With the red carpets rolling out for awards season and the return of key industry events, celebration and innovation are in the air this month. Our February issue peeks under the bonnet of productions including The Boys in the Boat, Priscilla, Boat Story and American Fiction, plus we serve up a horror special, discover the latest innovations in LED lighting, reveal the top new gear to get your mitts on and lots more.
AMERICAN FICTION DOP CRISTINA DUNLAP ON CONQUERING TONAL SHIFTS
PRISCILLA COLOURIST & DOP ON BRINGING SOFIA COPPOLA’S VISION TO LIFE
BOAT STORY VFX SPOTLIGHT ON THE CULT SERIES
BTS secrets from Hammer Films, Scream & more inside! TURN TO PAGE 47
Cinematographer Martin Ruhe shares the inside story on lensing epic underdog saga The Boys in the Boat
Making Lessons in Chemistry New Gear Releases VP Lighting Buyers’ Guide Latest News & Events Expert Round Table Industry Trailblazers
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W ith the red carpets rolling out for awards season and the return of key industry events like BSC Expo, celebration and innovation are in the air this month – hopefully providing a fresh dose of inspiration for us all. Inside the issue, we’re peeking under the bonnet of productions including The Boys in the Boat , George Clooney’s latest directorial offering. Based on the true story of a university rowing team’s journey to the Olympics, the shooting of this stunning sports saga presented both challenges and triumphs, says DOP Martin Ruhe (page 12). We also take a trip to Graceland with cinematographer Philippe Le Sourd and colourist Damien Van Der Cruyssen, discovering how they created Priscilla ’s dreamlike aesthetic (page 38), as well as chatting to cinematographer Cristina Dunlap about tonal shifts and genre blurring in the acclaimed American Fiction . I got to indulge a fascination with the horror genre this month, too, chatting with the DOP on the last two Scream films, plus the creator of a new Mickey Mouse slasher film that’s been causing viral mayhem. Hammer Horror – one of the most iconic film brands to emerge from Britain – is also in the spotlight, as we find out more about the studio’s formidable legacy and recent resurrection, on page 52. On the gear side, there’s a round-up of the best new products and tech to get your mitts on, a chat about the latest LED evolutions, a look at lighting for virtual production, and a huge data round table to get stuck into as well. Enjoy the issue and see you next month!
Editor in chief
MEDIA PARTNERS & SUPPORTERS OF
ON THE COVER © MGM STUDIOS
18 TRAILBLAZERS Seven Black Women founder Winnie Imara talks about faith and tenacity 23 AMERICAN FICTION Cristina Dunlap shoots Cord Jefferson’s biting Hollywood satire 28 ROUND TABLE This issue’s discussion consults industry experts on all things data 52 HAMMER FILMS How the iconic British studio has risen from the grave with fresh scares SCREAM The long-standing Scream franchise kicks off this month’s horror special 48 What’s new in the biz, from Golden Globes to rumoured mergers 07 INDUSTRY BRIEFINGS DOP Martin Ruhe took to the water to capture this miraculous true story 12 THE BOYS IN THE BOAT
54 MICKEY’S MOUSE TRAP
62 BOAT STORY This six-part BBC thriller is a feat of narrative and visual ingenuity 66 GLOW UP We speak to Rosco to discover the latest bright idea in LEDs 69 TOOLKIT The top gear and tech releases you need to have on your radar 74 BUYERS’ GUIDE We give you the lowdown on lighting for virtual production Our friendly household mouse goes feral in a new slasher film
PRISCILLA How colour and composition capture life as a Presley 38
LESSONS IN CHEMISTRY The show’s DOP reveals his formula for taking this story from page to screen 58
A golden night for Oppenheimer & Succession H ollywood turned out for the Golden Globes at the Beverly Hilton Hotel
gong. Barbie , last year’s other cinematic behemoth, picked up the new award for box office achievement, which recognises high-grossing films. Scorsese’s Killers of the Flower Moon celebrated one win for Lily Gladstone as best actress, while The Holdovers scooped wins for best comedy actor Paul Giamatti and supporting actress Da’Vine Joy Randolph. FX’s The Bear also had a good night, securing best comedy series, best actor (Jeremy Allen White) and best actress (Ayo Edebiri). With the film categories usually a bellwether for the Oscars, the industry's eyes now turn to the Academy Awards on 10 March.
on 7 January, marking the event’s 81st outing and the start of awards season. The big winners of the evening were Oppenheimer – which picked up five Globes including best drama motion picture and director – and Succession , which took home best drama, actress (Sarah Snook), actor (Kieran Culkin) and supporting actor (Matthew Macfadyen), plus best drama series. Emma Stone vehicle Poor Things saw the star take home best actress, as well as picking up the best musical or comedy picture
A picture-perfect UK debut for CameraOne
C ameraOne has launched CameraOne UK, extending its cine, broadcast and pro equipment rental services to the British market – with offices in Surrey and central London. Timed with the resolution of the SAG-AFTRA strike and the resurgence of global productions in 2024, CameraOne UK introduces an array of cutting-edge cameras, lenses, accessories and specialised technical services. It also aims to be a collaborative hub for industry professionals, catering to diverse clientele from social media executives to seasoned film experts.
For more information, visit camera.one
AFC Micro Salon 2024 T he AFC Micro Salon show returns from 7-8 February at the Parc Floral de Paris. This unique event, set against the backdrop of the Production Forum, offers a dynamic platform for manufacturers, distributors, rental companies and service providers to connect. Attendees can expect insightful discussions about the tools shaping cinematographic images, fostering a collaborative and friendly environment. Don’t miss the opportunity to engage with industry experts and enthusiasts at this highly anticipated annual gathering.
SMPTE Power of Color Symposium S MPTE is set to make history with its Power of Color Symposium, taking place 6-7 February at Clark Atlanta University. Celebrating diversity during Black History Month, the two-day event will bring together industry luminaries, artists and technicians. From the significance of representation to revolutionary technical tools, discussions will explore the nuanced art and science of capturing skin tones, hair textures and hues. SMPTE, renowned for its colour bars, now aims to elevate the standards of equitable and inclusive visual representation globally. Through dynamic panel discussions and workshops, the event empowers creatives and technologists to reshape the narrative and foster meaningful connections.
HPA Tech Retreat 2024 T he Hollywood Professional Association (HPA) has revealed the agenda for its 29th Tech Retreat, taking place on 18-22 February in Palm Springs, California. Delving into the cutting edge of media creation, the event launches with TR-X, probing the challenges of extreme production, from IMAX frontiers to on-site reporting perils. Wednesday’s main programme explores quantum dots, open source software and the revolutionary influence of AI in media production. Thursday spotlights the MovieLabs 2030 Vision, tackling metadata challenges, interoperability and responsible innovation in the age of generative AI. Noteworthy sessions delve into AI’s transformative role, ranging from storytelling to workflow integration, promising a dive into the future of filmmaking technology. The retreat also offers Breakfast Roundtables, an Innovation Zone showcasing 60 tech companies and networking opportunities.
For more details, visit smpte.org
Sponsored by industry leaders like Adobe, Sohonet, AWS and more, registration is open at hpaonline.com
Tax credit overhaul for UK screen industries
T he UK government has updated the tax credit system, replacing existing reliefs for film, television and video game production entities. The new Audio-Visual Expenditure Credit and Video Games Expenditure Credit bring notable changes to bolster the country’s production sector. In this update, productions in children’s TV, animated TV and animated film will see
an additional £42,500 in relief, while high- end TV, film or video game productions will benefit from a £5,000 relief. The calculation of these credits is now directly linked to the qualifying expenditure, offering a more transparent and adaptable framework. With the industry presently valued at £126 billion, this initiative is designed to optimise the potential of the UK’s cutting-
edge production sector and support the development of British talent. The new tax credit system aligns with industry feedback, providing companies with a transitional period until April 2027 to adjust from previous reliefs. This strategic move by the government positions the UK as an attractive hub for sustained growth in the film, TV and gaming industries.
Paramount & Warner Bros Discovery discuss merger
UK box office tops £1bn in 2023 In the strongest showing for the UK box office since pre-pandemic, a total of £1.06 billion was taken across 2023, according to numbers released by Comscore. While not quite 2019’s £1.35 billion, it marks a positive boost for cinemagoing, with the Barbenheimer phenomenon largely credited.
BAFTA shakes up best film award requirements
Top bosses at the two media giants are in talks over a possible mega- merger. Details of the negotiations are strictly under wraps, but it’s understood that both sides have enlisted bankers. Discussions are still in preliminary stages at the time of writing.
As of 2025, hopefuls in the best film category must have an expanded theatrical release, showing in a minimum of 50 UK cinemas for at least seven days. The move aims to bolster theatrical engagement. BAFTA plans to make more updates next summer.
Partnering for sustainable production N XTGENbps, a leading provider of zero-emission battery generators, has joined forces with London-based Greenkit Ltd – specialist in energy-efficient film lighting – to introduce sustainable power solutions to the film industry. Greenkit is now the first rental house to offer NXTGENbps’ innovative Meerkat, Goat and Billy Goat batteries. Designed to replace traditional, noisy diesel generators, the NXTGENbps batteries are game changers for filmmakers prioritising sustainability. The partnership with Greenkit aligns with the industry’s growing eco-conscious values, providing filmmakers with a clean, quiet and reliable power source for seamless production experiences. Lesley Marr, director of sustainability at NXTGENbps, emphasised the collaboration’s commitment to making sustainable power solutions accessible, stating: “Hiring batteries from Greenkit will allow crews to reduce their carbon emissions while ensuring a seamless, silent production experience.” The recent successful use of the Goat battery for a London-to-Doha satellite link highlights the efficiency of the technology, which is setting a new standard for environmentally friendly film production.
BSC EXPO 16-17 February,
ISE 30 Jan - 2 Feb, Fira Barcelona Gran Via
Battersea Evolution, London An anticipated calendar fixture for the screen industries, BSC Expo showcases the latest film and TV production equipment. On top of networking and demos, catch presentations and panel discussions at the onsite seminar theatre. Talks this year include ‘Advice to my Younger Self: Things I Wish I Knew Earlier in my DP Career’. Exhibitors range from Blackmagic Design to Aputure and Rosco. bscexpo.com
Celebrating its 20th birthday this year, Integrated Systems Europe (ISE) serves the pro AV and systems integration industry, uniting professionals from over 170 countries. This year’s programme includes a sustainability workshop and an education technology summit. On the show floor, expect in excess of 1000 exhibitors, spanning audio-visual, systems integration, lighting, live events and IT industries. iseurope.org
HAND in hand with the future T he entertainment industry embraces the future with the launch of consulting firm HAND (Human and Digital), the world’s first global talent ID registry. Currently in beta testing, the project is spearheaded by M&E veteran Will Kreth, CEO of HAND and former executive director of EIDR. High-profile partners confirmed include Sony Pictures Entertainment and the American Film Institute. A universal and verifiable ID for talents, it pioneers streamlined discoverability, royalty collection and revenue tracking in both real and virtual worlds. Amid a surge in deepfake usage, HAND’s talent ID emerges as a proactive solution to fortify name, image and likeness (NIL) rights. The revolutionary HAND ID, built on the ISO-level digital object identifier (DOI) handle system, marks a significant move towards 21st-century supply-chain automation. It addresses the long-standing challenge of manual processes in the industry, promising cost savings and accelerated time-to-value. Operating on a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) subscription model, HAND caters to entertainment producers, talent agencies, payment processors and digital platforms. Rob Delf, CEO of Fabric, states: “This is a great move for the industry to align the value of global talent IDs in media and entertainment.” As the first DOI member since 1998 allowed to create handles for humans, virtual humans and fictional characters, HAND will be metaverse- and blockchain-ready. Its invitation-only beta phase is now open.
For more info, visit handidentity.com
PRODUCTION THE BOYS IN THE BOAT
The Boys in the Boat , George Clooney’s latest foray into directing, tells the true story of the University of Washington-turned-United States Olympic rowing team. To capture their epic journey, DOP Martin Ruhe took to the water B ased on the 2013 novel by Daniel James Brown, The Boys in the Boat follows the University of WORDS Katie Kasperson IMAGES Laurie Sparham © 2023 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures Inc. All rights reserved SHOWBOATING Despite limited
experience on the water, Ruhe made the best of the resources he had
Washington (UW) men’s rowing team in the lead-up to the 1936 Berlin Olympics. As its name suggests, the film largely takes place on the water – a challenge tackled by cinematographer Martin Ruhe. Directed by industry veteran George Clooney, The Boys in the Boat is a true tale of emotional and athletic grit during the Great Depression. “He was fascinated by the story, by the book,” recounts Ruhe, who collaborated with Clooney on previous projects such as Catch-22 . “He loved the underdog thing.” Ruhe wasn’t familiar with The Boys in the Boat when Clooney initially asked him to join the project, but he quickly became fascinated after reading the story. “I never thought that rowing would have such an audience,” he admits. UP TO THE TASK Ruhe had some experience with shooting on the water, but ‘never to the extent’ of what appears in The Boys in the Boat . “I’d never shot a rowing race before; it’s very specific. Rowing is a weird sport because all the rowers move. It’s hard to capture and not that expressive,” he continues. The boats are sensitive to waves and wind, while the oars prevent camera boats from getting too close. “You can only shoot from certain angles, which makes it quite complicated.” Ruhe was also initially at a loss regarding external references to rowing. “I tried to find imagery, but there’s not that much out there,” he remarks. “There’s a little sequence in The Social Network , but that’s only a minute. I think our final boat race is eight minutes, and we have other boat races which are really long. So it was hard to find something.”
THE BOYS IN THE BOAT PRODUCTION
PRODUCTION THE BOYS IN THE BOAT
Eventually, Ruhe stumbled upon Leni Riefenstahl’s 1938 film Olympia . “It had the best energy and put you right in the boat,” which Ruhe attempted to emulate in The Boys in the Boat . “It was not easy,” emphasises Ruhe. “To work on the water is logistically very complicated.” WATERPROOFING The crew completed two weeks of testing, alternating between different mounts and camera boats until they found a set-up that stuck. “We went with the ARRI ALFA lenses, which are large format, anamorphic lenses,” states Ruhe. “This was because the boat is 60ft long, so I thought it should be anamorphic. George agreed, also due to the scale and scope. Plus, we wanted to be cinematic.” Although Clooney has spent most of his career in front of the camera, Ruhe declares: “He knows almost everything and has a strong instinct. At the same time, he’s very trusting,” which allowed some creative leeway. Occasionally, Ruhe switched to spherical zoom lenses, cropping ‘for a particular image if we needed to intensify the action’. He generally stayed away from filters – apart from some indoor scenes – keeping a ‘natural eye’ throughout.
IT WAS NOT EASY – TO WORK ON THE WATER IS logistically very complicated ”
DIVING IN Though the story is largely split between Seattle, Washington and Berlin, on-site production took place entirely in the UK. “We shot some of the boat scenes here in Henley, the Queen Mother Reservoir and the Cotswolds,” details Ruhe. “We had quite a bit of location work with little studio work.” The studio, based in Reading, was used primarily for building interiors similar to Berlin’s. Other interiors were shot on location in old schools around the area. Shooting on location introduced some unexpected obstacles. “The Queen Mother Reservoir is right in the flight path to Heathrow,” explains Ruhe. “When we did dialogue scenes, we had to wrangle with the planes because they were coming right in over us.”
Ruhe opted for the Sony Venice for the film’s main camera, largely due to its Rialto extension system, which allows filmmakers to separate the camera’s sensor from its body without compromising on image quality. The camera gave Ruhe the flexibility to mount it without it becoming too heavy. “It shot probably 90% of the film,” he confirms. The Boys in the Boat incorporates drone footage, too, organised by The Helicopter Girls to complement the close-ups with wider landscape shots. During testing, the crew tried various drones: hybrids, classics and everything in between. “From those, we picked the ones which could do the quickest moves and had the longest flight time,” recounts Ruhe, a testament to the film’s fast- paced, unyielding action.
THE BOYS IN THE BOAT PRODUCTION
Another obstacle was the weather, which needed to remain consistent throughout an entire racing sequence. Ruhe and his team sometimes shot a single scene over five days to ensure its cohesion in the final product. While shooting five straight days of rowing might seem daunting for a DOP, it’s even worse for an actor, who might be trained to row seven or eight minutes at a time. “Obviously, they can’t go ten hours,” states Ruhe. “You have to get them in the boat to do a piece, then out of the boat to do another piece – maybe try to do something in between with some other rowers, with the other boats. Putting all of that together was the biggest challenge.” SEEING DOUBLE For the cast of The Boys in the Boat , the line blurred between actor and athlete. While actual athletes formed the other crews, the central characters went through intense training to prepare for numerous races. “They started early, so they had a couple of months where they trained, and had to do that in winter – in the cold,” recounts Ruhe. “We went out there, saw them rowing and were scared because they were terrible in the beginning!” he laughs. Ruhe and Clooney quickly realised how best to align the shooting schedule with the actors’ abilities. “We planned to do all the practising very early in the
GENTLY DOWN THE STREAM It wasn’t all smooth sailing while shooting the boat scenes. Planes overhead and changing weather meant Ruhe had his work cut out ensuring continuity
shooting, so they could look like they were just learning to get there. We gave them a few weeks in between where we filmed the other scenes. Then, when we came back to rowing, they had advanced,” Ruhe recalls. “As a group, they grew together; it was beautiful to see. When we came back, they were so much better at rowing, and it helped everything. The final race was shot on the last days.” The other boats were filled with trained rowers – ‘some Olympic rowers’, shares Ruhe. “We had to find enough of them – 64 rowers, eight coxswains – to fill the boats. That’s a lot of people.” Due to various issues – illness, dropouts and scheduling conflicts – ‘we had doubles’, says Ruhe, but only for the
extras. “Because of the boats going in one direction, we mainly shot profiles, static or from a drone. For some of the races, we had eight boats [in frame] and shot with three camera boats. “We realised early on,” Ruhe continues, “when we were trying to use doubles, that it didn’t work. You see too much of the face, so it’s our actors.” monotonous. With the final film including four separate races, Ruhe was careful to avoid repetition. “We tried to make every race a little bit different,” he shares. “We had storyboards for everything; I think we had 200 pages.” Ruhe would alternate the angles depending on the performance of the UW boat. In many sequences, the main characters struggled to keep up, only pulling ahead at the last moment. “There are some shots where we’re right in front of our rowers, and you see them coming in and moving towards the camera,” explains Ruhe. “In the Berlin final, they were hopelessly behind. Then, they did a miracle sprint. That’s when we used that piece of language.” To keep audiences engaged throughout, Ruhe leant into his initial inspiration from Olympia . “Our ambition was always to make you feel like you’re right there with them.” GOING FOR GOLD Aesthetically, rowing can appear The Boys in the Boat is in theatres now. It will be available to stream via Amazon Prime Video in the coming months
TRAILBLAZERS WINNIE IMARA
“WE’VE DEVELOPED so much since we started , BUT WE’RE STILL PASSIONATE ABOUT ENSURING Black women are in leading positions ON-SCREEN AND BEHIND THE SCENES”
T he film and TV industry is ripe with independent production companies, all fighting to make a name for themselves. Seven Black Women is among them. Founded by producer Winnie Imara at the tail end of 2020, the company describes itself as ‘a collective that aims to produce untold stories and create new opportunities in film, TV and theatre’. Besides pumping out projects, Seven Black Women also hosts programmes and masterclasses, with guest speakers from Channel 4, the BBC, Searchlight Pictures, the BFI and more. STRONG START “I believe I was producing way before I even knew it was called producing,” says Imara. Having organised projects with friends, she was already immersing herself in production. But through experience and observation, she “felt a sense of frustration – an urge to start something I wanted to see more of, which is Black women in leading roles both in front of and behind the screen.” Imara remembers thinking: “Why are we sitting around, waiting for someone to make something happen for us? Why can’t we make it happen ourselves?” During the early days of the pandemic, she did just that. By contacting her network with
Freelance producer Winnie Imara explains how faith and ambition led her to found Seven Black Women WORDS Katie Kasperson
a simple pitch and a plea for support, Imara was able to assemble a team of actors, writers, directors and others who would go on to create Seven Black Women’s first project. “We started producing with iPhones, as this was all we had,” recounts Imara. “Now, we’re filming on an ARRI ALEXA.” ON THE UP After soft-launching Seven Black Women, Imara says: “We knew this was something we had to continue.” She was accepted to a programme targeted at emerging producers, receiving a bursary from the BFI to attend the National Film & Television School. These experiences allowed her to make industry connections and gave her the confidence to tackle more ambitious projects. “The most challenging aspect has been trying to find support, just to ensure you can make the things you want to see happen.” As Seven Black Women evolves, moving towards bigger productions with larger target audiences, Imara says: “It requires thinking on my feet as a producer, being creative with how we can make these projects happen and reaching out and connecting with industry professionals.” Seven Black Women currently has two short films under its belt: Small Chops ,
PASSION PROJECTS Diversity is a recurrent topic in today’s production industries – and should be an important consideration on any project. “I would like to see more diverse production crews, especially on high-end projects,” states Imara. She is one of a growing number who are working to make this a reality – and who know that change must often come from those at the top. “We’ve developed so much since we started, but we’re still passionate about ensuring Black women are in leading positions on-screen and behind the scenes,” details Imara. “As the years have passed, I’ve seen some amazing Black women leading the way and creating valuable work – such as Fiona Lamptey, Teanne Andrews, Raine Allen Miller and Akua Gyamfi. Hopefully there will be space for so many more.” A big motivation for Imara is faith, who shares: “It leads me forward, allowing me to be bold, knowing that I can take any idea and make something meaningful out of it.” She’s brought this faith to all her endeavours, which extend beyond Seven Black Women. For over three years, she's acted as a producer, writer and mentor, working with the likes of the Heritage & Honour Collection and the Talawa Theatre Company. She is passionate about Black history, women in film and accessibility in the creative industries.
written by Nikki Iyayi and directed by Stephanie Boateng, and Ugly Instagram , written by Testimony Ogunrin and directed by Temi Yussuf. Imara was executive and lead producer for both. “Over 90% of our crew were Black women and women of colour,” shares Imara, “and we aim to continue this. We would also love to push that forward and work with companies to create and hire a more diverse crew.” Seven Black Women has previously partnered with Resource Productions and Girls in Film, two organisations with similar missions.
Follow Seven Black Women on Instagram @sevenblackwomen_ or email info@ sevenblackwomen.co.uk to get in touch
BLACK VISIBILITY Seven Black Women’s two short films, Small Chops and Ugly Instagram, were created with crews consisting mainly of Black women or women of colour
Balancing artistry & efficiency Shaki Prasanna, creative collaboration director, shares how The Snail leveraged Atomos tech to enrich the production process F ilmmaking is a constant dance between project management and creative storytelling, where
filmmakers to engage in the cinematic experience, freeing them to confidently capture the emotional depth of a scene. From a technical standpoint, the ability to capture Raw footage ensures pristine image quality, higher bit rates and better colour depth, resulting in greater control over colour grading and detail retention. In turn, this provides the ingredients to delve deeper into a story’s emotional core, creating a distinct aesthetic to complement the narrative and resonate with an audience. The more geared you are with technical capabilities, the easier it becomes for a production team to realise creative choices. Slow and steady For The Snail , a short film produced by Sirence Studios – directed by Evgenii Liubarskii and produced by Eugénia Neto – it was a case of balancing storytelling’s
the technicality from the right side of your brain meets the free spirit on the left. While delivering operational efficiency and sharing the human experience could be seen as at odds with one another, these elements work in tandem to create compelling films. The logistical and technical facets of the production process each revolve around optimising resources, managing schedules and ensuring super-smooth workflow from pre-production to post. This mindset is more concerned with the ‘how’ of filmmaking, rather than the ‘what’ or ‘why’. But, practicalities and technical solutions are essential for bringing a script to life. Having the right technical capabilities enhances the process. It empowers
emotional and artistic components with the demands of staying on schedule, while leveraging the right technical solutions. The psychological drama revolves around a young sergeant navigating life’s challenges after being medically discharged from the army. Unfolding in New York, the plot reveals the sergeant’s journey to find his purpose in life while faced with the challenges of being unable to determine his future. In bringing The Snail ’s various emotional and psychological twists to life, the production team faced multiple issues – including needing premium visual quality to effectively portray emotional intensity – while ensuring smooth on-set operations
TECH MEETS TALE Balancing the emotional intensity of storytelling with the time pressures of production, Atomos monitor-recorders were essential for creating The Snail
Atomos, a trailblazer in video technology, has reshaped the landscape of filmmaking over the past decade. Pioneering the fusion of high-quality touchscreen monitors, removable storage and Apple ProRes, Atomos revolutionised video capture by enabling filmmakers to store uncompressed camera output in an easily editable format. Later generations of Atomos products have embraced HDR, 4K and 8K technologies, solidifying the brand name as an integral term in the filmmaker’s vocabulary. With the introduction of Connect, Atomos expanded the capabilities of its monitor- recorders by integrating cloud- based tools and services. This innovation ensures peace of mind for content creators, with footage securely stored on the camera, in the cloud and on the Atomos recorder at once. The global accessibility of media from a cloud-connected Atomos device further enhances collaboration and workflow efficiency. In addition to cutting-edge hardware, Atomos offers a suite of online services, providing filmmakers with essential tools for camera-to-cloud workflows, collaboration and review, cloud editing, live multicam production, wireless timecode and streaming. The flexible, subscription-based services adapt to the evolving needs of media professionals. As technology accelerates global connectivity, Atomos embraces change while constantly enhancing the working space. By automating tedious tasks, filmmakers can be more creative, productive and enjoy a better work-life balance, benefitting both creators and the final product.
for a production operating to a tight timescale. A critical technical requirement was reliable, high-quality monitoring and recording equipment that could facilitate an efficient production workflow. This included the need to deliver recordings in Raw format from the Sony FX9 camera and preview them on colour-accurate displays. The crew maintained an optimal working distance by employing high-quality and easy-to- use monitors, providing effective image monitoring at a safe working distance. The monitors also gave the director and cinematographer confidence to mark a scene they were happy with and keep the shot list moving.
Extracting the most reliable performance from filming maximises creative flow, allowing production teams to craft dynamic and moving scenes. Everything running smoothly creates a space conducive to exploring the intricacies of a visual narrative: delivering the perfect technical and creative blend. As Liubarskii explains: “ The Snail is a great example of the role that robust technology plays in translating meaningful stories into visually stunning cinematic experiences. Atomos monitors significantly enriched our production quality and operational efficiency, ensuring the emotional depth and narrative of the story were fully captured and conveyed.”
AMERICAN FICTION PRODUCTION
WORDS Adrian Pennington
I n the mode of Mel Brooks’ The Producers, the struggling author at the centre of American Fiction writes a book so deliberately full of Black stereotypes that he is aghast when it actually goes viral. Writer and director Cord Jefferson’s withering satire skewers the hypocrisy and myopia at the centre of Hollywood’s reaction to movements like #BlackLivesMatter and #OscarsSoWhite by highlighting how the industry limits Black storytelling to narratives of poverty and violence. “Nobody is safe,” announces cinematographer Cristina Dunlap of the
Cristina Dunlap catches the tonal shifts in Cord Jefferson ’s stinging riposte to Hollywood
film’s targets. “It pokes fun at everybody and leaves room for them to identify with it. We all expected it might take a while for people to know it’s okay to laugh, but it’s been great to see audiences cracking up from the beginning.” Dunlap’s credits include 2022 festival hits Cha Cha Real Smooth and Am I OK? starring Dakota Johnson, as well as music videos for Lizzo, Coldplay and Katy Perry. Most recently, she worked with Taylor Swift and her creative director Ethan Tobman to film all the on-stage visuals for the Eras Tour. A mutual connection on one of those promos helped land
PRODUCTION AMERICAN FICTION
BALANCING ACT Dunlap aimed to strike a delicate balance between various genres, without going too far in a specific direction
her the gig for Jefferson’s adaptation of Percival Everett’s 2001 novel Erasure . “I thought Cord’s screenplay was brilliant and wanted to know where it came from,” Dunlap says. “I read the book, then when I was interviewing gaffers and dolly grips, almost every single one read it too. We had this little book club going on-set.” Jefferson, a writer on shows including Succession , makes his feature debut with American Fiction . Dunlap continues: “I pitched ideas but left it open for him to develop his directing style and see how he felt about going in one direction.” The biggest issue he wanted to nail was tone. “He didn’t want the film to turn farcical. We discussed how to keep it grounded and relatable without becoming too melodramatic or comedic, but to live in that sweet spot.” To achieve that visually, the DOP decided not to shoot it like a traditional comedy, “in wide shots where you’re letting scenes play out.” She explains: “We worked on orchestrating specific shots with Steadicam that would sort of weave through all the characters. Shooting in the 2.35 aspect ratio allowed us to create those moves and hold everyone in frame – or to move everyone while remaining close enough to register emotionally what is going on.” The tonal register changes scene by scene between satire, romantic comedy
and character study all combined with thoughtful family drama. “It is never strictly one or the other, always a combination of emotions in each character,” she remarks. The Descendants was a key tonal text, although Alexander Payne’s 2011 movie “is more naturalistic than our film,” she says. There were also flights of surrealism to consider. One such moment from the middle of the film has Thelonious ‘Monk’ Ellison (played by Jeffrey Wright) beginning to write his book, in a scene that’s revisited at the end in a far more left-field way. “The original idea had been to shoot the scene in an alleyway and let the scene play out. For budgetary and creative reasons, we ended up dialling it back. We still wanted it to feel like a departure from the rest of the film, but not a complete record scratch. This is so
it wasn’t a complete shock to people at the end when the film takes that turn.” With only 26 days allocated for photography, they made the most of an ample eight weeks in pre-production. Dunlap, Jefferson, production designer Jonathan Guggenheim and the film’s producers spent much of that time in a minivan touring Boston for locations. “Cord and I discussed the blocking we imagined in each space. If we loved the location but it needed adapting, then Jonathan stepped in to work on it. From there, I storyboarded several scenes using Artemis Pro.” The film’s budget, reportedly $20-25 million, didn’t allow time for multiple set- ups, but Dunlap turned the restriction to her advantage. “I knew early on we wouldn’t have a ton of coverage. Often, that can lead to a more interesting film. Force Majeure
AMERICAN FICTION PRODUCTION
They also had to cut some of the funniest moments because it would have gone too over the top,” Dunlap says. “In terms of camera, I tried to be cognisant of not pushing it too far one way until the story called for it. Most of the film is drama, then the end of the film is an OTT rom com and action film. We did this to have a variety and add that extra punch to the ending.” Her camera package was a single ALEXA Mini LF using BLACKWING7 TRIBE7 primes, choosing spherical to have audiences ‘fall into the story’ and not be distracted by the flares and distortions of anamorphic. The same light-touch philosophy fed her approach to lighting. “Generally, I didn’t want it to feel overly lit. There are some moments we try to make it a little more crafted though.” For a post-wedding scene, they planned to bathe characters in a blue light matched against the blue sky. “It got a little darker than we wanted by the time we were shooting, but we still hung blue lights around the porch to create the look. In Monk’s office, there is some more surrealist lighting. In a dramatic restaurant scene, we placed CRLS mirrors on top of the window to bang in this very hard light and cast a shaft of light onto the table.” Picture grading was done by Phil Beckner at Fotokem, who sent Dunlap a selection of LUTs before shooting. This
I TRIED TO BE COGNISANT OF NOT PUSHING IT too far one way UNTIL THE STORY CALLED FOR IT”
[Ruben Östlund’s caustic 2014 drama] is one my favourites, where DOP Fredrik Wenzel often held one shot for an entire scene. You’re looking at someone’s back for half of it, but the emotion is still conveyed. Cord and I took a lot of time to plan those angles and how we wanted the emotion of a scene to come across. That meant using Steadicam in a constantly moving coverage.”
Some scenes were curtailed or cut from the final edit to achieve the right tonal balance. This included a longer version of the scene in which Monk and a book publisher discuss calling his book FUCK [a working title for the film], and another when Monk breaks down in a coffee shop after the death of his sister. “While such a beautiful scene, it was taking the movie too far in one direction.
PRODUCTION AMERICAN FICTION
was so that the task in post was to hone and not build the colour. She leant on the work of photographer Deana Lawson in order to capture skin tone effectively. A drone scene at the end of the film was something she plucked from Silver Linings Playbook , while another scene references Malcolm X . “We were all over the map because the film has so many elements to it,” she says. In perhaps a cinematic first, they also drew inspiration from a GIF. “When I first met with Cord, he showed me a GIF of [former NBA basketball player] David Robinson sitting on a bench. He had a camera trained full on his face showing his reaction on the court. Then, a white woman completely blocks his line of IT SEEMED LIKE the perfect place TO SHOW THAT VISUALLY”
COMMAND OF TONE Photographer Deana Lawson was an inspiration for capturing skin tones
sight. Jefferson said this was a metaphor for the film. He didn’t intend it as a shot reference, but when we were blocking the scene at a public reading of his book – with Monk facing everything he is up against – it seemed like the perfect place to show that visually.”
The film premiered at Toronto International Film Festival, earning the People’s Choice Award, and also picked up two Golden Globe nominations. “I’m waiting to see what happens and what opportunities it brings," concludes Dunlap. “We’re all very proud of it.”
Our esteemed panel of experts from various corners of the industry reveal what’s making the wide world of data tick – and what’s in store for the future
THE PANEL Richard
Definition: How can you ensure the security and integrity of film production assets throughout the entire workflow? Chris Luff: For many customers, security is an absolute non-negotiable throughout a shared storage workflow. Measures like granular permissions and access control, checksums for data integrity, encryption, file/project locking, an automated multi-location back- up strategy, and most especially user auditing and monitoring, can help to ensure the overall safety and security of your film production assets. Stephen Tallamy: Ensure authorised users only have access to the material they need, as part of enterprise-wide protocols against cyber threats. You don’t want your content getting out; you don’t want other material getting in. It’s also important to audit activity against the storage so any incidents can be tracked down to who, what, when and where. This is where tools like EditShare Guardian provide immediate insight into operations on the file system for diagnosis within EFS, or to send to external security management tools. Also, ensuring the operating system and associated libraries are up to date is critical to any intelligent storage solution, so storage systems need to stay aligned to the latest operating system versions and have the ability to install security agents such as CrowdStrike. Richard Warburton: Follow a 3-2-1 data policy (three copies of your data, stored on at least two different storage mediums, with one copy in a separate location to the others). LTO tech offers great data integrity for the lowest cost per TB, making it ideal for securing multiple copies that are also ‘offline’ and therefore impervious to attack or corruption. At Symply, we offer a comprehensive range of stand-alone LTO solutions that have been designed with media workflows in mind, with LTO now the de facto choice for source and final master archives, and incremental
back-ups. For instant access storage, our private cloud solutions provide on-premises or on-location S3-native object storage that keeps content secure through 256-bit encryption, object immutability (WORM), and comprehensive audit trails. We can even deploy embedded applications on our storage appliances or connect with cloud-based services to tightly integrate them with workflows, and further monitor and manage data. Def: What factors should filmmakers consider when choosing between cloud-based and on- premises storage solutions? RW: Accessibility and cost. Everything good about public cloud can also be a negative. It’s great that someone else is looking after your data, but that data is external to your organisation so you may experience issues with performance, availability and security. Cloud is an operation cost following a subscription model, but over time that can clock up (and is unpredictable in most cases), and it will end up costing more than on-premises solutions. Private cloud deployments address a lot of issues users have started to experience, so is a good option to consider for on-premises storage that provides the functionality and integration of the cloud. ST: Cloud provides you with access from anywhere, making it attractive if you have remote workstations in the production pipeline. If work can be concentrated in one or two post houses, the costs and time penalties associated with getting material out of the cloud may well make on-premises storage more financially attractive. Calculate on a project-by- project basis. CL: When choosing between an on- premises solution and a cloud-based solution, all else being equal, there are two main considerations: speed and cost. On-premises storage solutions tend to offer faster performance with a larger upfront investment, serving long-term
Warburton Director of product, creative at Symply
Stephen Tallamy CTO of EditShare
Chris Luff Territory manager, Studio Network Solutions (SNS) Simon Parkinson Managing director of Dot Group
Stefanie Sears-Black Head of business
development, memory & storage at Samsung Electronics UK Ltd
THE NEED FOR SPEED While time is of the essence, be wary of file transport speed as a sole metric – there could be hidden costs
use. Cloud storage can be limited by latency and available internet speeds, and may present a more cost-effective short-term solution in some cases. In practice, the decision is not to exclusively choose one or the other, but rather which to use for various stages of the workflow. Stefanie Sears-Black: Clearly, external factors such as Wi-Fi or local broadband speeds will have a direct impact on uploading and downloading data timelines, whereas our T7 or T7 Shield Portable SSDs can transfer a 4K UHD 4.8GB file in eight seconds, and the T9 Portable SSD can theoretically transfer a 4.8GB file in just 2.5 seconds. Therefore, there is no time lag or reliance on the cloud to access data through a laptop. Def: How do you see the integration of file transfer solutions with cloud services evolving, and what advantages does this integration offer to production workflows? RW: Something we see becoming more popular are the capabilities in private cloud solutions for file transfer. Data can be ingested to a physical storage device in your control which allows that media to be accessed from anywhere, as well as in situ. Likewise, data can be uploaded directly from anywhere to that storage
device. Our Transporter product was designed specifically for such workflows on-location, by providing a highly secure object store with greater resilience than a traditional RAID offers. And that is also cloud storage, enabling data to be made available elsewhere or picked up and processed by cloud-based compute applications and AI tools. CL: The integration of file transfer solutions with cloud services allows production teams to seamlessly store, share and access large media files from anywhere, faster. One of the main drawbacks of cloud workflows is latency, so accelerating your connection to the cloud or data transfer to/from the cloud can solve much of that problem. And with certain solutions, like VPN Accelerator, you can speed up more than just file transfers to and from the cloud. Simon Parkinson: The integration of file transfer solutions with cloud services is continuously evolving, addressing the balance between remote and local resources in film production. Cloud services benefit from advancements such as low Earth orbit satellites – which provide affordable satellite connections with decent upstream capacity. This is revolutionising the way material can
be transported from remote shoot locations, offering new possibilities for on-site data management. In an ideal world, every production tool would be a low-cost SaaS solution, automatically placing files correctly. However, complex cloud solutions can involve multi-vendor environments, leading to inefficiencies and hidden costs like egress fees. Rapid file transport speeds up workflows, but may also increase unnecessary data transfers and storage costs. Cloud isn’t the perfect solution for all scenarios, the consumption-based model is not suitable for all projects. Strategic cloud service integration, particularly in multi-party production and VFX workflows, improves with data transfer at critical workflow points. Location connectivity determines the optimal balance between file transfer workflows and cloud service access, with local file transfers practical in some cases. Despite the complexities, intelligent integration enhances production workflows, emphasising vigilance on storage costs and cloud service expenses. Def: In what ways do modern storage solutions facilitate seamless collaboration among team members working on different aspects of a film production?
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