Zac Nicholson - The Honourable Woman
Luke Menges - Life and Death Row
The session minimally discussed lighting, and instead focused on the similarity and differences between crafting cinematography for fiction films and for non-fiction, specifically documentaries.
The presenter used a quote to describe the central theme of the discussion perfectly. Quoting Alfred Hitchcock, he said ‘in Feature Film, the Director is God. In documentaries, God is the Director.’ This seemed to be the direction of the discussion, with Zac speaking from a fiction perspective and Luke representing non-fiction.
In contrast, Luke described one of the most troubling technical difficulties during his 10 days directing for Life and Death Row was the timeframe. He was filming in a prison, and with the security checks aside, he was dealing with contributors who had very little time left. One of the inmates he worked with was told that he was going to be executed the next day, and so had stayed awake for 34 hours. At this point, as he came towards the end of his life, every minute counted. So those 10/15 minutes it took to get everything ready for shooting were very frustrating for the contributor. To the point that he nearly left. Officials said that the Crew had an hour with the man. They were lucky enough to be given more. As Luke said, “he had resolved himself to the fact that he was going to die… He was as calm as he could be.” In contrast to this immense conflict with mortality itself, arguing over locations seems arbitrary.
The discussion then continued in to balancing preparation with adaptability. Technology has made it easier to avoid mistakes, and there is less need for preparation as there is more held in individual devices. Luke still feels there is a great need for preparation, checking all his batteries and making sure he has everything for his day, but Zac works a much more structured job and relishes in the ‘accidents’ which can end beautifully. He discussed the ‘gems’ that can come from the B-Camera, from catching an Actor when they are least expecting. Luke seemed to spend so long looking for the impromptu moments, the ones that illustrate a sensibility, that he was confused by the idea of ‘mistakes.’ Whereas Zac relished them, saying sometimes he handled the B camera himself in an attempt to catch ‘secret shots.’ Luke needs to catch people at their most expressive, when they represent the moment that he wants, and Zac seeks to find the actors when they are being just human for the same reason.
When it came down to it, both agreed that it was a fine balance of preparation and adaptability which leads to the best results behind the camera.