Sparkjoy Studios interviewed Random Acts of Romance cinematographer Brendan Uegama in the spring. He shared some of his knowledge and experience working on the film. In this first section of our two-part interview, Brendan gives us a behind-the-scenes glimpse into the making of RAOR.
Sparkjoy: Brendan, how did you get involved with RAOR?
Brendan Uegama: I’ve known the director, Katrin Bowen for a few years, however we had never worked together before. Shawn Angelski, the line producer for RAOR, and I have worked together on music videos in the past. When he heard Katrin was looking for a cinematographer for the project, he recommended me. Not too long after, Katrin and I met, and she offered me the job.
S: What was your role in RAOR?
BU: I was the cinematographer.
S: When you’re operating the camera, what are the foremost things in your mind?
BU: Well, I work closely to the director in pre-production so I know the story and the director’s vision as much as possible before principle photography begins. When each shot is being set up, I’m working with my gaffer and key grip to get the lighting where I need it.
By the time the director calls action, I’m focusing on one thing, composing the image the proper way for the story. I rely on my instincts and the actors to shoot what feels right for the particular scene.
S: So for RAOR, you were the cinematographer, the director of photography, and the camera person?
BU: Yes its all the same. The term “Cinematographer” covers all those other titles.
S: What’s your primary job as director of photography?
BU: The director of photography is responsible for the image, so their job is to work with the director, the actors, production designer, gaffer, etc to get the story translated from script to screen, the best way. Working on a film set is a collaborative effort for one story, which makes it unlike any other art form.
On RAOR, I worked closely with Katrin on where to put the camera. We’d been working in prep for almost a month beforehand going through every scene, the characters, the emotion so I knew ahead of time what we needed to do.
In terms of lighting, I ran with that on my own, knowing Katrin trusted me to make it look the right way. It’s not your standard comedy lighting – we definitely kept it sexier and darker, yet soft and vibrant. I worked with my gaffer, Yves Bernadet and Key Grip, Reid Cohoon, who both did a great job.
S: What kind of camera were you using and did you have a role in that decision?
BU: We were using a RED Epic camera, which was capturing in 5k. My company owns a few cameras and we supplied those to the production.
S: You rented out the cameras?
BU: Yeah. I have a company, Blacktree Pictures, and we rent out RED cameras to the film industry. We have Red EPIC and Red One MX Cameras.
S: Do you also provide camera operators, or is it just the camera?
BU: On the rental side of things, we just rent the gear. I have been asked in the past if I’ll shoot as well after a rental is requested. If I’m available during their time period and if it’s a project I am interested in, I will.
S: As a freelancer, do you work with the same crew all the time, or does it vary from job to job?
BU: I have a few crews that I rotate between. A few different gaffers, key grips, or first camera assistants that I work with, depending on the project, depending on their availability.
If you work with new crews often, you can waste valuable time by trying to get acquainted with each other, so if you find people that you like to work with, then it’s best to stick with them.
S: Are there any challenges shooting in 5k resolution?
BU: If you know how to properly shoot digital, theres no real difference in your approach to varying resolutions. However there are differences in your approach between film and digital. With digital, you just need to be extra careful. Like any shoot though, you’ll want to make sure you have a good camera team with knowledge of the gear, including a good DMT – digital master technician – to make sure that the management of footage is being treated properly.
S: How many cameras were you using during the RAOR shoot?
BU: We shot one camera 90% of the time, and we brought out another camera now and then.
S: You said you had around a month of preparations before the first day of production; so when it came down to the actual shooting, it was just about making it happen, is that right?
BU: Yes, pretty much. Everyone on the team was as ready as we could have been before we shot. I mean, no matter how much prep we do, you can never know exactly how it will play out on the day. Ideas you thought were great or loved just might not work when you’re standing on location with the actors and cameras. Therefore we are flexible as we may need to abandon ideas we originally had, and find new ways to achieve them.
S: So, if something came up, you could take advantage of something you might not have planned for?
BU: Exactly. behind-the-scenes look at what it was like shooting RAOR.
Thank you for reading. Please join us next week for part two, where Brendan talks about his experiences working on RAOR and gives us some insight into the relationship between the camera, the actors and the sBrendan is a freelance cinematographer. He can be reached at brendanuegama.com