Simply awesome DSLR film by Kevin Shahinian

Kevin is one talented bastard. His concept wedding films simply have to be seen to be believed. He has fused event filming and movie making into something so unique that nobody else on the planet is doing what he is doing.

“City of Lakes” is even more unique than his previous works as it actually includes the event in it, unlike say his awesome concept film “SNOW”

I think it best if I leave it to Kevin to explain:

The initial inspiration for “City of Lakes” came from my conversations with the bride, Melissa, when she first told me she had been dreaming of a wedding in India ever since she was a young girl. From there, the entire concept was developed. As the story began to take shape, I looked to find ways to incorporate the beauty of the Hindu faith and make the rituals of a Hindu wedding more accessible to a western audience, so much of those traditions informed certain scenes like the opening, the character of Harish, the necklace itself (a pendant of Ganesh), and the recurrence of the priest. It’s often easier to understand metaphors, so much of the children’s journey was developed in this way. As the title of the film suggests, Udaipur and the palaces at Lake Pichola also lent a great deal of inspiration to the story, in terms of establishing a larger than life setting where anything is possible.


Below is from Kevin’s blog

What happens to a dream when it becomes reality?

Does it still exist somewhere, in some ethereal place, waiting to come to fruition again?

Could a fictional narrative capture an emotional state, and the true meaning behind a real, live event with more drama and conviction than a traditional documentary?

These were just some of the questions that arose when I took on the “CITY OF LAKES” project late last year. First, it would become an unprecedented attempt to combine a fully scripted, produced film with a real, live wedding (central to the plot) into one, seamless film. Second, the live wedding and production would be shot entirely on-location in Udaipur, India over a period of nine days. Third, the skeleton crew I would commission would be made up solely of live event filmmakers from across North America, who would shoot the live wedding events and production simultaneously & exclusively on DSLRs, the Canon 5D MarkII and Canon 7D.

The project would require a leap of faith first from Chicago natives, Melissa & Samir, who initially invited me to document their three-day destination wedding in Udaipur, India, while simultaneously considering a Bollywood concept they hoped to premiere at their reception. I quickly realized no concept film could rival the fairy tale wedding they had planned. So after pitching the idea to combine a scripted concept with their wedding film to produce a much more meaningful ‘hybrid’ feature, they deliberated, and finally took the leap. For that, I can’t thank them enough. It then took a leap of faith from my DP & Co-producer Patrick Moreau, who was skeptical, but eager, followed by talented wedding filmmakers Joe Simon & Casey Warren. Rounding out our team was my jib operator, Chris Geiger, Amish Solanki, and Mumbai-based super-producer, Pravin Thakur; a true miracle worker.

“CITY OF LAKES” is as much a documentary about what it means to return to the birthplace of one’s ancestors, as it is an exploration of the Hindu faith, and the rituals of a Hindu marriage. Central to this is the Ganesh puja, which in simple terms, is a prayer over a fire believed to invoke the spirit of Ganesh, a great deity and protector, who can remove all obstacles from one’s path. The puja is performed several times in the film and carries great significance to the plot and characters in both literal and metaphoric ways.

Melissa & Samir had always dreamed of being married in India. We hope this film helps them cherish that dream. But it could not have been without the acting talents of Anubhab Saha, Sharon Chawda and Rushad Rana, who were consummate professionals and a joy to work with. It also could not have been without the support of our sponsors: Canon, who provided two pre-production 7Ds and a host of L-series lenses; Tiffen, who provided all of our lighting; and Cinevate, who sent us much needed gear and sponsored an incredible behind-the-scenes campaign viewable at Cinevate.com.

The challenges were immediate, abundant and frequent. At times, we were certain the film was destined for failure; I wondered if the film was too ambitious to execute. It took the perseverance of filmmakers who deal routinely in making the spontaneous appear staged and constant script re-writes to adjust to the obstacles.

You won’t find many studios ready or willing to post a full length edit or main feature online for anyone to see; and for good reason. Event films are documentaries meant mainly for the people who lived them. But it’s with pride that we share Melissa & Samir’s ‘hybrid’ feature, “CITY OF LAKES,” which hopefully achieves more than a documentary, and perhaps at the same time, more than a scripted film.

There is a final question we hope you’ll find difficult to answer as you watch our film. In more ways than one, try to answer:

What is real?

Thanks for watching,
-Kevin

Pacific Pictures presents “CITY OF LAKES”
Starring Melissa Kumar, Samir Shah, Anubhab Saha, Sharon Chawda & Rushad Rana
Written & Directed by Kevin Shahinian
Produced by Kevin Shahinian & Patrick Moreau
Line Producer Pravin Thakur
Director of Photography Patrick Moreau
2nd Unit Director Joe Simon
2nd Unit Steadicam Casey Warren
Film Editor Kevin Shahinian
Jib Operator Chris Geiger
Set Photographer Amish Solanki

You can contact Kevin by clicking here


“CITY OF LAKES” The Feature from PACIFIC PICTURES on Vimeo.


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Comments

  1. I am not into weddings but love movies from India. This is the best imagery I have seen for a long time. I liked “Snow” too. Kevin Shahinian is a true master.

  2. haha this was pretty awesome. loved it especially because whenever i go back to india in the summers i visit those areas haha.

    in the beginning there is this sort of cool motion (the boat scene) how did he accomplish that? was it a higher shutter speed?

  3. The writing, visuals and production is hands-down-awesome. Way to inspire the rest of us, Kevin.

  4. I’ve been watching this movie 3 times until now, and, yeah, it is so Extremely wonderful…
    Yeah, NEED to Learn a LOT from here…

  5. OMG.
    That was awesome, what talent those guys have!
    I can only dream of making something a fraction as good as that someday….

  6. Watched it a while back on Planet5D, great production values that for sure. The rest of it didn’t interest me much, but it’s hella gorgeous.

    Let’s see if this Gravatar thing works out…

  7. Wow, this is incredible. The wedding shots were really wedding shots from their actual wedding?

          1. I mean, manual is king, but in my situation I think it may make a little more sense for me to run it in auto (just the shutter, mind you, controlling aperture and iso manually). I have the devil’s time getting correct exposure for outdoor shots and while I’m sure the variation in shutter speed from shot to shot — especially in a single, cohesive piece like this — would take some people out of the movie, most would never notice.

            I wanted to do something like this with just setting ISO to auto for night time shots and there I found that it jumped to ridiculous levels like 3200 or even 6400 and I couldn’t find an option to cap it at 1600 (although still photo taking certainly has the option to allow someone to do this). Manual adjustment in night shots is, thankfully, a much easier thing to deal with than bright-lit shots during the heat of the day.

            I find myself wishing movie mode had equivalent Av and Tv modes to compensate for the lcd’s shortcomings. But you’re saying it does? I’ll have to read my manual today or tomorrow to find out how.

            1. Hey Jose-

              Auto does have it’s rare place in the universe, but I don’t think this is it. A DSLR’s auto functions are meant for stills, and the manufacturer paid little attention to how smooth the change is- in short, the auto makes the exposure jump around abrubtly, (especially when you are moving the camera) and makes almost any videos you make on a DSLR look completely amateur. (day to night time lapses might be the only exception)

              For a Video Camera with amazing auto functions, check out the HD Hero: http://www.goprocamera.com/

              And if you really want to wrap your head around a exposure, get a traditional 35mm camera, a few rolls of slide film, and a meter. Go out and shoot- and I think by the third roll you’ll have it- if you’ve been paying attention the interrelationships of ISO, shutter, and aperture should be seared into your memory. I dont think there is any good alternative to learning how to expose the old fashioned way.

              Someone I know was fired from a Printing studio because he had started with digital and skipped the C-printing all together. They came to realize that the people who had started on film were much better, so they fired half the staff. I think we will see the same thing in the video world as people lose there film roots. Start with some basics and you wont be that guy…

              1. Oh and btw Phillip, thank you so much for mentioning the ND Fader! Somehow I never heard of the damn things and was just about to order 3 sets of NDs when I saw your post. You saved me a lot of hassle. Much thanks.

                1. Although the gopro is very different, it is also very awesome! I am definitely going to add this to my kit at some point (along with a lensbaby as soon as I can justify the expense) I don’t really have a ton of situations that I can think of for this camera, but for under 300 I’m sure I can find some-

                  Balloon shots, shoe shots, pov mouth shots? Whats not to love- oh, yeah, damn 30fps again. When will people learn? So much for all the awesome live performance stuff I was hoping to do with it- Looks like slightly slow-mo shots only I’m afraid…

    1. I feel like it was a bit faster than that some of the shots aren’t as smooth, but that effect was used really well!

  8. Did you notice from the pictures they weren’t using alot of the add ons like follow focus, matte boxes, external monitors etc…just the camera and lenses! Pretty cool!

    1. That is exactly what I was noticing. I have a feature coming up, and I’ve been pricing out all those ‘doodads’, but looking at videos like this makes me wonder if any of that is even necessary. Maybe that money can be better spent elsewhere.

  9. Seems like these guys didn’t use any Z-Finder type gear to get correct exposure. Would be interesting to see how they coped with what seems to be very bright shooting conditions with the lcd screen only.

  10. This is one of the best Films I saw. Awesome ! Very beautiful, touching, poetic, magical. Perfect work !
    I usually am not very patient, after 3minutes I get bored but I really enjoy each second of this wonderful work.
    Thank you Phil for giving us a chance to not miss this stunning Film.

  11. Kevin you are a freakin genius, love the visuals but most of all, the guts to pull something like this off! Truly a great storyteller, loved the end.

  12. What is real??? Well, I’ll tell you what isn’t real for plenty of event filmmakers out there: the chances of Canon, Tiffen, and Cinevate providing all their goodies for a wedding shoot epic. Simply amazing visuals!

  13. I know its great but they could do it better … final image quality doesnt look so good so inspiring as i expected.Its a little bit strange imho.

  14. Thanks for all the great comments, guys… And a very special thanks to Philip for his kind words and for posting our film here. I’m really glad it’s been received well, especially among filmmakers. I know I’ve said it on my blog, but with all the challenges we faced, we left India truly unsure if we even had a film. The DSLRs were really our saviour in a lot of ways, in no small part, by allowing us to shoot under certain conditions most other cameras would not have allowed: in huge crowds, in candlelight, with micro-crews, etc.

    The BTS images are indeed telling: we often didn’t have the luxury (time) to kit our rigs with all the goodies, even though we brought them all. The NDs were one of the first things to go. We were getting some nasty reflections and the extra time to get it right we just didn’t have. We didn’t quite run the cameras on auto-shutter, we just favored a higher shutter in direct sunlight in order to leverage everything else – sometimes higher than we would’ve liked. On most of the dancing, the fast shutter was intentional. The pre-firmware 5Ds were also a challenge, since this was an all 24p film, so all of those cameras were placed strategically for the slowdown in post. There was an unsuccessful attempt at stealing Philip’s 7D at WEVA just before the shoot… I recall a pair of hands around my neck as I was walking out the door with it 😉 Jeremy’s got links above to Patrick’s post on the StillMotion blog, for more insight into our use of DSLRs.

    Thanks again everyone, and especially Philip, for the great conversation.

    Best,
    -K

  15. Why doesn’t he use his visual and story-telling energy and talent for making a really movie with a story that matters instead of producing a superficial souvenir for people who seem to have too much money to spend (on one of their most intimate moments in life)?

    1. You know, this isn’t a half bad question. Though I think you worded it terribly wrong. Way to negative and dismissive for seemingly no reason. Now I’m not attacking you, I stated earlier it’s a good question. Kevin clearly has incredible film making talent, so why doesn’t he make some other narrative films? Great question. I would be very interested to see what he does with a proper story/narrative. But I don’t think we should dismiss this piece of work, because while it isn’t special to some of us, it is special to the couple he made it for.It is extremely well made.

      RomanM

      1. Maybe it was said a little too hard (also due to difficulties with the english vocabulary). But I really find this kitschy – and the most important thing: when I think about something like marriage I might think of a party/travelling/inviting friends and family/intimacy/engaging somebody to take photos or write something about it – but I would never, never think about engaging a professional film team that makes a pseudo-hollywood-star out of me. This is crazy, even scary. And I think there are plenty better things you can do with the money they paid for this video (how much might it be 20.000?) in a country like India.

  16. Thanks for sharing to the both of you Philip and Kevin. Luckily those hands did not squeeze to hard, which means we can expect some more of you in near future. Looking forward to seeing more stunning productions.

  17. outstanding, just a comment, form all the picture none has the z-finder on their geir or something similar, it’s not mandatory then.

    Again well done Monsieur Bloom pour votre blog toujours très intéressant on vous attend à Paris pour un atelier.

    😉

  18. Excellent Film. Thoroughly enjoyed it. This is the type of thing that after viewing, makes you wanna go out and shoot more.

    Well done Kevin and all involved.

    Many of your films also have this effect on me and many others I’m sure Philip. So thank you as well.

    I didn’t find the shutter speed an issue at all in this film. It was just so engrossing to watch. The story and emotional content shawn through way more.

    Cheers!

  19. Personally, I thought Snow was much better. This seemed over indulgent, way too long and spent more time on the supporting cast than it did the bride and groom – call me old fashioned but isn’t this supposed to be their day?!

    Oh, and guys, please give it up with those bloody sliders – not every shot has to move…

    That said, Kevin def has talent and yes, it would be great to see him graduate to something with traditional narrative. Weddings are one thing but at the end of the day its still a wedding…

  20. Personally, I thought Snow was much better. This seemed over indulgent, way too long and spent more time on the supporting cast than it did the bride and groom – call me old fashioned but isn’t this supposed to be their day?!

    Oh, and guys, please give it up with those bloody sliders – not every shot has to move…

    That said, Kevin def has talent and yes, it would be great to see him graduate to something with traditional narrative. Weddings are one thing but at the end of the day its still a wedding…

  21. Hey Kevin,
    Excellent job man, I thoroughly enjoyed the photography. Im very excited to see what you do next.
    You too Phillip…
    -Kristoph

  22. >>Oh, and guys, please give it up with those bloody sliders – not every shot has to move…

    Yep, I am beginning to hate sliders as much as I already detest gratuitious steadicams and extremely shallow DOF, all for no good reason. The best clip I have seen for a while was done with a cheap monopod.

  23. really sorry to say, but i find it just weird. it looks nice in some parts, but overall, it doesn’t gel and is quite boring