Smokestack – A Director of Photography challenge

I recently shot my first short film as a Director of Photography for the 48 hours SCI-FI London Film Festival. The event challenges you to create a sci-fi short over a weekend with the winning films screened at BFI. Teams have 48 hours to script, direct, make and post a three to five minute short following a brief that consists of: the title of the film, a piece of dialogue and a prop. The team was given the title “Smokestack”, the line “He showed me his office and I pretended to be impressed”, and a keyboard without a key as our prop.

Location in East London
Location in East London

Most of ‘Smokestack’ was filmed in an old deserted warehouse in North London. It was a fantastic space, filled with broken glass, old windows and empty rooms giving it a very post-apocalyptic look perfect for the genre. Teams are encouraged to plan ahead and scout locations, and because we had no prior idea about what we would be filming, we tried to find the biggest and most flexible space to use.

Focus at 1.8 f/stop proved to be a real challenge
Focus at 1.8 f/stop proved to be a real challenge

 

The team was made up of 18 people, including 10 from The Mill. It was a very collaborative effort with everyone taking on multiple roles across all areas of the production including camera work, script writing and post-production. We were lucky to have five amazing actors contribute to the film: Hainsley Lloyd Bennett, Haf Gibson, Cecillie Aclon, Raquel Claudino and Luigi Barzini. They really helped shape the story, especially Hainsley who wrote most of the dialogue and scripted major plot points.

 

Blackmagic 4K Camera
Blackmagic 4K Camera

We used the new Blackmagic Production Camera 4K. After being on the waiting list for a year, Hugo Guerra (director) finally got the camera two weeks before the challenge and it was the perfect project to test it out on. The results were amazing with the camera producing incredibly sharp 4K footage that rivals professional cameras. We used 12 Canon EF lenses, ranging from 8mm all the way to 300mm to provide a range of different looks and feel for the film.

Using the skater dolly on a flat surface
Using the skater dolly on a flat surface
Framing a shot with director Hugo Guerra
Framing a shot with director Hugo Guerra

 

Some frames of the finished product:

 

Screen Shot 2014-08-24 at 18.16.31Screen Shot 2014-08-24 at 18.17.43Screen Shot 2014-08-24 at 18.18.24Screen Shot 2014-08-24 at 18.17.02Screen Shot 2014-08-24 at 18.18.43Screen Shot 2014-08-24 at 18.19.46Screen Shot 2014-08-24 at 18.20.57Screen Shot 2014-08-24 at 18.21.51Screen Shot 2014-08-24 at 18.23.22Screen Shot 2014-08-24 at 18.24.25Screen-Shot-2014-08-24-at-18.24.25

 

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