Over the past couple of months I’ve had the great honor of prepping to shoot a short film for director Eric D. Howell and producer Jillian Nodland, titled “Strangers”. This past week we completed principal photography north of Silver Bay, MN at a lovely home on the lake. We were extremely lucky with the weather as our exterior day had a high in the 30’s. Just days before that, the daytime high was 50 degrees cooler, at a soul crushing -20F.
I had a blast and have nothing but pride in the project we put together and the footage we walked away with. My departments had their work cut out for them but we came away victorious. Key Grip and Dolly Grip Peter Clemence did some amazing problem solving during prep and enabled us to shoot a particularly difficult scene in a frozen cove, hauling steel decks and a camera crane down a 3 story flight of snowy stairs (with the help of our 2nd Unit DP Craig Peterschmidt and G&E heavies Jeff Fischer and Chad Foehringer). Pete also aided in every camera move in the show and helped us achieve a natural “barley lit” daytime look. This look would not have been possible without the efforts of our Gaffer Matt Muegge and his best boy Michael Winn who kept things moving and always had solutions at arms reach. As the enormity of our task became more apparent, we added a few more sets of hands, Nick Hillyard, Brad Lokkesmoe and the indomitable Erik Thomsen. Matt led the troops through a number of complex lighting setups including a climactic night exterior (top lit by a pair of 6k Spacelights wrapped in a 12x Half Blue Gel-Fab Lite-Grid for a more “moonlit” look).
Camera department was amazing, fluctuating between a two camera show and a single camera show with a second unit off gathering what we could of the landscape. We shot on RED Epics outfitted with Kowa Anamorphic lenses and a couple of spherical lenses to round out our choices. 2nd Unit DP Craig Peterschmidt gathered many pieces and slices of the area both on the Epic and on a small mirrorless Sony NEX mounted to his CineCopter. Craig was also our B-Camera operator and Steadicam Operator. He was assisted by AC Chris Hadland. Steve Speers was the A-Camera First AC and did a seamless job of keeping the gear running, and everything in focus, his experience and expertise was immeasurable and no doubt a major factor in the success of the photography of Strangers… it was an honor to have him aboard. Ryan Johnson jumped in as a Second AC when he could, but mostly was chained to his cart keeping our 5k 3:1 Anamorphic data pipeline clear and backed up in triplicate.
I can’t go into too much detail but want to say how excited and proud I am of everyones work on this project. Eric (Howell) did such a great job of pre-visualizing and prepping the project it made it easy for departments to be in synch. The cast (Marta Milans and James Denton) did a great job and were so much fun to photograph. First AD Tony B. was the kind of gentle warrior you would follow onto any field of battle and know you were in good hands and was assisted by the always lovely slick Rick Hankes. Production Designer David Weiberg did a wonderful job of solving a few challenges at the location that the audience will never know about, wardrobe looked amazing thanks to Beez McKeever and every face looked perfect thanks to Mary Flaa. Stunt Coordinator Todd Warren kept us all safe and chipped in with G&E in a BIG way, he was a serious life saver in more ways than one. It was a joy to work with Beth Smith as Script Supervisor (our first narrative collaboration, and hopefully not the last). Tammy Hollingsworth kept our bellies full of warm food to keep us working all day and night. Jessica and Ryan at the location made it the easiest high end property I’ve ever shot in. Jeff and Lion in sound kept stride with our aggressive pace and the production department kept the wheels turning. Erin Acker UPMing up a storm in the office while PA’s Alyssa Yule, Alexa De La Cruz, Alex Leone and Shelby Dillon were led by Key Set PA TK Tom Kristjanson. It takes an army to make a film and we had an awesome one.
Shout outs to our vendors for arming us for battle: Cinequipt, Picture Factory, Cinemechanics and Tasty Lighting.
The most amazing location I’ve ever shot in was provided by two of the most amazing folks I’ve ever met, Mark and Jim and we owe them a debt of gratitude.
Some snapshots from the set:
Some frame grabs from the raw footage:
What an experience.
I can’t wait to see what comes of the project and look forward to the next stages at Splice Here in Minneapolis.