V – ZONA SSP
Zona SSP started out as a webseries project for a random class in which I was able to experiment with everything we’re not usually encouraged to do at the traditional film production classes. I wrote and directed both episodes. Besides that, I was also the cinematographer, editor and responsible for all post-production (both sound and visual). My goal was not to pile up responsibility and create a “single-man” product, but since I wasn’t able to find proper teammates to cover these roles in time, that’s what ended up happening.
The series idea is to portrait a dystopic future in Brazil, using the simplest and cheapest tricks available, without letting the audience notice that it was an extremely cheap film. At this stage I was glad I could heavily rely on our very skilled art director, Luciana Parelho. Our actors, Lucas Durão and Larissa Orlow also jumped in without restrictions along with other classmates. The full crew amounted less than ten people. Fortunately we had a good deal of time for pre-production in order to get the script right, storyboards, visual references and to develop strong visual and sound concepts for the series.
Since the whole thing was a huge experiment, I proposed we used anamorphic lenses in order to test them through production pacing. At this point of the year, we had student strikes going on and the other films I would work as director of photography had great chance of not happening at all.
Episode 01 is based entirely around daylight and exterior shots, relying exclusively on sunlight and various locations. Episode 02, on the other hand, was shot almost in a single room, at night, and has a much more tense feel to it because of the relationship between the characters. The lenses played a great part in how each episode would look, in order to achieve a much more “cinematic” feel rather than “TVish” or “web”.
We spent around $150 to shoot both episodes (thanks to a lot of friends who borrowed us gear, wardrobe, accessories and valuable advice) and I feel pretty proud of what we got at the end. All the editing and post-production – including reshoots of missing or problematic footage and the music score – took us two months, which is also a very short turnaround when we take into account that these are 7-minute videos.
In order to broaden the experience, I wanted to use different kinds of lenses for each episode so I could better describe the process here. This change of lenses also introduced a big change in gear, but we’ll get to that later.
The main reason for wanting to change lenses was the ability to compare the workflow in each scenario, from the camera crew’s functions up to “format’s specific needs” and on-set handling. Besides all that, it’s always nice to be able to compare how they perform, visually, using the final product.
For Episode 02, since we had a low light environment and needed to work at wider apertures, I decided to go with the Original Iscorama as well as an Iscorama 54 paired with M42 russian taking lenses. For Episode 01, which is day-based and has lots of bright sunlight I went with real cinema lenses, even though not as fast as the Iscoramas: OCT-19 mount LOMOs. Both systems will be described in detail over the following chapters.