Thursday, July 23, 2009

DSLR/Video Interview with Andrew Disney

Andrew Disney is shooting his film, Searching For Sonny, in Fort Worth, Texas using a Canon D5 Mark II DSLR. He attended NYU film school and then returned to Fort Worth after the summer of 2007. "It's a great place to shoot, and I'm finding that there is money here. Everybody wants to make movies, and there's a ton of energy in Texas for filmmaking."

Disney describes his film like this "It's about three bumbling friends who go back to their high school reunion and get sucked into a small town murder mystery that seems eerily like a play from high school."

His plan after the film is completed is to begin seeking distribution via film festivals. If no distributors step forward, then self distribution is in his future. "Deep down I love the idea of self-distribution and would not be disappointed if it turns out that way. Our strategy now has been to film the trailer, create the buzz, get the fans. That way, once we shoot the film, we'll already know we have some sort of audience. And it definitely makes an investor happy to know that people want to see the film before money has even been put into the project. It makes filmmaking much more democratic and smart. Consumers get to choose."

RQD: What has shooting Searching for Sonny with a DSLR meant for the movie?

AD: With DSLR, there's going to be a great upheavel. Besides me, we had a DP, an AC, a producer, and one PA on the shoot. We used a kino flo package and an arri package. That's it, and we were able to make somthing that looks very very good [the trailer]. So if i can make a great looking movie for a modest budget, then I can just distribute to a niche audience. No need distribute to the masses. Just distribute to a certain audience, and use social networking and viral marketing to get there. In the last twelve hours, we've got 2,000 hits from China because the trailer was posted on a Chinese gadget blog -

RQD: I saw your trailer. Nice dolly move in front of the Starbucks. Did you find it difficult to get steady camera moves with the Canon? Any problems with handheld shots? How did you get around them if you had any?

AD: I was very afraid about the sensitivity of the camera to movement. I'd read alot about how the rolling shutter in the Canon 5d can sometimes give a jelly effect. If you look at the focus push at the second mark, you'll see what a lot of people are having problems with. We stayed away from handheld shots, more as a stylistic choice. We did a test before the shoot with handheld, some parts are a little too shaky. I think it'll be a new camera technique to master.

On the dolly, we used sandbags to weigh down the tripod. But even with a nice dolly with good track, we had to rehearse the shot over and over again. Every little bump could be seen on camera.

Here's a picture of what our setup looked like.

RQD: How did you record sound for the movie? Onto the camera card or separate system?

AD: We did a separte system. We've only shot the trailer. We're releasing the full trailer on April 15th. It'll have sound. We used our HVX200 to record the sound. Funny that the HVX used to be our dream camera. Now it's what we record sound on via miniDV.

RQD: Any examples/stories of how using such a small camera enhanced your project? Shots you couldn't have gotten otherwise?

AD: The size of the camera made our crew smaller. Nothing to big to lug around. A battery pack that lasted all day. It felt easier and we went tired. Moving the camera, using the dolly was just so easy. I think for a documentary filmmaker, DSLR is going to be a must.

The big plus about the camera is the light sensitivity and the size of the image sensor. We were able to shoot in low light. The starbucks shot is only lit by available parking lot lights and a kino on the side to give a hair light. (We could only use 3 bulbs because we use powering it from my car and the fuse would blow when we switched on four.) The camera can use low light so well, and the sensor grabs so much data because of its size. That was the pain with the HVX and a 35mm adapter. You'd lose so much light and the blacks turned out so grainy.

: Are there any limitations for what people will be able to watch/project your film on or with?

: That's a big question a ton of people have been asking. If it's projected on a movie screen... maybe. But then again the best projectors out there are only 2K. I'm waiting to see the RED Scarlet. Maybe that'll be the camera to shoot on. The only problem with that is the price will be more and it won't be fun to buy so much disk storage. Many people decry the compression on the 5d but I'm okay with it. It looks good to my eye and the people around me. Star Wars Episode 1 was shot on 1080p. And the film may not even play in theaters. If people watch it on Blu-Ray, DVD, iPhones, the internet, the Canon 5d is perfect.

: Anything else you'd like to add will be appreciated. I just need a couple of paragraphs to round out my article.

: I like all other DSLR filmmakers am waiting for the Panasonic GH1. The 5dm2 does a great job, but there are so many work arounds. You can't control the light sensitvity and we had to use nikon lenses on a nikon adaptor mount to control the aperature. No filmmaker want to shoot 30p either. Hopefully the GH1 will be the standard.

All I know is I'm not going back to 35mm adapters. I'm a DSLR filmmaker from now on.

Looking for Sonny Web site and trailers
Here are some links to good technical information on his use of the Canon D5:

Early tests




This interview was conducted for an article in the Spring 2009 issue of Filmmaker Magazine

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