One of the more ambitious films I’ve ever worked on, is the short film The Ravens.
For anyone interested in following this project you should head over to their facebook page or their blog. They’ve been very open about their filmmaking process and it’s a great behind the scenes look at us making this special film.
The Ravens is a film about PTSD. It’s a very personal film for writer director Jennifer Perrott who grew up in a defence force community at Jervis Bay on the NSW South Coast.
The Ravens is about a soldier struggling to return to a normal family life after service in an unamed foreign theatre of conflict. Told through the eyes of his young daughter trying to come to terms with her fathers increasingly erratic behaviour, this story looks at the challenges facing returning service personnel coping with trauma and the effects on their families, using the daughters own struggle with a pair of nesting Ravens that menace her on her daily walk to school.
I hadn’t had much experience with PTSD before The Ravens or even understanding what it was, but I was shocked to learn that more soldiers have died from suicide in recent conflicts than have actually died in combat.
When we first started discussing the film we kicked around the idea of shooting on film but I kind of didn’t think to take it too seriously. For starters it’s expensive, but there was a bigger problem. There wasn’t even a lab where we could get our film processed !
In April of 2013 with little notice, Deluxe had closed their doors and the last film processing lab in Australia had closed. Shortly after, Park Road, Peter Jackson’s lab in NZ also closed their doors leaving only Technicolor in Thailand as the last remaining lab in the region, and they only do 35mm.
Shooting on film would mean that we’d have to send the film overseas just to get it processed.
But the more we talked about it, the more we liked the idea. PTSD is a highly traumatic condition and we wanted a way of really emotionally cutting to the core of what was happening with our characters. Being told primarily from a young girls point of view we wanted something that would be very subjective and experiential.
Jen had also not long returned to Australia from Europe where she’d worked a lot in the TVC world with 35mm and though we met working on season 4 of Offspring, she still felt very strongly about the emotional draw and cut through of shooting on celluloid rather than digital.
Several times we tried to talk ourselves out of shooting on film and we just ended up coming back to it. The film was self funded so there was a substantial cost, but because of the films subject matter, we were able to secure some totally amazing deals on the film stock itself from Kodak, and also it’s processing and transportation.
We reached out to several labs around the world and LA based Fotokem offered us a generous deal on processing and scanning to 4k via the Arriscanner. We would transfer the film to LA and then they’d send back a bunch of hard drives with our 4K rushes on it.
We also had a great sponsorship gift from Rapid Worldwide to get our film to LA from Sydney without being x-rayed ! We actually shipped our first days rushes from Sydney and had a neg report from Fotokem within 48 hours. Kind of amazing really !
We did have neg insurance on our 6 day shoot and we only sent the first days rushes as a precaution after already doing a steadytest and lens check on the camera.
Finally Panavison were exceptionally generous and gave us access to a heavily discounted top shelf camera package, the Millennium XL2 as well as some beautiful PVintage primes that I’d just finished using on Puberty Blues 2. It was a real joy to have access to that kind of lens and camera package and we certainly couldn’t have made the film without their generous support.
We also had occasion to use some Blackmagic cameras and I’m interested to see how they’re going to intercut with the film as well.
With the film now in post, please follow the film at the links I’ve put above, and I’ll be sure to post something more comprehensive about the shoot once it’s complete.