2017 Sundance Film Festival Blog Roundup

Harris Dickinson, Frank Hakaj, David Ivanov and Anton Selyaninov appear in Beach Rats by Eliza Hittman, an official selection of the U.S. Dramatic Competition at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Tayarisha Poe.

Beach Rats, a film by Eliza Hittman and shot by cinematographer Hélène Louvart, AFC, won the U.S. Dramatic Directing Award at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival, where HDVideoPro and the DP discussed shooting the film. Harris Dickinson, Frank Hakaj, David Ivanov and Anton Selyaninov appear in the film. Courtesy of Sundance Institute | Photo by Tayarisha Poe

While the annual Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, is the largest gathering of independent filmmakers in the country, it’s also a tremendous place to find out about the latest projects, equipment and trends in digital filmmaking. Thanks to the nature of indie filmmaking, DV tools were quick to spread among filmmakers and nonlinear editing became a mainstay before the larger studios had come around. The lower budget of indie films helped push digital editing, thanks to the reduced cost of digital production over film development, and the ability for creatives to edit in post allowed for a surge of creative indie films.

HDVideoPro has been attending Sundance for years, and this year we spent time speaking with some of the festival’s most innovative filmmakers. Here’s a look at a few of the conversations and panels we participated in.

The film Beach Rats won the U.S. Dramatic Directing Award at Sundance this year, and HDVideoPro sat down with French cinematographer Hélène Louvart, AFC, to discuss the film and shooting with the ARRI 416 Plus with Kodak Vision Super 16mm. Beach Rats was directed by Eliza Hittman, and of the Brooklyn-based director, Louvart says, “I felt her script was very “clever”, and “sensitive”, in a deep way, very intense for the story, and for the characters. I felt she totally knew her subject and the atmosphere she described: Brooklyn, the subway, Coney Island, and the heat and the boredom when you stay at home during your holidays.”

Louvart reveals that Hittman was clear about shooting Super 16mm from the get-go. And of using Kodak stock and handling the ARRI 416 Plus, the DP says, “Before the shoot, we knew we had to take care of the Kodak stock we’ll use each day, and Eliza had confidence in her characters and the way they’ll act, so she was not anxious, and we shot 4 or 5 takes each time, rarely more than this ratio. (We were supposed to use more or less 7 cans each day, which is a good ratio for shooting film.) And we shot with the ARRI 416 Plus, which is the best ARRI Super 16 camera with eye-piece definition, as well as the weight.”

In this piece with filmmaker Alex Winter and EJ Enriquez we discussed their projects, including this year’s Relatively Free, which documented journalist Barrett Brown after his release from prison after a 63-month sentence for leaking information online. Positioning himself as a journalist in the service of civil disobedience, Brown has his admirers and more than his share of critics.

Of this arrest and prosecution, and the subsequent piece the team made, Winters says, “I just thought it was very important to tell his story about how prosecutorial overreach can impact journalists. And it’s not to say that Barrett didn’t do anything wrong! We know what he did was wrong, but the length of his sentence was directly attributable to the type of journalism he was practicing, not the threat that he made against the officer. That’s a very important story I think. I felt it needed to be told.”

Cinematographer Quyen Tran sat down with us to talk about her films Deidra and Laney Rob A Train and The Little Hours. A filmmaker only since post-9/11, she quit a “very cushy” corporate job to become a photographer, and when she worked as a stills photographer for a film set, she made the switch to manning the cameras for cinema. With a crazy schedule, she had both these films at Sundance, and explains how she spent the year going from Italy to Los Angeles to Las Vegas to do back-to-back shoots—something she does quite often. Using the Canon C500, ARRI M40 HMI light stand a number of filters, she’s able to quickly control lighting to create vivid and striking looks.

While Quyen Tran is an established cinematographer, first-time director Cory Finley presented the psychological thriller Thoroughbred, featuring the late Anton Yelchin, Olivia Cooke and Anya Taylor-Jay, which is “about morality and what makes us good or bad people, how much control we have over that, how much is influenced by our upbringing and…how much of it we can control.” While some might call it a horror film, Finley prefers the term psychological thriller. Adapted from a play, Finley worked on several treatments before producing this, his first film.

Cinematographer Lyle Vincent definitely produced a modern horror film with A Girl Walks Home At Night. Vincent was the cinematographer for Thoroughbred and for Bushwick, also showing at Sundance this year. Bushwick is a “near-future apocalyptic scenario action film that sets a new American civil war in Bushwick, Brooklyn.” The whole film was shot on the MOVI handheld stabilizing rig using the ARRI Alexa Mini. Corey tapped Vincent for cinematographer after watching A Girl… and we talk to him about his visual style, something that’s especially important in thrillers and horror films.

After the buzz that Amazon gained with its hit Transparent, the show’s cinematographer Jim Frohna talked to us about his Sundance entry I Love Dick. Frohna, who’s known for his comedic and dramatic DP work, talks about the way that a smooth team of camera operators can really meet the “goal of creating authenticity and also gives the feeling that the story is unfolding before our eyes.” Frohna gives insights into his style and shooting with the Canon C300 Mark II on the Amazon show, as well as his work with the ARRI Alexa on Point Break.

For the rest of our comprehensive Sundance coverage, visit hdvideopro.com/blog

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