My first drama shoot

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Last Sunday I was Director of Photography on a short film co-written by and directed by Joe Shaw

It’s my first proper drama that I have shot. I did the Trench docu-drama but that was for a museum. This is a proper film.

It’s about a young man who confronts a priest and his demons at a train station. It is currently untitled. I have called in “Confession” for my myself and for the blog purposes.

We had hoped to film in Dungeness as Joe had liked my short there, but it was going to be too expensive. So he found the now derelict Folkestone Harbour station and got it at a steal. It was perfect. Visually interesting and few people. It was a bit noisy, with the road, planes and seagulls but our hugely competent sound mixer, Steve Thomas,  did a brilliant job .

I shot it on the Letus Extreme and Sony EX1, using my 17-35mm f2.8 zoom, fast becoming my favourite lens, 50mm Zeiss f1.4, 85mm Zeiss f1.4 and my lovely 100mm Zeiss f2.

Originally we were to have a focus puller but in the end that didn’t happen so I did it myself. Quite a challenge with the shallow depth of field, but I did OK. It wasn’t always spot on every single time, but pretty close.

I also used my Marshall component monitor and my Wally Dolly. The tripod a Vinten Vision 11 head on Fibretec legs. I also used a hoodman on the LCD.

The sound was recorded separately by Steve on hard drive and DVD, keeping both radios separate as well as two booms. I also recorded both radios on my camera.

I absolutely loved doing it. I was a little worried as my narrative experience is practically zero and I have a few projects coming up so I was really hoping to enjoy it and more importantly do a good job! There were a lot of people there hoping I wouldn’t cock up!

The two actors were Stephen Fletcher who played David and Robert Duncan who played Father Jerome. Their performances I thought were absolutely breathtaking. It was a cold, windy day and the colder they got the better they were!!!

Huge thanks to Mark Dawson of again for his great photos, he shoots great moving stuff too!

See the film here.


  1. Amazing video as usual, realy powerful concept. I noticed you were using a hoodman for your lcd. What model/size is it as i need one for my ex1

  2. it’s so good to see some narrative work with the ex1, i was begining to think it was a glorified still camera with all the footage ive seen so far. well done, this piece could stand up anywhere

  3. Good work, as usual 🙂
    Beautyfull image. I definitly love the 35mm depth of field on the EX1 and the dolly shots.

    Can you tell us what were the PP settings for the shot ? Some footage (when the guy first meet the priest) are very contrasty.

  4. Hmmm…you must not have used the EX1 on this shoot. The EX1 can’t possible produce good images, what with the vignetting, rolling shutter, backfocus issues. Hahaha! (enough with the sarcasm)

    I love it when Panny fanboys try to rip the EX1 to shreds and you just continue to produce great images with it. They’re just in denial that the HVX’s days are numbered.

    On a more serious note, how do you use the AF Nikon 17-35mm with the Letus? Is it always wide open?

    Note on your work on “Confession” : You’re a much better DoP than you are an editor. 🙂

  5. Great use of blocking through out this piece, the way you turn a seemless 2 shot into a reverse shot without moving the camera is very pro. You da man!

  6. Hey phil,
    The edges in all your other videos are soft however this shoot everything was very clear. how did you get rid of that?? great job! keep up all the good work!

  7. My last 2 shorts, Tent Rock and Tramway as well as this were all shot with the EX1 fix which eliminates soft edges, any soft edges in those were deliberate with the shift tilt lenses. I went for realism with this shoot, hence edge to edge sharpness.

  8. Great camera work as always Phil.

    Editing wise, I thought some of the cuts to wide shot from across the tracks lost the intensity that was building, but I realise this was a quick version for our benefit, and I’m really grateful for the way you share you work with us.

  9. Phill hi,

    Great work, the narrative suits you just fine…I have been doing quite of it lately myself too…will have to do a vimeo place for my clips too…look I have one very important gear question…I owe a sony ex1, a letu ex1, and sachtler 18p tripod with the professional-video baseplate which is very convenient coz it’s long and sturdy…please tell me how do you attach the sony ex1 to the professional plate you’re using on pictures below…how do you make it slide in…do you use any kind of adapter-slides or whatecer coz this is just what I need to make my setup complete…thanks for the info best regards Drazen….

  10. Hi Phil, that’s indeed a very powerful piece. Very well done, great work as usual. You are really a great inspiration!
    Say, could you post one or two screen grabs of -uncorrected- footage? I am really curious as to what in the final product is due to the camera/picture profiles and what due to the color grading. For example, I think that in some scenes you crushed the blacks too much, but as you said this is just a temporary version.

  11. In nearly all of your viedos your composting style catched my eye.
    I am always surprised when i see the photos of your puristic set.
    serverals things are quiet apparant. you love extrem contrasts
    and you eliminate all natural color rendition.
    have you ever thought about doing less in post and more while shooting. using linear pol filters for amazing contrasts and colors, or digicon filter for lowering highlights and express more structures?
    I would love to see some more drama work. 🙂

  12. Phil…

    curious about your use of a wide angle on the LEX. I have two prime WA’s, a Canon FD35mm and FD28mm. Neither works well with the LEX because of the circular image they form on the GG. I have to zoom with the EX1 so much to eliminate vignetting that the WA is hardly noticeable.

  13. yep that’s Steve. Bill I have no problems with any wide angles with my LEX, can’t imagine it being a Canon issue.

    Tramway leaving the doc was done on the wide end of my 17-35mm Nikon f2.8

  14. It varies Bill. I often zoom in on the ground glass if I want a quick tighter shot. About 75 to ensure to dark edges. Often I go all the way to 100!

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