Banks of the Vltava is a short film project that I shot for frequent collaborator, Dan A. R. Kelly. It’s a very near and dear project to my heart, as every member of both the cast and crew put 110% into this project to make it happen. From the first read through of the script, we all knew that it was going to be an ambitious film to complete. However, everyone involved was committed to the story and the determination and drive that exuded from writer/director Kelly spilled onto all those involved. One of the most ambitious elements of the story is the fact that it takes place in Prague in 1943, but was of course to be shot in Greensboro, North Carolina in 2009-10. This required numerous period costumes, props and other pieces to sell the time period. On a large budget production, acquiring these items isn’t a problem, but on a smaller budget it’s much more difficult to secure. Furthermore, the project required a large ensemble cast, an array of visual and makeup effects (as it is a horror film) and almost a complete schedule of night shoots.
Production spanned over, I believe, about a 15-16 day shoot over nearly a one and a half year period. As stated earlier, nearly all of these days, outside of about two, were night shoots (6pm-6am). During the time we shot this production, the commonality of DSLRs had not yet hit the market. If you wanted a shallow depth of field and cinematic look on a lower budget camera package, a good old DOF adapter was really the way to go. So, the film was shot on my HVX-200 with a Redrock m2 adapter and Nikon glass; this yielded a relative ISO of about 100. For those of you not familiar with film sensitivity ratings, it takes A LOT of light to properly expose an image at 100 ISO when you are shooting at night. We only had HMI availability on two nights, so the majority of the film was lit with an array of 1k and 2k fresnels, 1k PARs, a pair of Blondes, a Redhead, various smaller unit fresnels, a pair of Kino 2-4ft banks and a 750 ZIP light. There are times where all units we had access to were being powered by a set of generators out in the woods. In the end, I feel we did a good job of pulling it all off, and some of that was validated this weekend, which is really the true point of the post.
Over the weekend, the film screened at two festivals: the Terror Film Festival in Philadelphia, Penn. and the Buffalo Screams Film Festival in Buffalo, N.Y. We were very happy to be nominated for awards at both festivals! At the Terror Film Festival, nominations for their CLAW Awards were given to Best Horror Short Film, Best Specials Effects for the brilliant work by Shane D. Smith, Best Actor to our lead Rami Rothstein, and Best Director of Photography for myself. At Buffalo Screams, the film was nominated for Best Makeup Effects by the talented Gretchen Adams. Late on Saturday night, as I was watching an episode of Storage Wars on the couch with Maddie, I got a text from Dan, who had gone to Philadelphia to represent the film at the Terror Film Festival. Turns out, we won the CLAW award for Best Director of Photography. Needless to say, it was very exciting news and always a good feeling to be recognized for your contribution on a film. It was also a very special film, personally, to be recognized for, because of the extra mile that was gone on all of our crew and casts’ behalf to get the film produced. Also, as with anything, it’s a collaborative effort and I had a wonderful crew to support me in achieving the look I was implementing for Dan.
Check out more about this film and other WiTPP productions at: http://www.walkintheparkpictures.com