Sunday, 10 February 2013

Award-Winning DOP Christopher Ball C.S.C. on "The Making Of Charlie Zone"

CHRISTOPHER BALL:  For me, Charlie Zone started with a phone call from Michael Melski… a few years ago now… after we had completed Growing Op.  It was a totally different film from the comedy of Growing Op, much darker and very sinister.  Over the course of development, and the realities of budgeting independent film, the original concept of a road movie changed and it would now take place entirely in Halifax - Dartmouth.  Thinking back, that strong sense of place probably makes the suspense and drama work and gives it a claustrophobic feel….the characters hiding in dark rooms and back streets, closed off from the world we generally know as Halifax.   It also allows for social commentary about the underbelly of Halifax, a city seen mostly as a scenic, friendly tourist destination.  For the most part it is that, but there is a dark side to the city which is rarely explored. 

MM: One of the storyboard/reference images we used from the film BLOOD SIMPLE. Chris and I loved the shadowing here, how the visuals suggest a character is dislocated, holds a dark secret.

MM: The shot of Amanda Crew as Jan where we employed the reference. It was a day shot and we liked it subtler.

CB:  When Mike and I met after the production draft of the script, we both agreed on the overall look and approach.  I remember saying that the typical way to shoot this type of story would be to go for a desaturated, grainy, mostly handheld approach, even doc/reality style…but I didn’t feel it was right for the script.  I felt that the intensity of the drama needed an intensity of look, and I felt that the “normal” approach of shaky handheld and stark lighting would weaken it rather than strengthen it.  So instead we went for a very vibrant colour palette and a much more fluid and intense camera approach.  The camera is very much inside the heads of the characters and inside the spaces, gradually revealing the environment as the story is told and revealing it from the character’s point of view.  

CB: The visual approach is contemplative, intense and deliberate.   Colours are vibrant, however the colour palette is not “pretty”, but features oppressive off-colour hues of red, sodium vapour amber, green and steel blue.  Daylight only seeps into spaces through cracks and curtained windows, especially in Jan’s world, and there is a lot of dark, unseen space.  The exception to this is the Millbrook Reserve, the only “escape” in the film, where natural light is allowed back in and a more soothing colour palette is introduced. 

CB: The film was a huge challenge to shoot.  The realities of low budget filmmaking in Canada are intense, with ridiculously short schedules and very little money.  Canadian Films compete with American low budget films that have triple the budget and double or triple the schedule, and we still manage to come up with good competitive product….but it is a challenge and a lot of sacrifice on the part of crews, suppliers and the producers.  Charlie Zone was shot in 20, ten-hour days (12 inclusive of wrap and precalls) and one 2nd unit day.  Features like this in the US or Europe would have a 40 day schedule.  It was a very location-intensive shoot, with lots of unit moves and technical complications.  We were lucky to assemble a solid crew, however, and pulled it off with mostly humour and fun and only the occasional frustrating moment here and there.  I still think of Mike and I driving around Halifax and over the bridge with a complete camera package hanging off the front of my little Imprezza for the 2nd unit travelling shots, or the challenge of lighting up the entire MacDonald bridge, a parking lot and a playground for a night shoot with a small crew and a tiny equipment package; all in the last four hours of a busy day with several other locations. But we did it.
 A very talented and dedicated cast also made it easier for us and I’d say, in general, we pulled of a lot of miracles!  The icing on the cake was the Quadruple Awards, including cinematography, at the Atlantic Film Festival, an event I was actually able to attend (I am usually working during festival time).  The audience reaction was also fantastic, and I have heard many good comments since.  Here’s hoping for a good theatrical release..another big challenge in Canada…but please come on out as it is a film worth seeing on the big screen!! 

MM: Thanks Chris, you're a talented guy and a pleasure to collaborate with. So deserving of the award you won for this film. Best of everything and we'll do it again soon! (Hopefully with more $)  

No comments:

Post a Comment