Very rarely in documentary filmmaking do I get the opportunity to think conceptually about the photography of a piece. So often we're working with the resources that are available on someone else's schedule. RED CARDS was different. For all of the episodes, we were dealing with past crimes - stories that had already happened - and so it was much more like shooting a scripted piece. There was a lot of pre production and the producers went through several different directors before settling on Jeff Pinilla and Matt Pourviseh - the dynamic duo behind Astronada. I was lucky enough to be signed on from the start and given the chance to develop a visual language that we stuck to throughout the series.
The challenge was to create a visually dynamic story about events that had already taken place. Our idea was to blend present day interviews with footage of empty places or objects that were indicative of the crimes that had taken place; the scene of a murder, the arena where the corrupt ref officiated, the neighborhood where the victim grew up, etc. I wanted to use the photography to create a subtle perceptive difference in the present and the past without hammering the audience over the head.
The other challenge: we'd rarely have control over these situations so lighting had to be kept to a minimum.
I decided to blend two lens packages - a modern, sharp, clean look for the present day interviews and a vintage, flarey ghosty look for the “recreation" stuff. After some reading and testing, I settled on the Arri UltraPrimes for the modern and Zeiss Super Speed mk2s for the recreations. Not only do I love the image quality of these two sets, they are light enough for extended handheld operations. I resolved to shoot the ultras at a T2.8-T4 while always keeping the old super speeds at maximum T1.3 for their softness and flare characteristics.
For capture system, we opted for the Red DSMC2 Helium sensor using the IPP2 color workflow. Color was handled by Steve Bodner at Light Iron, NY. Steve brought an incredible eye and sense of tase to the whole project - keeping the look very true-to-life while pushing grain and coherent color into the archival footage.
Most of the series was captured this way except for two exceptions - the mock-archival footage in the PeeWee Kirkland episode was captured on Kodak Vision3 500T Super8 using a Canon Max1014xls refurbished by Pro8mm and the North Carolina pickups in the Curtis Malone piece were captured months after principal wrapped on a couple of Arri Amiras.
As a final note, two of these episodes were produced by Huffman Studio in association with Bright Young Things - the episodes about Missy Giove and Curtis Malone. As a result, due to overlapping schedules, we were fortunate to enlist the ever impressive David Waldron to lens the Missy Giove piece.
This shoot was a bear and I’m incredibly happy with how it all turned out.
RED DSMC2 Helium, Arri Amira, Zeiss Super Speed MKII Primes, Arri Ultra Primes.
Canon Max1014xls Super8mm Camera, Kodak Vision3 500T