American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 26

SHORT TAKES

I

Childhood Interrupted
By Lauretta Prevost

Cinematographer Alexandre d'Audiffret believes his experience as a documentary stills photographer is more closely related to
narrative filmmaking than it is to motion-picture docs. "My main goal
is to shoot emotional stories," he says. "In photography I'm really
focused on emotion and storytelling, but in movie documentaries I
don't have time for that - we have to rush to cover the story. It's not
the same for a photo, where you can focus on a specific thing. Narrative [filmmaking] is very close to that. You can make choices."
D'Audiffret grew up on the west coast of France. He is welltraveled and often packs a Leica still camera with a 35mm lens. He
has worked extensively under renowned French photographer and
Academy Award-nominated director Eric Valli, and he draws inspiration from the evocative imagery of photographers Steve McCurry,
William Albert Allard, W. Eugene Smith and SebastiĆ£o Salgado.
The cinematographer brought these influences to bear while
shooting the short Momma, which follows 9-year-old Darius (Maceo
Smedley Jr.) as he lives alone in a trailer in Arizona - guiding himself
through his daily routine, going to school, shopping for groceries,
preparing his meals - following the unexplained disappearance of
his mother. Director Nacho Arenas wrote the script, which was
inspired by a tragic true story.
It was important to Arenas that there be a visual distinction
between Darius' controlled world inside the trailer and the hectic,
destabilized world the boy confronts when he ventures outside. To
that end, d'Audiffret shares, "I wanted to shoot the outside portion
with a doc feel. It's all handheld, and the spherical lenses we used
don't distort much - it's the same feeling as my Leica [still] images."
26

August 2017

Thanks to ASC associate Seth Emmons, marketing director for CW
Sonderoptic, the cinematographer was able to secure a set of the
company's Leica Summicron-C primes for everything outside the
trailer; he shot predominantly with a 29mm.
In contrast, interiors in the trailer were shot with Cooke
Anamorphic /i primes. This space was meant to feel protective, and
d'Audiffret's impression was that the Cooke lenses provided a softer
and warmer look that would invite viewers to connect with Darius.
The cinematographer underexposed night interiors in Darius'
home by more than two stops. "I love to build an atmosphere for
the talent," he says. "If the scene is dark in the script, I want to
shoot it dark. The talent has to feel the script."
Helping with this approach was the wide dynamic range of
the production's Arri Alexa Mini camera. The filmmakers shot all
trailer interiors at 2.8K in the camera's 4:3 mode with the Cooke
Anamorphics; non-trailer shots were recorded at 4K UHD and
cropped to 2.39:1. D'Audiffret set the camera's ISO to 800 for interiors and 1,280 for exteriors. "I got this tip from colorist Fabien
Pascal at Technicolor in France," the cinematographer notes. "He
told me it's good to shoot the Alexa at a higher ISO, as it helps
compress the blacks and gives more headroom in the highlights."
Given this approach, d'Audiffret adds, "I checked the noise limits on
the Flanders [Scientific] monitor's waveform to be sure I wasn't
going too far. Underexposing can be risky!"
Between the two lens sets, 1st AC Jay Dallen had 15 primes
in his care. D'Audiffret notes that Arri's WCU-4 wireless lens-control
unit allowed Dallen to program marks for all of the lenses during
prep, in turn enabling fast lens-swapping during the shoot. With a
production schedule that allotted only four days in which to capture
147 shots - roughly 37 shots per day - and working with a child

American Cinematographer

All images courtesy of the filmmakers.

In his mother's absence, 9-year-old Darius (Maceo Smedley Jr.) fends for himself in the short Momma.



Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of American Cinematographer - August 2017

Contents
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - Intro
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - Cover1
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - Cover2
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 1
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 2
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - Contents
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 4
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 5
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 6
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 7
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 8
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 9
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 10
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 11
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 12
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 13
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 14
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 15
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 16
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 17
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 18
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 19
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 20
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 21
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 22
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 23
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 24
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 25
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 26
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 27
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 28
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 29
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 30
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 31
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 32
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 32a
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 32b
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 32c
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 32d
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 33
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 34
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 35
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 36
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 37
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 38
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American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 40
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 41
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 42
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 43
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American Cinematographer - August 2017 - Cover3
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