Magazine article American Cinematographer

Realities of Low Budget Production

Magazine article American Cinematographer

Realities of Low Budget Production

Article excerpt

Just the Two of Us is a feature length film produced for 310,000 and shot in Super 8. It is the story of the friendship between Frankie and Joey, a couple of working stiffs who find a genie in the men's room of their favorite bar and who must rethink their values when made wealthy beyond their wildest dreams.

Writer/director Joe Spallino wanted to make a high quality film for release on television but didn't have the financial resources for a conventional production! Spallino met our crew while acting in One Night Production's Love, Inc., a dramatic film for which we formed the principal crew. He wanted to use the same crew on his shoot and approached us with his project.

We had built up a core of professional crew members from people who knew each other through commercial production work in the Boston area, and we were all enthusiastic about working together again. Spallino, from his experience as an actor, had many professional actors already interested in his script. He also had contacts with Blake Films, a major grip and lighting eguipment rental house in Boston. Blake was willing to lend him eguipment, including HMI's, dollies, and cranes, at no cost when available.

The decision to shoot in Super 8 was reached for several reasons, the most obvious being financial. The cheaper stock and processing costs would save a great deal of money, about a quarter of the cost of 16mm, and at the same time enable us to film with as large a shooting ratio as we wanted. This was important to Spallino because as one of the actors in his own film he was especially sensitive to the needs of his cast: he wanted the actors to feel they had given their best performance regardless of how many takes were required. In addition, Spallino and cameraman Dave Phillips had chosen to cover the action in extremely long master shots with a constantly moving camera which would also require a lot of stock.

We weren't worried about a loss of quality from blowing up the image because the Super 8 film would be transferred directly to video and would only be viewed on television. Phillips and lighting director Lon Caracappa had recently completed a music video for Donny Thayer in Super 8 using Kodachrome 40. They were very pleased with the results and felt that we could get a higher quality image shooting K40 and transferring to tape than shooting in any tape format. They weren't worried about the lighting required by the slow K40 stock (ASA 40) because as mentioned, we had lights available to use on a professional scale and at no cost.

Their experience shooting Super 8 in the past had put them in touch with Phil Vigeant of Super 8 Sound who was interested in the project and had a Super 8 camera available that would meet the needs of a feature production. The Nizo 6080, manufactured by Braun of West Germany, has the capability of shooting in sync at 24 fps, can accept 200' (or ten minute) cartridges, and with a few customized accessories, was ready to shoot a feature.

Super 8 Sound designed a crystal sync control for the Nizo. To insure sync on our first shoots, we recorded sound on both a Nagra and on a fullcoat recorder that took its pulse from the camera. The camera has its own primitive sound system which we used so we could watch sound dailies (the film is sound striped.)

We used a mini Sachtler head designed for small cameras and, when using a dolly or a crane, a special head adapter designed by George Fardy of The Design Shop for use on the Donny Thayer video. The head, camera, and adapter are so light that when we used an extender on the dolly, we had to use a sandbag to add to their weight.

The Nizo has a permanently mounted Schneider 7 to 80mm zoom lens with a macro capability. After extensive camera testing we found that the lens started performing well between f.8 and f.4 and that approximately one stop is lost in the camera's beam splitter viewing system. We also feel that the lens gives a sharper image in the telephoto end and tried to avoid using the wider focal lengths. …

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