This week’s blog from the From Her Point of View programme features a behind-the-scenes look at camera and lighting techniques. Catch up with Kerrie, one of the young women taking part in the training who is also acting as Press Agent for the films…
Before I tell you all what we got up to this week, I’m thrilled to say that now things are a little more settled I think it’s time I tell you a little about the films! Firstly, I can reveal there’s been a change of plan from one of our production teams. Their original idea – “Where I Came From”, exploring the story of a female refugee with a mix of drama and real life testimonials – was proving a challenge due to our time frame: not having the time to build up trust and relationships with individuals and charities to the extent that would do justice to their idea and, more importantly, the stories of the people the team wanted to approach. It is an extremely sensitive subject and would no doubt involve some incredibly traumatic experiences that people might not feel comfortable sharing with a film crew – and the last thing the team wanted was anybody feeling uncomfortable. Luckily, you might remember that Writer/Director Kam had two ideas, and the team decided that it was perhaps time to make a change!
The films are both ‘coming of age’ dramas but explore their ideas and themes in different ways. Kam’s team are now working on “Black Cherry” – a film that explores race, class and sex, all through the relationship that Ange, a young woman of Indian/South Asian descent, has with her boyfriend Ben. ‘Throughout the story this subtext is held back, but as tensions rise [there is] the sense that these issues may erupt, breaking through the veneer of tolerance, adding a dangerous and contemporary feel.’
The other team are working on “Blood Warriors” – directed by Rosa. The film centres on ‘an incredibly unique self-styled all-female Bristol BMX crew. The film spends a day with the young ladies as they face the trials of being a teenage girl who demand[s] to be heard.’
You could say that the week of 9th and 10th February was Lights, Camera, Action week as we were joined by camerawoman Sarah Edwards, who took us through the basics of camera and lighting. I’m a complete novice to lighting and my experience of camera work is limited to in front of it, and then only very briefly as an extra and a challenge competing for the most Youtube hits in a set time frame. That in mind, I was blown away by the sheer amount of kit Sarah has in her arsenal to do her job as a camera woman, which greeted us as we walked in. But never let it be said I’m not willing to try new things!
Thursday and most of Friday were devoted to camera work. For the “theory” part at the beginning of the sessions Sarah wanted to cover a few of the photography basics. These included:
The rule of thirds: this is one way of producing a photo or piece of film that will draw the viewer’s eye and engage their attention. Divide everything into thirds, with two horizontal and two vertical lines so you have nine parts. The idea is that you place the object/person you want your audience to focus on in that scene along those lines, or at the points where they meet.
Depth of Field: this is the distance between the nearest object in a frame and the farthest. It will affect how sharply your subjects appear in focus in a frame.
ISO or International Standards Organisation: in photography and filmmaking, this is the industry standard that measures the camera’s sensitivity to light and is measured in a numbered scale. The higher the ISO, the more sensitive. Most cameras now allow for the photographer to change the ISO settings to what they require depending on the surroundings.
f stop: in this industry, f stops are used to quantify ratios of light or exposure.
Focal Length: simply put, this tells a photographer the angle of view and the magnification.
We also explored camera angles, colour and camera movement, with a little help from clips from Luther, Marvel’s Jessica Jones and the movie Drive, to name a few examples!
After Thursday’s theory, to help reinforce Sarah’s introduction, each team was given a camera. The idea was to play around with Focal Length and Depth of Field, by having one of the team “model” for the camera, moving it further and further away, and each time switching to a lens with a higher focal length and seeing how the image is affected. I got to model for Team Black Cherry.
For the beginning of Friday, we shifted the focus to lighting. Our eyes will adjust to changes in light and for a Director of Photography on a shoot, the tools of your trade are usually in three categories, measured in Kelvin.
3200k: this is known as Tungsten and is orange.
4300k: florescent or mixed colours
5600: “daylight” – this is blue.
We also looked at White Balance – making the colours in the frame appear as natural as possible by removing unwanted colour casts. The light you choose will evoke tone and atmosphere in your piece, whatever genre it might be.
Sarah also explored Documentary Lighting, and how a great Digital Imaging Technician can be very helpful on a shoot, including how imperative it is you make two copies of everything you do!
Tying both camera and lighting together, Sarah once more sent us out with a camera. This time, we could also experiment with different types of lighting and colour, and show her what we’d learned throughout the two days she was with us.
Again, I was on team Black Cherry. We had producer Holly making tea using different kinds of camera angles, decided to be a little ‘out there’ and lit the toilets in such a way to make them look like a jail cell, and I made my camera woman debut filming Holly come down the stairs with the help of some coloured gel. It looked like something out of a horror movie, in the coolest kind of way!
Stay tuned for Week Four, where we moved away from the camera, to focus on sound.
This programme is supported by Creative Skillset’s Film Skills Fund, with BFI’s Film Forever National Lottery funds.