(THE SHELTER Cinematographer)
What was it about The Shelter that appealed to you as a DOP?
My mind thrives on pondering what could be and observing what is, while devising and executing a plan for what should be. I’m someone that’s constantly grasping for knowledge. While my restless mind can be a curse, it’s inability to stop thinking is what attracted me to The Shelter. Pillars that intrigued me were the script’s raw ability to relate to our deepest and darkest emotions as a human being, the complexing sting of life events delivered throughout, and most importantly the inability to stop circulating my thoughts once I finished reading it. It left me thinking and that was exciting.
How would you describe your relationship with director John Fallon on set?
Trusting, clear and smooth. John is a true professional on-set. He was clearly prepared and knew what he wanted. He had a great attitude toward everyone and was always open to suggestions from the team. Our thought process, morals and personalities clicked immediately, which only heightened the creative process. This lead to an endorphin-filled creative train billowing through the entire show at full throttle. From pre to post, it was a pleasure to work with John and I hope we get to work together again.
You also edited and color corrected the film; how challenging was that being that you were also the DP on it?
The ability to frame and light the scene with a clear vision of how it will end is a huge asset. Knowing what will and will not work in post is an advantage for me and the production. For instance, exposing or shaping light a certain way on set because you understand the limitations, opportunities or advantages of what can be done in post and what the end result will be is key for me, and helps clear up any confusion between DP and Post. Knowing I’ll need 15 frames of the MED, then cutting to 9 frames of ECU and then finishing with a WIDE Dolly pull keeps me from overshooting and saves time and money for all. The ability to rough out a feature length edit in a few of days is not magical, it’s practical. I know exactly what takes to cut with, when to cut and where to cut because I’ve already edited the scene in my head before I’ve rolled the first frame. My lens, filter and lighting choices will always support the emotion of the story first, but knowing how to use them to my benefit ultimately saves time and resources.
Example: Knowing how a camera will react at a certain ISO, how a certain lens and filter kit work together with the camera or how that particular camera’s photosite’s collect light. This in-depth knowledge helps me decide what flavor camera best supports the story and the feel I’m trying to accomplish. Knowing how the footage from each camera reacts and holds up in post can help me decide weather to use a pair of 1200s on highboy-rollers rather than a 12k on a condor and produce the same look, again saving time and money. It’s a lifesaver when you know a camera’s limitations and how it responds to certain lights and colors before it breaks up like wet toilet paper in post production. It also gives the producers and directors a clear and concise plan resulting in more sleep at night.
Now I’m a firm believer in “baking in” as much of the “look” as possible, which is why I test lighting, filters, glass and build custom 3D LUTS before every large production. But if I know how to get the same look in post, thus saving the production days of pre-rigging and expense, I’m happy and so is production. These are a few benefits that save a ton of time and money. But there comes a point right before the final approval of edit or grade, that you should let a trusted, experienced and qualified “Finisher” look over the entire project for any small details, tweaks or improvements. Being so close to a film has its benefits and its down falls. Bringing in a “Finisher” with fresh eyes and a clear perspective is the only way to make sure nothing slips through and that the story is told in its greatest light.
Did any weird things happen on set or during Post Production?
“Crap, shit, holy shit,” and “Shut it down it’s time to get out of here,” were a few things I uttered at times. For instance, when I imported my XML into Davinci Resolve, all of the slow-mo footage was slightly punched in. It was not a big deal. I figured I would just re-export an XML and it would conform fine …right? Not exactly. After several attempts of trying to resolve the conforming issues, I decided to manually adjust each slow-mo clip on the timeline. The hair-raising part for me was that to correct and conform to the right size I needed to make a slight adjustment. Once I did, I realized my adjustment was .666. WOW. Now I’ve been editing since 2000. I’ve worked with NUKE, AE and Smoke since the mid 2000s and have been working with Davinci Resolve since 2010. And I can tell you I have NEVER had this type of adjustment. It was not a normal size for this type of correction, which blew my mind. It was dark outside and everyone had left the office hours ago, so I did what anyone would do. I sent a screen grab to the director and chucked deuces out of there.
Other strange occurrences that plagued me were kernel panics, complete system freeze ups, multiple program crashes and a few I’d rather not discuss. Now I know what you may be thinking, but believe me, my post system in the A suite is a well-outfitted beast. It’s never given me these issues. Even if I’d been bouncing around from project to project all day, as soon as I opened the project file I could pinpoint on the timeline when and where the system would collapse. After exporting and recreating multiple project files, re-encoding all footage and review maintenance of all hardware and software, I was still having the same issues. Finally, while reviewing the problems with a close Post/IT friend of mine, we scrolled through the entire timeline pinpointing every scene or sequence that gave us an issue. Looking at the list of sequences, it hit me that they all had one thing in common…the involvement of a crucifix in the frame… coincidence…doubtful.
You edit, shoot, color correct; which one fulfills you the most?
Capturing the moment that best tells the story, pulls the emotion, grabs the viewers thought process and tells it where to be, what to think and how to feel, is my high. Adding great composition that delivers all of these aspects, is my drug. Creating beautiful images is easy, but creating beautiful images that can accomplish all I’ve stated above is a challenge and I feed on challenges. The importance of balance in a scene is as important as balance in my everyday life. When a director gives me the opportunity to tell their story though a lens, it’s my job to visually compose a balanced sequence that meets or exceeds that director’s vision and best shares the story to the viewer. I see it everyday, many DPs choosing composition over story and for me that is not a challenge, but rather a narrative DP Reel. So delivering a balance that best supports the story while beautifully capturing a frame is what fulfills me the most.
Tell us about your company Holbrook Multi media? What can people expect when they go with Holbrook?
Holbrook was started in 1977 by my dad (Bob Holbrook). The company specialized and focused on audio production for films, bands, and jingles. In 1982 an acquisition of a state-of-the-art film & post house launched Holbrook into video & film production over night. At that time south Louisiana didn’t have many companies renting or offering support for film production so we had to become self-sufficient. This lead to owning and operating our own 5-Ton Lighting & Grip truck, cameras, post production suites and recoding studios, all to support our own productions. Advertising & marketing was added and later PR, web and social media.
Today we are stronger then ever. Our ability to offer so many services to our B2B and corporate clients, Ad agencies, producers, UPMs, studios and directors is wonderful. From a production stand point, the luxury of being able to make one call to facilitate all support for your next project is crazy talk, but at Holbrook we don’t think so. Options range from Arri Amiras, Red Dragons, C300s and all the camera AKS you could want. We have multiple vintage NEVEs, MCI, and digital consoles with ProTools HDX to produce amazing foley, ADR, scoring and sound design. Also, multiple post suites cover your edit, VFX, color and GPX needs. Our fleet of G&E trucks come packed with HMIs, Kinos, Moles, LED Panels, LED HMIs, dollies, sliders, car mounts, and even a small jib. But, if you need more, a 30ft jimmy jib, gimbals and RC camera rigs with mounted 3 Axis stabilizers will get the shot you want.
Our latest package is launching at the end of the month and it’s called “Movie Maker in a Box”. It comes with a full camera package of choice (ARRI, RED or C300), an audio package (Sound Devices 788t), grip support, lighting (Kino’s HMI’s and Tungsten) , a slider and jib, all packaged in a new custom built Sprinter Van for one low, flat rate. For the larger productions our 10 Ton G&E packages, designed by Panavision, will follow the “Movie Maker in a Box” sprinter but on a larger scale. Lastly, we’ve added a Honda ATV camera rig with 3 Axis Gimbal, Electric Low Profile Camera Go-Kart and a F350 Camera Truck with multiple platforms and a 20k Genny for power. The purpose is to provide a TURNKEY solution for your next project. Like I mentioned before, if it saves time, money and streamlines the production, I’m happy and so is production.
What’s next for you film or TV wise? Anything in the pipelines?
I’m excited about the future and what it holds for me and the company. There are serval diverse projects on board. A quick list would consist of music videos, scripted series, a feature length documentary, advertising campaigns, corporate films, short and feature films.
In addition to those projects, my goal is to take advantage of our Louisiana tax credits (up to 35%) and the newly added Indigenous Tax credit (up to 60%). I also want to use our assets and resources at hand to start developing and producing Holbrook’s own IP. Whether it be partnering with another entity to produce content, searching for great scripts to produce or writing and developing our own material, the bottom line is that I want to deliver high quality content creation for any entity or individual interested.
The film will be screening at the SITGES FILM FESTIVAL on October 9th at 8:00PM at the Retiro as part of the Panorama Fantastic section! Writer/Director John Fallon will be on hand to present the screening.