Exploring available light for feature film "Concussion"

Director: Stacie Passon

Director of Photography: David Kruta


Meet Abby - a bored, wealthy, lesbian housewife from the suburbs who, by day as her kids sit in school, becomes a prostitute for women. The piece is actually a character study of a woman who, given every advantage, still finds herself lost in life. She has made every choice in her life, she's been able to educate herself and to fulfill her potential. Still she sits alone in the suburbs folding laundry - hidden - devoid of passion and purpose.


Starting in a spin class, as we hear the punk rock song "Connection" by Elastica. Over the course of the film, we meet our Abby's family, her contractor, and her friends. Her female-only clients range in age, some funny, some quirky – all mirroring her in a specific way.


Abby is played by Robin Weigert, a Emmy-nominated actor for her performance of Calamity Jane in HBO's Deadwood. She has been featured prominently in movies by Suzanne Bier, Steven Soderbergh and Charlie Kaufman. Supporting cast includes Maggie Siff (Sons of Anarchy, Mad Men), Janel Moloney (The West Wing), Ben Shenkman (Pi, Requiem for a Dream), Julie Fain Lawrence (Law & Order), Emily Kinney (The Walking Dead) and a slew of other great talent.


The most interesting part of how this film came to be from the a cinematography aspect was the growth in scale. In my earliest talks with director Stacie Passon, it was meant to be an extremely low-profile, guerilla filmmaking adventure. I took a lot of inspiration from the films of Terrence Malick not only for the aesthetic, but to learn as much as I could about what shooting only available light meant. And although the size of the production grew very rapidly, we had created a look that we would pursue throughout the film.


The story of Abby starts out with her living in a cage - a modern housewife locked at home with the laundry. The lighting and framing choices reflect her claustrophobia in the use of long lenses, closeups and foreground elements to show her obstructed on all sides. As she finds more freedom in the city, the framing widens and camerawork becomes more playful and dynamic. Finally, as her two lives collide, the aesthetics start merging and overlapping.


We shot on the Red Epic camera using Zeiss Superspeed lenses. The lenses have fantastic coverage of the larger sensor, all the way down through the 18mm. I chose the Superspeeds because they were the fastest lenses we could get within our budget range, and although I hesitate to shoot at a T1.3, due to our limited equipment we had to use it several times throughout the film. However, the imperfections in glass this old meant that we got a very beautiful, organic look on a camera that can sometimes feel very cold and unforgiving.


Although our mantra was to use modified available light (modifying meaning using negative fill, light grid, flags, etc) we did do quite a bit of lighting to wrap the sources around our actors. Gaffer Jordan Parrott, Key Grip Omar Addassi and I developed a few methods which enabled us to set up quickly and get great results. Our daylight wrap came in the form of a Joker 400 bounced into a 4x4 Light Grid, or if space was tight we would put the Joker in a chimera.


For nighttime, I took inspiration from the film Hanna and created what we termed the Hanna-light: a 2x3 sheet of foamcore with Christmas lights taped to it. Depending on how much setup time we had, it would be softened with Light Grid. The beauty of the Hanna-light is that it acts like a much larger source and thus creates a no-light scenario in which you can get exposure without making it look like there's a light somewhere. Key Grip Omar Addassi also constructed what we called the Omara, a frosted 150w bulb in a Chimera. We would use this in conjunction with the Hanna-lights to bump up one side of a face and give it some shape.


In addition to the available light approach, Stacie and I set some rules for the visuals. I was adamant about staying away from "light sandwiches", a rule I borrowed from Tree of Life. This meant light would come from one angle, and we would eliminate any bounce or edges on the opposite side. I also tried to seek out mixed color temperatures and lens flares for Abby's liberated life, while keeping her home life monochromatic and clean.


Overall I believe we achieved a fantastic look in a short schedule on a meager budget, and working with Stacie was a fantastic experience. If you would like to stay updated with what's happening on Concussion, please like the Facebook page or follow @ConcussionMOV on Twitter.

Anna Haas Dances Around the Maypole in New Video

Director: Jon Tee/Anna Haas

Director of Photography: David Kruta

Jon Tee of TeeDox Films approached me for this project, and instantly I was hooked. The video is a surreal and creepy look into the life of a doll coming to life under the gaze and direction of her dollmaker. We shot over the course of 2 days in Brooklyn Studios with a small but talented cast and crew.

Here's the video:

Fiery redhead Anna Haas excites the senses instantly with a powerhouse voice and arrestingly honest lyrics, enhancing each line with wildly dramatic stage antics and heavy, soulful piano playing.

A passionate risk-taker, Haas perpetually explores new ways to use the stage to make each show original and captivating, whether by incorporating subtle dance or fearlessly entering the audience. Staggering the thick line of influence of Lady Gaga and Patty Griffin, Haas is careful to keep the focus on the music, using her on-stage antics as an illustrative complement to the songs.

Check Anna's work out at annahaas.com

Growing some "Midnight Flowers" with The Dig

Director: Tyler Greco

Director of Photography: David Kruta

Recently, the Abandoned Palace At 5 Beekman Street in New York City played host to the last production ever to shoot there - a surreal trip through the fanciful and playful mind of director Tyler Greco, set against the haunting notes of "Midnight Flowers" by New York City's own The Dig.


“With one hand deep in roots rock and roll and live performances that lift you up and leave you ragged, The Dig are building a reputation as one of the best young bands in New York. The songs on their new EP, Good Luck and Games, produced by Bryce Goggin (Pavement, The Ramones) have energy and intelligence matched only by their heartfelt swagger. See them now so you can say you saw them then.”



Steadicam played a pivotal role in helping us achieve over 50 setups for the day. We traveled from floor to floor to complete a series of vignettes, in addition to several main performance pieces featuring the band. The vignettes were part flashback and part imagination and followed the story of a couple in love as their romance falls apart. Michael Fuchs, Local 600 Operator, cranked out shots all day while Gaffer Omar Addassi and Key Grip Teresa Rhinehart helped prep the next scenes.



We lit primarily with 2 ARRI 1800w HMI PARs, which were either used as our key light or used to create fill against the powerful sunlight streaming through the windows. This package was supplemented with 4 750w Lekos and a small collection of tungsten units ranging from 300s to 1K open-faced lights. My DeMaitre Radiance haze generator was pretty much on full blast for the entire shoot.



One of the most challenging and rewarding scenes to light was the nighttime party sequence. The room we were in was comparitively small and we had no time to rig anything above. In the end, I lit the main part of the scene, our actress wrapping a passed out partier in Christmas lights, with a single 300w through a door. The rest was lit with 4 40w practicals around the room, a spinning disco light and additional Christmas lights strewn around the floor. The highlight of this sequence came when I noticed 1st AC Dave Brickley looking for something with his flashlight and how it illuminated our actors' faces. Immediately I asked to borrow it and handheld the flashlight to light different bits of the scene.


The performance sequence relied heavily on moving light. My first impressions upon seeing the location were that of deja vu - it looked almost exactly like the toymaker sequence from Blade Runner. I instantly wanted to replicate that feel, so the motto of the shoot became "light it like a happy Blade Runner". I went for a 1800w 2 floors up being moved during the take, and another at floor level for fill, being blocked by an exceptionally strong grip with a 4x4 floppy for numerous 6 minute takes. Overall I think this approach made what could have been a standard performance sequence a bit more interesting.




In addition, I had our playback man Tim Haber create several versions of the song, and we would play the song at 200% while shooting at 48fps. When played back later, the footage would appear to be in slow motion but the lyrics would match up with the original pace of the song. This helped tie the vignettes, which were entirely shot off-speed, to the performance piece.


Above, Director Tyler Greco walks me through a shot.



Watch out for the track "Midnight Flowers" along with the video to be released in early 2012. Special thanks to Carly Nahigyan for the behind the scenes photos.

Source screens at SoCal Film Festival, wins Best Cinematography

Source has been making the rounds at film festivals and was most recently awarded Best Cinematography at the SoCal Film Festival. Source is a pitch for a feature film written and directed by Will Simmons. Follow him on Twitter here. A century after the nuclear holocaust, mankind drifts towards the precipice of extinction. The discovery of a source of infinite energy ignites hope for the future, but its whereabouts are shrouded in secrecy and controlled by those who lust for power. After an enslaved mercenary uncovers the truth, he must decide whether to fight for survival or sacrifice for the greater good.

If you haven’t read it, check out the behind-the-scenes post here.


Official trailer for Remember Your Death released

Remember Your Death is the story of three men hired to clean up after a banker's bloody shotgun suicide. A short narrative about death and about gore, about running away and starting over. It is a film about an America in economic ruin and the men and women left to clean up the mess.

I recently posted about how I lit and shot this film. Check it out here.

Click 'Like' and follow Remember Your Death on the official Facebook page for the latest updates as we head into the 2012 festival circuit: facebook.com/​RememberYourDeath

You can also see live updates on Twitter at twitter.com/RYDFilm