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A Story About a Sure Thing.

For years, the sole purpose of this website (formerly keithdecristo.com) was to serve as an online repository for my creative and commercial endeavors in photography and cinematography.  There I was, minding my own business when along comes the 21st Century and before I knew it, more and more folks started to hire me to produce and direct the very same content I was shooting.  It was at that very moment I knew in my heart, that someone saw something truly special in my artistic abilities, and somehow they believed what I already knew- that they could trust me behind the camera not just as a Cinematographer but also as their Director, a privilege only bestowed upon the fortunate and few - except you and I both know that the truthier version of this banal platitude is that I probably got the job that day because the original director either failed to show up, or f*cked-up and got fired. Add to the mix a first AD, far too busy vomiting from last night’s charity benefit (turned charity-bender) to do anything, resulting in the kind of chaos that induces screamning, followed by extremely rash decision making. Even the mild-mannered Key Grip manages to spell the phrase “shitshow” out of C-Stands (which the Gaffer was only too happy to light) when suddenly, the 2nd AD (whom I worked with on that show about piano movers) remembered taking my number and called me straight away because she knew that I was _________ and __________ enough to take the job.

This next paragraph is for those readers who were expecting me to wrap up the above paragraph with a metaphor about struggle, followed by an affirmation about success and are still reading this, but only because I didn’t go there. The simple reason is that I have far too much respect for you, the liker, reader, and watcher of all media. I too, hate to be bored.  And so what started off as simple blah-blah copy about branded content, turned into a memorable, strange but true* anecdote about life on a film set, and if you are still here reading this, but originally arrived because you were seeking a company that can create engaging branded content, then look no further. If fact, get out of that chair and take a well deserved early lunch because-- 

--I’m definitely the one you should be hiring.  Welcome to bespokedigital.media

-KFD

bespokedigital.media (silent) instagram campaign version 1.1


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A few words on the importance of being practical.

IN THE BEGINNING
To my millions of imaginary readers and adoring fans,  I have an anecdote with spirit for you.  If you knew what my life was like growing up, if you knew me from back in the day, you'd probably have said something like this:  "Face facts, young KDC. the only way you're going to be let in through the front door of the Clubhouse, that is, the American Society of Cinematographer's Hollywood Clubhouse, is if you're cleaning the toilets or delivering bags of weed.  Other than that, it’s impossible for a guy like you.  And as a matter of fact, you would be smart to purge those silly delusions of grandeur from your vivid imagination immediately. Right?"  "Um, right. Sorry man." I would have told you.  And you would not have had the minority opinion. And I would have had no reason to believe that you wished ill of me.

Yet there I was, in summer of 2013, through the front door, inside the temple to American Cinematography, not as a drug dealer or janitor, but by invitation as a cinematographer by a female director who believed my work to be on par with her high production values. A documentary of sorts featuring none other than Dean Cundey, ASC!

 

YOU’VE SEEN HIS WORK.
Dean Cundey, ASC is the cinematographer who shot Halloween, Escape From New York, Back To The Future, Jurassic Park, Romancing The Stone, Big Trouble In Little China..., the very films that I watched growing up that made me resonate with emotion, and in awe of the magic that was bestowed upon me. So smitten was I,  that at the age of fourteen, I forged a work permit so I could get a job as an usher at the Mann's Village movie theater in Westwood Village- just so I could be around movies all the time.

DAZED AND CONFUSED.
Reflecting as we all must do from time to time, my first "paying" job was an unrealistic initiation to the adult workforce, simply because it never felt like work.  Who cares that the money is crap when you're too busy laughing with your fellow cinephiles to complain about it? 

Add to the equation, the bonus of coming home well after the 3am late show screenings to the shocking approval of my hardliner, working-class father who walked uphill and barefoot to school, a man who cultivated a solid reputation for reading me the riot act, too mystified that I was not "fucking off in front of the television” to give me what for. 

And It seems strange to say it now, but putting on that royal blue polyester jacket, ill-fitting gray pants and  “punching” the time-clock was never embarrassing.  And feeling the ground shake and shudder to the THX trailer put me in a state of euphoria every single time.

END FLASHBACK SEQUENCE
Many years later, I can still experience the same sense of euphoria, but no longer as just an audience member. These days, I'm only happy/breathing/alive when there’s a camera in my hands.  Whenever I’m shooting, I become impervious to long hours, bad weather, fatigue, and all the many, many perils of my adult life.  I’m forever addicted to this feeling- which is better than any drug or drink I’ve ever had, and I have no intention of kicking this habit, even as the days in-between gigs become tougher to endure, and I find myself jonesing for the inspiration or reason to pick up my cameras again. And again. And again. 

And yes I do realize, that even with all that I’ve managed to accomplish, being a guest shooter at the ASC clubhouse is still a long, long way from being an actual member.  The thought of writing my name, followed by a comma, followed by the letters ASC is so far away, it feels impossible.  And I would be smart to purge those silly delusions of grandeur from my vivid imagination immediately.  Right?

-Keith Fucking DeCristo

The mirror behind the bar at the ASC. 

The mirror behind the bar at the ASC. 


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You should know what you are reading: An all organic tale of full disclosure (including everything you'll need to become a successful writer).

COLD OPEN
To my millions of loyal, imaginary readers and fans, there is something that I want you to know.  Contrary to what you see before you, I do not write.  

All of my posts (including this one) have less to do about my affinity for blogging and more to do with my own merciless standards by which I manipulate the english language;  the artistic bar set and inspired by works of true beauty, crafted by ascended masters that turn painfully pathetic paragraphs into poetic and powerful prose. 

My worst critic is...(and other tragic cliches), so it’s perfectly insecure logic that my perpetual re-writes are as counter-productive as they are frustrating, but hey, practice, practice, practice.  I try to hide my rookie card by training in the darker, lesser known places on the internet(like right here), whereas by deliberate absence of any web-promotion, it’s still possible to pretend that I’m all alone and anti-social.   Even though it's true all my readers are imaginary,  this work is technically in the public domain where I am disciplined by the 21st Century fear of being laughed at by a consultant at the NSA, or rejected by a Google-bot programmed with an algorithm designed to recognize bad content when it sees it. 

Close your eyes and imagine being sleepless and stagnant in a windowless room, filled with the with the suffocating flatulence of fast and furious failure.  That’s the road ahead if I ever wish to be considered a real writer.  These are just the facts. 

HERE'S PROOF.
The real writers of the world are bound, printed, published, and publicized, and charter members of an exclusive club. Numerous privileges include unrestricted, license-free usage of the title “Writer” on business cards, at parties, during heated debates and with attractive people you are interested in sleeping with (within earshot). Once you earn it can never be revoked, and it stays with you regardless of your state of being (drunk, sober, sedate, high), or your state of mind (agitated, insane, focused, relaxed). This “occupational tenure” stays with you even well after your death, especially if your death is a suicide.  Ignore the zealots that claim; tragic, self-termination (with extreme prejudice) is considered a cardinal sin by mainstream religion,  for any good PR firm knows that death by strange circumstances is pure, sensational gold for your brand.  Too good to be true? Just ask Ernest Hemingway, who just finished a few rounds of tennis with David Foster Wallace. They’ll happily regale you with tales of Eden and the Infinite. 

BUT THERE'S A BIGGER PROBLEM.
Simply put, the highly coveted title of “Writer” deserves much more respect and reverence than it has been given.  Its actual value has been desecrated by an increasing amount of heartless violators. A recent study (more like an enduring, disparaging stereotype) has shown that over 78.4% of these alleged perpetrators are indigenous to a coastal region of Southern California (where I was born and raised), where a formerly esoteric currency system known as Likes and Followers are now considered tangible, physical assets.  Growth has been so exponential, L&F are traded as stocks on their own exchange.

The traders, brokers and managers of this exchange are known for congregating in fashionably haute, hopelessly crowded restaurants where name dropping, hyperbole and writer’s title violations can occur hundreds of times within just a two square foot area, causing bullish market fluctuations and over-inflated investment ratings that make the recent sub-prime debacle feel like a game of 3-card monty.

IT'S PEER REVIEWED* SCIENCE.
Thanks to a recently declassified NSA report, Statisticians at Cal Tech have predicted that if things continue on this aggressive trend, the number of writers title abuses will even surpass public use of the word "FUCK" by New Yorkers by mid-year 2022.  Professors of Social Anthropology at UC Davis say they are very concerned, and give the industry a 1 in 7 chance of stabilizing the numbers by 2020.  Despite mainstream media suppressing this serious issue,  a large number of alternative media sources (including 2 whistleblowers from the CIA) claim the existence of hard evidence that the 2022 event has already happened, and the truth is being suppressed by the Illuminati governed, corporate owned media. 

*A room full of other drunk writers.

Incidents per hour

A POSSIBLE SOLUTION:
In light of this devastating reality, It is my sincere hope that through education and empowerment, we can motivate the authentic, potential writers to become legitimized by inspiring them to create relevant, important and artistic work that really matters, and teaching them the OTHER important skill they need to do business in the 21st century. Sleeping with the right people.

WAIT. IT'S NOT THAT EASY.
Simple math, you say? Keep reading, because it's not as easy as it used to be. These days, you can’t just get naked and expect to be handed a golden ticket. You have to be competitive;  a total champion in the sack. And don't think you have it under control because of that one time  you blew someone's mind (years back, on ecstasy) at that rave.  You have to be relatively sober for this one, and sex, like the iPhone, is constantly updating. Lack of modern carnal knowledge is no excuse for losing the deal of a lifetime.  Do your research, study the human body, but when it comes to actual tradecraft, stay the hell off the internet, there are far too many terrible examples. Instead, consider practicing on a friend who you can trust to give you honest, sober feedback. Train like the Karate Kid,  and the “right people” (if just moments ago you put into a dreamy, post-coital bliss), will read your work in earnest, and you either leave with some valuable advice to improve your skills (plus an an open invitation to have another go), or your work ascends to one of the all-powerful gatekeepers of the four gauntlets. Still, be prepared to have another go anyway, so take your vitamins and do all the usual. 

HERE'S HOW.
To become a legitimate, real writer, you must first be officially certified by the gatekeepers of said gauntlet, which exists as four separate entities; Published, Printed, PAID, and Penance. The second to the last category is in all caps for a reason- you must get paid for your work. A paycheck means there is interest in what you have to say by an audience large enough for a publisher to justify killing a few trees. Don't feel bad about that, for even the CEO of Greenpeace would agree that a few less eyeballs on the Kardashians is worth taking down that 100 year old Redwood.  If your subject matter is considered more topical than most, your popularity increases, and your modest book signings will become televised guest appearances on all those shows where writers make guest appearances.

If this is your first book, it should be great fun. Welcome to the world of paid travel, flowing champagne, sushi in the green room, and blowjobs by complete strangers who were deeply affected by your protagonist’s passionate monologue in chapter 10.  Success feels even better than you imagined!  Close your eyes and enjoy it. Just don’t let the oral talents of an excited fan distract you from opening your eyes and realizing where you really are and what you have become-

BOOM!
Hello, writer! That's right, you're a writer forever, with an official legitimate title and world class credentials.  You now own a piece of tax-free real estate in the literary world, whether you write a hundred more or never write again. You would be googling yourself right now, except you're at a party, and there's a long line of attractive people that came all the way from uptown to bask in your bristling brilliance. Go have fun and give everyone a few #selfies.  After the euphoria from your first signing party dissipates, take a look around, and check your social feed.  If you managed to not do or say anything stupid in public, the adventure is just beginning.  By this time tomorrow, you will be assigned an able assistant, a razor sharp publicist and an aggressive literary agent known only to you as "The Bulldog".  Better be ready, for your next test of intestinal fortitude will be:

The Media Machine Cesspool!   To survive this chaotic phase without flushing your career,  you must first earn merit badges for the following six challenges:

1) Your first TV/Radio Interviews.  Be yourself, be hilarious and if you have to, be  drunk; but only if you can maintain decorum at all times, where you must be adorable to the many and offensive to the few.   

2) It's worth mentioning a second time. Hold your liquor at every party like a camel holds water across the Sahara.

3) The "right" amount of coke can enable you...
...to make multiple appearances at parties, press releases and book signings in a single night and still drink like a fish, just to prove that you’re having a great time.  Your agent will love you for all the press, but be careful of doing too much. Have your assistant hold your stash, monitor your public behavior and moderate your usage.  Take a moment to create some special hand signals. They will come in very handy when she has to tell you discreetly and quickly to stop chewing your tongue, or that you're becoming way too sweaty and intense. 

4) Remember, cameras are everywhere. Everywhere!
Take nothing for granted. Whiten your teeth and the whites of your eyes. As for wardrobe, keep it edgy, you rock star!  But- careful not to go too silly or too far. Find the most stylish, pretentious, East coast female you know, and have her sign off on all your clothes.  Audition everything,  Do not take any chances with fashion and work at maintaining 24/7 sex appeal. If your working coke habit has not helped you lose your little writer's belly by now,  cut back on the booze,  and hit the gym. 

5) Treat your assistant with respect.
She is your biggest ally, confidant and often your first line of defense. If she has any questions about her job description, train her properly by  binge-watching season 1 of "Ray Donovan".  Next, pay her handsomely, in cash and share all the perks.  Make a friend. Surprise her with bonuses. If she respects and cares for you, you’ve got a partner in crime that would never rat you out, unless of course you act like a complete power-hungry douchebag.  She'll quit, and minutes later,  gigabytes of your drunk, naked selfies and amphetamine-fueled sexcapades will “mysteriously” end up in the hands of TMZ.

6) It sounds obvious, but-
Everything you do from this point forward, must be done professionally. If you find yourself going at it too hard, mellow out, eat a real meal and detox. If you end up in rehab when your career is just beginning, people will say that you were never ready for the big time and call you a self-sabotaging loser.  On the other hand, if you wait until your second or third book to check into Betty Ford, you are free to blame “the corporations” and not your cocaine for "taking your soul", and fans old and new will lovingly forgive your past transgressions.

STILL ALIVE?
Get ready for the experience that legit writers refer to as "the icing on the cake", "I must be dreaming" and "I fucking love my agent". Welcome to:  Produced.  A franchise movie deal! You can expect everything as above, but bigger, better, sweeter but with even more intoxicating power. This phase is also known as; “The Stratosphere” , “The Lottery Ticket” and "Let's go shopping for speedboats". Not much to tell you here, because if you managed to survive the Media Machine Cesspool and emerged without a visible scratch, your instincts and your assistant are serving you perfectly. 

BE SAVVY. BE SMART.
Maintain your famous attention to detail, like making sure they let you write every last word in the screenplay.  And when the corporate studio heads offer you an additional 10 million to change the dog into a fish and the girl into a weird, talking, purple stuffed animal with a dubious sexual history, don’t be stupid. Your fans will respect you for not selling out and staying loyal to the original material.  On the other hand,  maybe you got shrewd and re-invested the extra 10 mil in exchange for an equity stake, EP credit and final cut?   Who knew you could be such a business savvy, bad ass motherfucker?

ONE FINAL THING.
But before you head  out the door to enjoy more spoils of literary stardom,  there's one more extremely important thing you must do. Perhaps the most important thing you will ever do as a successful writer. Welcome to the final test known as PENANCE.

First, cancel everything. You heard me. Now rush to the airport immediately. Fly, fly, fly back to that dusty little cabin in Nantucket or that tiny guest house in Malibu or that older, cheap hotel with the French crackhouse motif.  Check into the one room that still has the hole in the wall that Bukowski himself made with his angry, drunken fist back in the late seventies. Turn off your cellphone, and give a big, warm hug to your assistant.  Tell her to come back in 2 weeks and lock the door behind you. Take it all in.  

With arms extended in gratitude, give thanks to this little, nicotine stained space you stayed in when you had nothing. Remember it was right here, in this very room where you made your idea into words and the words into magic.  Now take 20 minutes to meditate. Once you've got at least half of your chakras spinning, thank every friend who loaned you money.  Now give special consideration to all of your enemies- realize that you needed that fury and ferociousness to focus on your art,  burn bridges and never look back.  

Now thank the creative spirits. A lot. Light a candle while you’re at it.  For it was they who watched you toil all night as you fought to write the next sentence and pray to your muses that your words carry relevance and meaning. Show ample gratitude for the night they gave you more than you ever asked for;  that mystical bombardment of all those articulations that read like music, flowed like a river and you could barely write fast enough to keep up.  

AND LASTLY,
Be especially grateful to those beautiful, amazing women who were inexplicably attracted to your darkness, your struggle, and your way with words. Remember the one that came to you on that cold rainy night, how you loved to see yourself reflected in her eyes, and how she kissed you deeply and without inhibition though you tasted like whiskey and cigarettes.  Never, ever forget how she loved you unconditionally in the moments you were together.  Never forget how she made you feel beautiful, alive, important and inspired.  Remember that you loved her too.

Well done. Now, go over to the desk and make yourself comfortable. Open the drawer and pick up the pen and paper...

 

-KFD


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When it looks so good, you're willing to put up with some crazy (a.k.a. The BMPCC: an in-depth review)

Remember Miss Hotness, from back in the day  
Superficially perfect in every which way
Head-turning hot-stuff, in black strapless and heels
looked at you with love, and much lust as she kneeled
unmatched in all nasty, and sexual ways
and you cared not one bit that you’ve ruined the chaise
In less than a month she moved into your space
her tight little body, that beautiful face

Model Faith Picozzi

Model Faith Picozzi

SUDDENLY,  out of the clear blue sky, she goes off her meds, off the rails and spirals into an unprovoked,  ballistic insanity that you have never seen or heard of. Without warning, she ___________ your favorite ___________ all to hell, inducing the closest thing to a heart attack that you have ever felt.  And you remember that it was on that day she popped your cherry and showed you parts of crazy town that you never knew existed.

All your friends remember her too , because you shocked every single one of them by staying with her for another year and two months, even after she ___________ with all of your family watching, and now your own__________ can not bear to look at you or return your emails, even though it's been years.  Back then, all of your female friends called you "Mr. stupid", but your male buddies never said a word.

Boys know very well, how easily their strict codes of tolerance are bent  beyond the laws of nature when extreme hotness is factored into the equation.  The basic math you were familiar with now exists as a complex conundrum in the quantum world, where many theories exist but none have yet been proven,  and even the smartest people in the room can only be certain of one thing: One never knows just how much crazy one is willing to put up with, when that crazy thing is oh, so damn hot!

This universal anecdote is the obvious and perfect metaphor for anyone that has experience with the Black Magic Cinema Camera lineup. While they truly do produce amazing images, they are reviled for a litany of irritations that cause many budget conscious shooters to think twice about using them. Just 'cuz it's cheap, don't mean it's easy.  

 HBO's "True Detective" (Season 1 only), and J.J. Abram's "Star Wars" are just two out of many examples I need to remind everyone that film still alive, and is considered the best recording medium in the motion picture industry.  And the cameras that do the best job at digitally emulating film stock are the Arri Alexa, and recently, the Sony F65. And yeah, that smells like a strong opinion to me too. But hey man, that's where my standards are set. Everything else is a compromise. 

The Arri Alexa, dressed to the nines, and looking beautiful as ever. 

The Arri Alexa, dressed to the nines, and looking beautiful as ever. 

"Great fucking speech, Keith. Now that that's over, would you please join us in the real world?"  Of course I can. Because my prime directive is to be supportive and collaborative. Often times the best way to provide that support is to save the epic speech about my high standards for the millions of my imaginary blog readers, and shoot on something "real people" can afford.  I'll never stop wanting the Alexa or F65,  but as long as the principals and the script are up to par, I'll happily sign on to a low-budget project where the extreme freedom allows for the creation of those precious, reel-making shots.
 

The 16mm sensor camera that knocked peoples socks off, known as the BMPCC

The 16mm sensor camera that knocked peoples socks off, known as the BMPCC

Thankfully, there are many, many solutions to overcoming adversity, and when shooting with a budget that is less than ideal, the Black Magic Pocket Cinema is high on my list, and completely justified when during a recent commercial shoot,  the experienced director, transfixed by the image on my monitor, sang praises about the shots we were getting, and compared the footage to that of the Alexa.  And although there are many things about the camera I wish were different,  filming in 10-bit RAW and then seeing how absolutely beautiful it looks in DaVinci Resolve, its bundled color-grading software, is enough to make me smile and forget what the hell we were fighting about in the first place.    

Furthermore,  I don't need a couples therapist to point out to me all of the glaring hallmarks of an dysfunctional relationship, because I knew about all that baggage going in.  And that's my whole point:   I'll commit to dealing with all the idiosyncrasies,  stress and risk associated with shooting with a budget camera that drives me crazy,  but only if that camera is capable of interpreting the wavelengths of light that I give it, into a picture of incredible beauty.   Hotness trumps headache.  Boys will be boys.

-KFD

Above: Untouched RAW/Cinema DNG frame of actress Jenny Parry, on the set of Tragical, a web series directed by Tom Lombardi. Shot with the BMPCC mated to a vintage S16 Schneider Xenon, 25mm f1.4 

Above: Untouched RAW/Cinema DNG frame of actress Jenny Parry, on the set of Tragical, a web series directed by Tom Lombardi. Shot with the BMPCC mated to a vintage S16 Schneider Xenon, 25mm f1.4 

Same as the first, with a custom LUT applied in DaVinci Resolve. 

Same as the first, with a custom LUT applied in DaVinci Resolve. 

The Black Magic Pocket Cinema, Metabones C-Mount to M4/3, and a vintage 75mm f2.0 Schneider Cine Tele-Xenar Super 16 

The Black Magic Pocket Cinema, Metabones C-Mount to M4/3, and a vintage 75mm f2.0 Schneider Cine Tele-Xenar Super 16 

Not exactly a "pocket" camera anymore, but building it out is the only way I can get useable handheld shots out of it.  It's actually more fun this way.

Not exactly a "pocket" camera anymore, but building it out is the only way I can get useable handheld shots out of it.  It's actually more fun this way.

My BMPCC dressed for the 2016 SAG Awards in Los Angeles.


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KUBRICK's STUFF was at the LACMA. It's okay, I can die now.

I take back everythiing I said about Los Angeles being artistically and culturally bankrupt. Sure, LACMA is not the MET, but at least they have a nice bar (not kidding) so you can sit and wax hyperbole in a post-modern setting while enjoying a round of trendy ______________, served by a M.A.W.(Model/Actress/Whatever) with a gorgeous, fake smile that you've come to expect  in Los Angeles (I'm going to say it first. Bitter, party of one. Totally).

That's right, no glass. No cage, not a single perimeter rope, or "Do not touch" sign in the entire exhibit.  LACMA is putting lots of faith in presuming that the cinephiles who come to see this exhibit will behave perfectly in the presence of so many one-of-a-kind, religious artifacts.  Imagine worshiping a god for most of your life, but not seeing the inside of a church until you're, let's say 30's.   My incredible sense of awe was only matched by the energy expended by the part of my brain that modulates proper behavior, like self-control and discipline.  I'll stop my yammering so you can enjoy the exhibit.

-KFD


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Wish you were here.

Vintage Audi Turbo Quattro across from Lower Manhattan. 

Vintage Audi Turbo Quattro across from Lower Manhattan. 

A good part of the internet is no doubt saturated with pictures of American flags, NYC Firefighters, patriotic MEME's and stories of uncommon valor.

For those of you who have had just about enough of all that, I present to you a picture of my old car.  A 1988 Audi Turbo Quattro, with engine mods and suspension upgrades, clad in metallic pearl and black leather. 


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INSTANT sci-fi set dressing. Just add nuclear.

One of the massive cooling towers at the SATSOP Nuclear Power Plant. 

One of the massive cooling towers at the SATSOP Nuclear Power Plant. 

I was still resonating from that feature film in Detroit, minding my own business, when Bliss Holloway, a killer DP that I knew via an Art Director in NYC was phoning me from Seattle telling me that I needed to hop on a plane and to make sure I brought my multi-rotor aircraft with me (I hate the word "Drone" because it has become synonymous with aircraft that carry weapons and conduct surveillance) .  The next afternoon I'm being driven up Seattle highway 99 by a PA nicknamed "Swifty", and she's telling me about the project (Science Fiction), the crew (amazing), and apologizing for the rush hour traffic (unreal) which, to me was just fine,  because most of the time we were surrounded by lots of trees, and I was enjoying the conversation. 

I also liked the Director, and his mohawk, right away. A funny dude with an affectation for video games and the intensity of a bulldog that's ready to rip the throat out of some poor animal that mistakes his haircut for a fashion statement.  That's Don Thacker. Shortly after he shakes my hand, he's got the lot of us standing around in a circle,  briefing us on the who what why, when and where.  

Turns out, the where is the "abandoned" Satsop Nuclear Power Plant, just outside of Aberdeen, Washington.  I love the story about this place- construction started in 1977, only to be shut down in the eighties at 75% completion. Wiki will tell you that they ran out of funding. But an anonymous source recently regaled me with tales of secret geological surveys, resulting in the discovery of a fault line directly underneath.  Regardless of the truth, I find the latter to be much, much sexier, plus I'm attached to the romantic notion of human beings shutting down an industrial machine because of the potential harm it could cause to other human beings. And as you can see, it's strangely beautiful.

INT: Nuclear cooling tower - DAY

INT: Nuclear cooling tower - DAY

Not one of my cameras, including my smartphone, could get wide enough to capture the entire structure.  I think that orange speck at the end of the catwalk is a person. 

Not one of my cameras, including my smartphone, could get wide enough to capture the entire structure.  I think that orange speck at the end of the catwalk is a person. 

Looking up from the bottom of the cooling tower. It looks distorted because I'm not standing in the center.  

Looking up from the bottom of the cooling tower. It looks distorted because I'm not standing in the center.  

RAW footage processed in DaVinci Resolve. 

RAW footage processed in DaVinci Resolve. 

A Cinestar 8 equipped with a 3-axis gimbal and a Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera, famous for shooting in RAW. 

A Cinestar 8 equipped with a 3-axis gimbal and a Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera, famous for shooting in RAW. 

The DP got a crash course in gimbal operation,  and I tried my best to fly and not crash- no easy task.  Inside the tower, my GPS and gyro stabilizers were sending strange telemetry, forcing the craft to fly erratically-  the first and only time that has happened.  "It's like one giant Farraday cage"  Don turns his head and says to me. "Yeah, I'm feeling that" I say, hoping to hide my frustration.   Manual flight control was the only way to make the aircraft behave predictably, and get a stable shot. 

But Bliss and I toughed it out, and by the end of the day we transferred several gigs of useable shots onto the backup hard drive- always a good feeling.   At the time of this writing, they're still in post- but I can't wait to see this shot- and to go back and shoot there again.  

-KFD


 

 

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American Sharia - how I learned to love Sony prime lenses.

2nd one on the shelf!

2nd one on the shelf!

Producer Couni Young gets her way. Every time. 

Producer Couni Young gets her way. Every time. 

Tax incentive or no, Detroit Michigan is a great place to shoot your indie feature- but it does help to have a Rock n' Roller of an EP, local to the area and connected up the wazoo to come in and keep your production from capsizing. Those police cars (up there in the poster) are real, and came as a favor from the great folks of the Dearborn police department, who were kind enough to let a film crew drive them bonkers (the first and last time they will make that mistake), as we shot in every room in the building, including the jail cells.  More than that, they served as protection when we went filming in neighborhoods no sane person would be caught dead in after the sun went down.  In the film, there's a shadowy alleyway scene lit by a single 4K that would not have been possible had it not for the DPD keeping the peace.  

But- this is a story about glass. Specifically Sony glass, which I used to think were complete crap. And much like the congregation at the Westboro Baptist Church, my misguided prejudices were borne out of ignorance, lack of education,  way too much Pabst Blue Ribbon, and just enough stupid for me to believe that the yellow frothy liquid I was drinking was not the piss being reported by my tastebuds,  but the product of fine, fermented American hops and barley. 

1st AC's Andrea Boglioli (left) and Petra Bakos

1st AC's Andrea Boglioli (left) and Petra Bakos

As It was explained to me, these were first generation Cine Alta, with barrels made not of metal, but of composite materials. And since any lens made with anything but metal usually rates fairly high on the inferiority scale, I had plenty of doubts.   But then I got to know them out in the field- and, well,  they kinda won me over. First, they are super light in both weight and touch. You can actually feather the f-stop and focus rings with one finger, which took some time for me to get used to, not only because I was used to harder pulls off the barrel (and I'll wait while you pull your mind out of the gutter), but mostly because I was paranoid about them breathing.  After a week of solid shooting I realized that the f-stop and focus had no intention of going anywhere unless they were asked, even when strapped to the hood of a moving Detroit police car.  

A Sony F3 with a CineAlta 85mm, on a film set that just ran out of coffee, and the crew that just found out.                  Photo Petra Bakos

A Sony F3 with a CineAlta 85mm, on a film set that just ran out of coffee, and the crew that just found out.                  Photo Petra Bakos

My buddy Joe White, the owner of the kit and the 2nd unit DP, juggled the 35, 50 and 85  between us and we sent the Japanese glass through a gauntlet of long days, multiple setups,  hot and cold weather, and a myriad of unspeakable horrors that only an independent film can bring. These little guys not only put up with everything, but they yielded a cinematic feel that's good to look at, and flared beautifully.

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Battle - shot on the RED EPIC in 5K Anamorphic!

Every operator, AC or DP who has worked with a RED knows about it's many idiosyncrasies. Even sound guys hate them for the racket they make. They're prone to crashes, they're impossible to hold steady (unless you kit them out), and don't even get me started on the god-awful workflow.  And on this shoot, we had TWO of them. 

Me (with the crazy hair) and 1st AC Joshua Butt (in the cap), on set in the California desert. Photo Will Potter 

Me (with the crazy hair) and 1st AC Joshua Butt (in the cap), on set in the California desert.
Photo Will Potter 

But what other camera can give you a gorgeous, 2:40:1 using 35mm vintage Nikon glass?  Once I started to look at the footage, all was forgiven. 

A delicious and dark RED 5K Anamorphic frame.

A delicious and dark RED 5K Anamorphic frame.

With a little time in a DaVinci suite, I could make an entire reel out of what we shot on this project. Of course it helps to have rockstars in your G&E department- who tackled a myriad of never before seen power problems, killer mosquitoes, stayed relatively calm even as that thing in the forest made noises like an angry monster bringing hell along with it, and who had the discipline to remember the union rules- two shots of whiskey for every hour past the 12th. 


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Me, You and Five Bucks - One Movie, One Lens.

Whoa!

Whoa!

The Poster - Me, You, Five Bucks

It was at times very difficult to make, but I love this little indie movie. it took home a quite a few film festival awards including a nomination for best cinematography, and there's nothing like peer-reviewed accolades to remind you that you're not so crazy after all (Or I could be a total nut-job, not a single faculty within my possession, which makes much more sense, is also the simpler answer, and four out of five ex-girlfriends can't be wrong).  

90% of this film is shot on a single lens- a vintage Nikkor 50mm f1.4 circa 1967 that was given to me by my father. An amalgamation of vintage Japanese steel and glass that, in my humble opinion, could easily stand up to the aesthetic pedigrees of Zeiss and Cooke. Mated to a Canon 7D and a Zacuto Z-Finder, it became the weapon of choice for me and a small crew of lovable misfits. For weeks straight we waged war against multiple, 11 page days in the middle of a cold November on the streets of NYC, and managed to emerge victorious, in large part to that EXTRA STOP (f1.4) that came in very, very handy shooting exteriors during a time of year when the sun comes around the shortest. 

A vintage Nikkor 50mm f1.4 - the new normal. 

A vintage Nikkor 50mm f1.4 - the new normal. 

Much love to my AC Andrea B, and the rest of the crew, but the MOST LOVE goes to the producer who disrupted the shoot with unforgettable, infantile, screaming fits like, seven or eight times and became everyone's poster child for bi-polar. Even years later, we still tell those stories.  If I had to do it again I would, because at the end of the day crazy is part of the modern skillset in this industry,  and, if I'm really honest,  I've done much, much worse.  May all of us laugh joyfully and hysterically at our past transgressions.  You're the best, boo, wherever you are. 

Watch the trailer: Me, You and Five Bucks  now available on Amazon and other fine content aggregators.


-KFD


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