The 90 Minute Lunch – Short Film Behind the Scenes

Cameras

by: Chris Marino

Collaboration. To me, this is the key part of filmmaking. Every person, from the cast to the crew, working together to achieve a common goal, a visual story to share with an audience. When I first started my foray into filmmaking, I wanted to control everything. I wanted to write it, direct it, shoot it and edit. I felt that if I had my hand in everything that I could assure that my vision was coming to screen the way I intended. Well, as you are reading this I know that you are laughing or snickering at my grandiose idea of controlling everything. As I know now in my slightly wiser state as a visual storyteller, that pipe dream is unachievable. Not only is it almost physically impossible to devote 100% to each of those pivotal roles, but it’s only a matter of time before one of those jobs doesn’t get your 100% and later on it’s going to come back and haunt you. You, the filmmaker, have to surround yourself with the best people for the job and that share your passion for the story.

When I was given this opportunity to lens a short film, “The 90 Minute Lunch,” I wanted to make sure that I had the best people for the job. This sounds like a no-brainer, though this time is was going to be paramount. My partner in this film is my good friend and director of the film, Joe Mesiano (@DrGonzo555). He had a very bold vision for this film. He wanted to use his old neighborhoods in Philadelphia to craft the look of following the characters in their element. This meant shooting on location. I live in San Francisco and so does Joe. This presented a problem. We had our writers in Philly, our actors were there also, as well as our producers. Our illustrator is in S.F. Oh, and all of the seven locations that were to be used I have never seen in person. How do you plan for this?

Well, we did. In earnest. Rigorous storyboards with lighting diagrams, actors blocking diagrams, and camera setups. These then were sent to our east coast crew weekly for them to implement into their preproduction meetings. After three months of hard-core planning we were ready for the story to unfold in front of the lens.

When it came to how we were going to actually shoot it, I knew that HDSLR was the choice. As I mentioned in a previous post, they are perfect for the low-budget film that needs to move fast between setups. The Canon 5D Mk2 was the camera of choice. Now, what about lenses? I own some Canon L glass and they are great all-round lenses. That was until I got my hands on some Zeiss glass. Wow. Talk about an about-face on my perceptions of Canon lenses. The Zeiss are hands down the best engineered, most consistent, and sharpest lenses I have ever used on a HDSLR. We used the Zeiss ZE lenses in 21, 50, 85, and 100mm focal lengths. It’s no wonder that Zeiss lenses have that look we associate with cinema. Over the course of filmmaking history, the majority of feature films have been lensed with some form of Zeiss glass. A huge thanks to Richard Schleuning from Zeiss for providing the lenses for the film.

Camera support. I knew that we would be moving between setups fairly quickly, so the fact of dealing with a tripod did not appeal to me. I know that I wanted to use a shoulder rig in a type of ENG application for quick camera placement. My friend Jared Abrams is really the one who came up with the perfect solution to that type of shooting on a HDSLR. With his craftiness, he created the “JA Edition” RedRock Micro (RRM) rig that we used for the film. It is basically a modified Eye Spy Deluxe rig with another hand grip, top handle, and the vertical counterweight solution from RRM. Solid. Period. With any lens that I used it was comfortable, almost infinitely adjustable, and allowed ease of mounting other accessories such as the Switronix power solution for the Canon HDSLRs. Thanks so much to Brian Valente of RedRock Micro for diving into the parts bin and providing the shoulder rig and follow focus.

I have to thank my crew for making this all happen the way I wanted it go. Joe Mesiano and Dennis Abernathy co-directed the film brilliantly. With Joe working with me on the technical aesthetics and Dennis working with the actors, it was a great concert. My 1st AC, Brian Troy (@BrianTroyFilms) completely killed it pulling focus on tough shots and never skipping a beat with me. Also, he did operate some shots with A camera as well as shoot B cam. Top-notch guy that anyone would happy to have as their first. My 2nd AC, Kira “Titanium Bones” MacAlpine (@kmacapline) made sure that the slates were covered, data wrangled, and just was a juggernaut of help on set. Again, another completely reliable person to have around. I’d have her again in a heartbeat. Our gaffer was a friend of Brian Troy’s, Pat Flanagan. One of scenes in a bar could not have been made without him. He knew exactly what was I was thinking in terms of lighting and just went for it. Great guy, great work attitude and had a great sense of humor when times were tense on set. Last but certainly not least, I have to thank Amy Reese (@Amy_R_Reese) for heading up producing with Drew Carroll, our other producer. Amy and Drew worried about everything from permits, release forms, getting food for the crew, and generally making sure that other key crew members didn’t have to worry about those matters. We also had numerous friends come help out drive, haul gear around, and wrangle people from walking on set. A stellar A+ crew indeed.

All in all, we were on set for 45 of 48 hours. We shot for 39 of those 45 hours on set. Twenty pages, 100 camera setups at seven location were accomplished with this stellar crew. I am just now catching up on sleep. Whew.
Until next time, Cheers.

Please enjoy the BTS photos from both days of production.

Jared Abrams
Jared Abrams is a cinematographer based in Hollywood, California. After many years as a professional camera assistant he switched over to still photography. About two years ago a new Canon camera changed the way the world sees both motion and still photography. He just happened to be in the right place at the right time.