“The [Director of Photography] is the link between the directors vision and what ends up visually on the frame. That means not only managing camera department, but working with the Gaffer to get grip and electric running, and consulting with wardrobe, art, and hair and makeup departments to make sure you keep a cohesive visual style. The DP translates abstract concepts from the director into concrete choices.” – Sebastian Lama
Horror films aren’t just about the jump scares and things that go “bump” in the night – much of what we understand horror films to be came as a result from German Expressionism back in the early 1920’s. In Germany, the film industry was small and focused its attention towards American and French features; it wasn’t until the events of World War I that the nation’s attitude towards film changed, along with the perception of its civilians. German filmmakers started to express their ideas in “dysfunctional ways”, which was labeled as German Expressionism. Over time, German Expressionism was condemned as ‘degenerate art’ by the Nazi Party, which resulted in a hoard of expressionist directors immigrating to the US. Thus, the rise of horror films in the US came to be. (SJMJ91, http://ow.ly/ohGE30dS7YS & Erik Swanson, http://ow.ly/v4QZ30dS88u)
As a tribute to the genre and other silent-era films, our “EXPOSED” crew member of the week, Director of Photography Sebastian Lama, was able to light and shoot (on film!) a music video for Chicago band Reptoids and their song Night.
“Co-creators Conor McCaffery & Yeva Dashevsky pitched this project to me over drinks, and I was instantly sold. I loved the chance to shoot on film, and to pay homage to silent era films, and horror in particular. Horror is my favorite type of project to light, creating pools of light everywhere.” – Sebastian Lama
While the project itself only took two production days, it was spread out over a year. In fact, the male victim, Daniel Lutger, is the drummer in the band. Sebastian and his team convinced Lutger to grow a beard that Tiffany Anderson (makeup artist) then styled into the awesome look he sports in the video. Anderson then had to recreate it almost a year later for the dramatic conclusion. The end goal was to have the final music video done by Halloween, but between a low budget and the limitations of shooting on film, the project was stretched out beyond what was wanted. For Sebastian, Night taught him just how forgiving film can be in terms of exposure.
“There were scenes towards the end of the night that we were shooting where street lamps were the only light source. We didn’t have an option so I just set the lens to wide open and hoped for the best! I was surprised to see how much you could see when we got the film back from the lab. I half expected it to be completely black!” – Sebastian Lama
The job of a DP is never easy: they need to set the tone for a set and keep a level head under pressure. However, Lama could argue that aside from the director, many people assume a DP is one of the most glorified positions on a set, but he wishes people would keep in mind that it’s every other department that helps make the DP look good.
“For this and every project, my favorite part is the collaboration with other departments. When the locations and sets look great, the wardrobe is spot on and the makeup sells the style, my job is easy!” – Sebastian Lama
A lot of people would assume that as a DP, you must love cameras. While the technical aspect probably attracts some DP’s, most of them are storytellers first, and the tools are secondary.
“I think most people not in the industry would attribute a lot of the work of the DP to the director, which is fine. Ultimately the story is what matters, not individual credit.” – Sebastian Lama
Thank you to Sebastian Lama for sharing your project, and insight into the light of a Director of Photography! Be sure to contact Sebastian through the “ABOUT ME” button on his photo above, or reach out to us we can connect you with him!
Thank you for watching this week’s Exposing the Crew “EXPOSED” indie project!
(We just want to do our part in supporting the indie community!)
We’ll See You All Next Tuesday,
Samantha George (Producer, JJack Productions)