bloody Acres.

We’ve just gone past hump day, the halfway mark of the shoot.  I guess it’s all downhill from here !

After a blisteringly hot start to the shoot for our exteriors, we’ve spent the last week and a half shooting at the main location, the Morgan’s property in relatively mild weather.

Director’s Colin and Cameron always wanted to shoot the film in story order and we’ve pretty much been able to stick to that idea, with the exception of a few scenes.  Col and Cam originally conceived 100 Bloody Acres as a real time film that would play out continuously, like Hitchcock’s Rope.  By and large, the film still very much plays out this way, but it’s a challenge for visual consistency when you’re shooting outdoors over 5 weeks to make it look like the same two hour period in a single day.

Story wise, it’s meant to be a hot summers day, so lighting has been a challenge when the weather hasn’t turned out the same each day.  Day two of our shoot saw us shooting in completely overcast cloud and then finishing the same scene the next day on day three with full sun again.  The cemetery location where the kids break down was also located on a north/south road, and theres plenty of variation in the direction of the sun too !

I’ll have my work cut out for me in the grade, but considering the dramatic weather differences, I think we were able to stage the shots and shooting order to minimise the effects.  It’s funny how practical demands like this end up outweighing the pictorial or even photographic demands.  You end up shooting a scene in way way that address issues that aren’t purely about getting the best photographic outcome, but about matching what is already shot and meeting the schedule.

It will all become obvious....

Other than the clouds on day two though, we’ve had a very good run of sunshine for the other two weeks of exteriors we had.  And right on cue, as we began our first week of interiors in the shed location, the clouds came back.  I’m hoping that they’ll break when we go back to exteriors next week.  It’s also been a bit of a relief to have some cooler weather this week.  I wasn’t relishing shooting in high temperatures in a blacked out and enclosed tin shed !

We also had a day and half of shooting low loader for some crucial early scenes. Although always fiddly to get up and running, I love the freedom a low loader brings for shooting options.  I really struggled with windscreen glare during the middle of the day when looking through the front of the cabin.  I couldn’t easily cut the sun from overhead as it would have been so obvious in the shot.  There were lots of trees lining the road and their movement helps sell the sensation of movement.  Cutting the sun would have also meant cutting those lovely reflections.  In desperation, I tried using shade cloth, largely to great effect.  By rigging a frame with shade cloth above the cabin of the truck, it cut a lot of the glare (a polariser also helped) but it still let though enough of the environment so that it didn’t all of a sudden feel like a sim-travel shot.

As we were shooting on dusty roads too, we ended up having to get a water tanker to wet down the road for us to try and keep the dust to a minimum.

As well as being hot, the shoot has been one of the dirtiest I’ve been on.  The dust is talcum powder fine and gets into everything.  Luckily, we’ve been lucky with the gear so far and haven’t had any failings. I’m sure this is partially because of the regime of my focus puller Frank Hruby, loader Max Corkingdale and video split operator Jim Hare.  They’ve been religiously cleaning, spraying, dusting the gear, but the dust is incessantly relentless.

We had a couple of days of steadicam which were literally written into the big print of the script by Col and Cam, and I was lucky enough to have Matt Temple join us.  I had a great working relationship with Matt after working with him on the third series of Tangle and it was great to be able to have him with us.  Matt always embellishes the shot with something extra and has a great feel for drama.

For the first week, I didn’t even use a single light.  It was all bounce and negative.  Gaffer Richard Rees-Jones and his best boy Leigh Nemeth were kept busy with moving frames around for me.

Obviously I wasn’t giving them enough to do, because late on day 5 as the sun faded, richard offered to continue the sunshine with a 4K as the levels dropped away and we tried to finish a scene.  Easier said than done.  Just as the light was set and we were slating the shot, the light flicked off and word came up that the generator had caught fire !  Sounding way more dramatic that it was, it was the starter motor going up in smoke.  So I made it through the first week without using a single light !  It’s been fine ever since !

Writer / Directors, Cameron & Colin Cairnes

One thing Cam and Col have been doing is having weekly rushes screenings at their place on friday nights.  With most of the cast and crew sharing a drink, we’ve been able to watch the footage.  And it’s been great ! Many would be too wary or worried about screening rushes, and whilst there’s lot’s of holes, it’s so wonderful for everyone from cast to crew to be able to watch it and get a sense of where the film is going.

The last week has been shooting in the shed, where the majority of the horror parts of this horror comedy take place. Finally we get to do some lighting !  And I’ve really enjoyed creating a visually different look for the shed compare with the relative glare and brightness of the exteriors.

The shed is the processing shed of a real local potato farmer.  The art department have done a great job, embellishing what already existed.  Early in production, richard and I talked about using pracs as our main source of light.  During early testing, I managed to drag an Alexa to our location, just to see what the bones looked like.  Richard was kind enough to join me and we experimented with a few prac fluros and industrial china hats with 1k and 500w tungsten lamps.

I was so pleased we tested for this so early in the shoot, way before ordinary testing would happen in the last days before shooting when it’s too late to work in your requirements with the art department.

I ended up really liking the mix of cooler and warm white fluros in the background and tungsten overheads in foreground.  Using the tungsten for motivation, we then felt would easily use small fresnel lamps to line, edge and backlight the cast as they work their way through the set.  I’ve loved trying to light the cast in the shed from behind them. The Alexa is so sensitive, we could often just return a bit of an edge of prac from the front and that would be enough to keep their eyes alive.   The stupid thing is that I’ve rated the Alexa at 800 and most of the interiors have had a ND6 in !  So I’ve been lighting interiors with multiple small pracs and relatively low wattage fixtures, shooting between T4 and a half open T4 and I STILL needed an ND6 most of the time.

As they moved to nearer the walls, we have been supplementing with kino’s gelled to match the colour temp of the pracs in the BG.  With the camera set to 3200K,a daylight kino with half plus green or a tungsten kino did the job.

We’ve had some more complex stunts to do this week, and ColCam or CamCol as we’ve taken to calling them on set have been really up for doing everything in-camera effects wise.  As we’ve moved into the more complex story scenarios, that involve a lot of blood ending up on various characters, we’ve been trying to keep things moving along.  Inevitably it starts taking longer and longer to reset wardrobe and for stunts where more complex staging is taking place.

A one hour drive to and from set has turned from a bane to a plus, as we all travel together with 1st AD Brad Lanyon and get to talk about the day or the day to come.

Two weeks to go and it feels like we’re only just getting started !

About johnbrawley

Director Of Photography striving to create compelling images
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