PRODUCTION THE DEEPEST BREATH
MURKY DEPTHS The team filmed recreations with pro freediver Alessia Zecchini to create cinematic underwater scenes. This, along with GoPro shots and archival footage, led to the seamless final edit “We often work with freedivers in our productions because, if you compare a diver and freediver, a diver is essentially handicapped in the water as they need air. Freediving is a much more aesthetic, natural way of interacting with the innovation, and it helped a lot,” says Fischer. “In underwater filming, when the water is challenging and not crystal clear – but you still want to have a lot of room for post-production in terms of sharpness and contrast – you have to pretend you’re far away, but actually have to be very close. The less water between the object and lens, the better. An undistorted 9-24mm lens helps a lot to get a little bit of extra information that you’d otherwise lose.” The underwater cinematographers also utilised GoPros, which helped to achieve a less-polished quality that blended well with the existing archival footage. Some action was captured by Fischer, who used scuba equipment, and some by filmmaker and record- breaking freediver Julie Gautier, who filmed sequences without the assistance of an oxygen tank. The blend of the two was pivotal, explains Fischer.
water and the surroundings, especially the wildlife. You don’t make any sound, which is a huge difference as you don’t scare the animals.” “In this case, neither Julie nor I would be able to serve the production well alone. We can only do it together, through the way we communicate in the water with signs and sounds. You can have great plans on the surface, but once you’re in the water everything changes completely,” he continues. In the above-water world, Cragg and his team shot on two RED Gemini 5Ks with 2x Cooke Anamorphic lenses; a Ronan for the moving shots, plus around 20 lights, with a combination of Aputure LEDs and an ARRI M18. “It was a decent documentary package that is a bit more cinematic,” he sums up. “Documentaries want to be cinematic now, so everything’s heavy and cumbersome. We had a very small team: just myself, first assistant, sound recordist, a couple of producers and we picked up a local runner. There was a lot of travelling with a lot of kit – you’re lugging around 30 cases. It’s not like shooting a drama, where that’s all taken care of. We almost had too much equipment for the number of people, yet you need that equipment in order to deliver a certain aesthetic. “It’s a fine balance,” he continues. “Do we go for lighter equipment and shoot it in a different way? No, because
Laura wanted it to feel epic. She knew that the quality on a lot of the archival footage wasn’t that great and was in different formats – so we wanted everything else to sit in this other, cinematic space with the anamorphic.” SWIMMING UPSTREAM Aside from getting the desired results with a minimal workforce, shooting presented several challenges, from power cuts to tricky light, not to mention the logistical problems caused by the pandemic and travel restrictions. The locations, as beautiful as they look on screen, brought issues of their own, too. “Both of the exterior locations, Dahab and Long Island, Bahamas, have brutal sun for most of the day. This looks awful, and we can’t always shift everything to that golden time of day,” states Cragg. “We also had to try and find locations to do all our interviews in these places, so we were looking at Airbnbs – it felt a bit hopeless. We had a very specific idea of the setting we wanted each character to be in, and we would set dress those places – they were all hired. If we’d been able to shoot everybody outside on the porch and have more lighting and control, and flag out the sun, it would have been absolutely beautiful, but we just didn’t have that sort of budget.” With the extreme risks posed by the sport (diver blackouts are frequent, as is
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