American Cinematographer - April 2015 - 14

Short Takes

I

Shooting Back-to-Back Shorts
By James Friend, BSC

Although I'm no stranger to either features or television
series, I've recently found myself behind the camera for two short
films. Each presented its fair share of challenges and opportunities,
and as I consider how my collaborators and I approached these
projects, I must tip my hat to two mentors who have supported and
inspired me for many years: Paul Wheeler, BSC and Phil Méheux,
BSC.
The first short, directed by Patrick Viktor Monroe, was Little
Favour, which stars Benedict Cumberbatch as Wallace, a.k.a. Ace, an
Iraq War veteran suffering from PTSD. Seven years after returning
home, Ace is unexpectedly contacted by James (Colin Salmon), his
erstwhile commanding officer, who now finds himself in deep water
with a criminal organization led by Logan (Nick Moran). Having
saved Ace's life on the battlefield, James calls in the titular favor,
asking Ace to hide his daughter, Lyla (Paris Monroe).
The film marked my first time collaborating with Patrick, who
kindly notes, "My vision for Little Favour depended on a collaboration with a cinematographer who understood much more than the
technical aspects of filmmaking. A deep understanding of the [characters'] inner mood was necessary. James had to be able to evolve as
I evolved through the journey toward [the film's] completion."
For my part, I was thrilled with Patrick's script. I hadn't read
anything like it in a short format before; it was well paced and well
14

April 2015

suited to our current time. When we got the green light for the
shoot, Patrick and I were both on other projects, so the majority of
our preproduction work was done late at night. We extensively
storyboarded key scenes, knowing that we would be working under
strict time and location limitations during our four-day shoot.
Faced with those restrictions, I approached my usual team for
the film, and I was ecstatic when they all jumped in with equal
enthusiasm. Fabrizio Sciarra operated the A camera and Steadicam,
with Danny Bishop on the B camera; we were also joined by my
longtime gaffer, Sol Saihati, best boy electric Genki McClure, and
rigging gaffer Aldo Camilleri.
The film is set entirely at night, which was both visually exciting and technically challenging for a short film with our limited
resources. Our camera package included two Sony F65s, which our
rental house, Movietech, had recently acquired. Having worked with
the F65 before, I was aware of its staggering resolution, which I was
keen to reduce, as I'm not a lover of super-sharp imagery. My lenses
of choice for the project were Leica Summilux-C primes, partnered
with Cooke S4/i primes for super-wide and longer focal lengths
when shooting outside of the set. (After principal photography
concluded, we also used a Red Epic MX for a few pickups.)
Sol and I put the cameras and lenses through their paces,
lighting some test scenes entirely with candlelight and shooting at
ISO 1,600, then screening the footage in 4K resolution on a theater
screen. The results were stunning. The F65 is a great system that
➣
affords a lot of control with an impressive dynamic range.

American Cinematographer

All images courtesy of the filmmakers.

In Little Favour, one of two recent short films shot by James Friend, BSC, Iraq war veteran Ace (Benedict Cumberbatch)
helps his commanding officer by hiding his daughter.



Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of American Cinematographer - April 2015

Contents
American Cinematographer - April 2015 - Intro
American Cinematographer - April 2015 - Cover1
American Cinematographer - April 2015 - Cover2
American Cinematographer - April 2015 - 1
American Cinematographer - April 2015 - 2
American Cinematographer - April 2015 - Contents
American Cinematographer - April 2015 - 4
American Cinematographer - April 2015 - 5
American Cinematographer - April 2015 - 6
American Cinematographer - April 2015 - 7
American Cinematographer - April 2015 - 8
American Cinematographer - April 2015 - 9
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American Cinematographer - April 2015 - 14
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American Cinematographer - April 2015 - I1
American Cinematographer - April 2015 - I2
American Cinematographer - April 2015 - I3
American Cinematographer - April 2015 - I4
American Cinematographer - April 2015 - I5
American Cinematographer - April 2015 - I6
American Cinematographer - April 2015 - I7
American Cinematographer - April 2015 - I8
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American Cinematographer - April 2015 - Cover3
American Cinematographer - April 2015 - Cover4
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