American Cinematographer - January 2016 - 66

◗

Savage Sea

Top: Scenes of the Essex crew marooned on a rocky isle were shot onshore in the Canary Islands chain
off the coast of Spain. Bottom: The crew shoots aboard one of the skiffs using a camera crane placed on
a production-constructed dock platform.

at water level with a floating camera
rig as this 100-ton boat sails by at
speed," Zuccarini says. "I'd be literally
inches from the boat with the lens
just slightly submerged and the hull
scraping by. These were incredibly
powerful vessels in their day, and we
wanted the audience to feel that.
Given the speed and mass of the
vessel and the mere inches we were
from it, that's not a shot you could do
safely with a remote head at the end
of a 30-foot telescoping crane, which
would have a lot of its own inertia
and be subject to the movement of
the barge it's mounted on. You can
66

January 2016

only get that feeling of proximity by
being right there in the water."
While shooting aboard the ship
and its smaller whaling skiffs, Dod
Mantle employed a dedicated camera
and lighting boat featuring an 18K
Arrimax and an Arri M90 HMI for
fill; the fixtures were powered by an
onboard 125K generator that could
also power video village and all other
camera, grip and electric needs.
"For me, the essence of these
scenes after the sinking of the Essex
is to get the audience into the boats
with our surviving characters," Dod
Mantle says. "I was also trying to
American Cinematographer

suggest a certain point of view from
one of the characters, so the audience
would have a more direct connection
and be able to empathize with that
character later in the film. I didn't
want to be too on-the-nose about it,
though, because it's quite an ensemble piece at that point and we don't
know the fate of these men. It's this
kind of visual language - the shots
and compositions that lead the viewer
and create mood - that I find much
more interesting than exactly what
lens was used to shoot it or lamp was
used to light it. That's where creative
decisions are made."
The waters around the Canary
Islands are "photographically extraordinary," notes Zuccarini. "The area of
these volcanic islands is dark, as
opposed to the white sand you have
in a typical coral reef; the sand here is
basically disintegrating basalt and
other volcanic rock, so you have this
dark-gray bottom, which adds a
primal mood that was perfect for this
film. Shooting up toward the surface,
you could see the ships and boats, but
you didn't have that cheery, tropical
feeling you might have had if we were
shooting in the Caribbean - we
didn't have a bright bounce fill from a
white sand bottom. This was a perfect
place from an underwater standpoint."
These conditions also inspired
Howard and Dod Mantle. "For
instance," Zuccarini recalls, "Ron
asked, 'Why don't we try an angle
from below the ship, the way the
whale would see it, from 100 feet
down?' And then he asked, 'Could
you also swim the camera up from
100 feet down, toward the ship?' So
we designed that shot, which meant
not only dealing with the photographic needs - focus, exposure,
composition and such - but the
timing of the ascent and the movement of the full-size whaling ship
under sail, which was a logistical
challenge."
To accomplish this whale-POV



Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of American Cinematographer - January 2016

Contents
American Cinematographer - January 2016 - Cover1
American Cinematographer - January 2016 - Cover2
American Cinematographer - January 2016 - 1
American Cinematographer - January 2016 - 2
American Cinematographer - January 2016 - Contents
American Cinematographer - January 2016 - 4
American Cinematographer - January 2016 - 5
American Cinematographer - January 2016 - 6
American Cinematographer - January 2016 - 7
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American Cinematographer - January 2016 - 9
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American Cinematographer - January 2016 - 63
American Cinematographer - January 2016 - 64a
American Cinematographer - January 2016 - 64b
American Cinematographer - January 2016 - 64c
American Cinematographer - January 2016 - 64d
American Cinematographer - January 2016 - 64e
American Cinematographer - January 2016 - 64f
American Cinematographer - January 2016 - 64g
American Cinematographer - January 2016 - 64h
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