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 second section of our two-part interview, Brendan shares more of what it was like behind the RAOR camera and gives us some insight into the relationship between the camera, the actors and the scene.
S: As a low-budget feature film, how did that affect production?
BU: Well it affected the production in the obvious ways of restrictions due to budget. In terms of cinematography, we were not always able to get that extra specialty lens, or the camera crane, or rain towers, etc. But the crew on the show was fantastic. They were really there for the project and for the right reasons… everything came together nicely.
We knew what kind of a production we were getting into, as far as budget is concerned, before principle photography. We knew we didn’t have all the luxuries. Our days were really quick. We were doing, on average, seven-page days, so we knew we had to move fast.
S: So, now that the film is in post-production, are you completely done with the film, or will you have some further role at a later date?
BU: I will be involved in the colour grading process. After the edit is locked many months after photography wraps, we will start that. We will be doing that with colourist, Claudio Sepulveda at Finale in Vancouver. I’ll come in for a week so we can fine-tune the images and make sure its how we want them before the film is delivered.
S: Were there any surprises thrown your way that changed how you operated on a day-to-day basis during shooting?
BU: No major surprises. We quickly realized how tight our schedule was. So, what happened was after we wrapped each day, we got into the routine of re-planning the following day. I think we really ran everything simply and smoothly. We didn’t over-complicate things. It’s a comedy, so we didn’t want to do anything where you could really feel the photography too much.
S: Are you saying that in some films, the photography plays a central role in the emotion or the feel, but in this case, because it’s a comedy, that didn’t really come out so much?
BU: Photography plays a central role in emotion in every film. But sometimes it’s more than others. If you’re talking about a big blockbuster, like a Michael Bay film, the camera’s moving around with huge amounts of action to keep you constantly entertained.
And then in other films, like this, where it’s all character-driven, you don’t want the camera to be distracting and spinning around the characters a lot, so we sit back a bit more and allow things to unfold naturally, but it still plays a vital role in how the audience is going to interpret the story.
S: So, because RAOR is a comedy, how did you change your camera work to suit that?
BU: We tried to stay wide most of the time. We kept the camera moving a fair amount, but nothing too drastic, just a little movement to keep it changing all the time, keep it engaging.
We had certain scenes that would last for many minutes where you’d just sort of sit back and let the actors do their work, which was the right way to do it.
S: So, is it almost like the camera can compete with the actors if you’re not careful?
BU: No, I don’t think I would word it like that. I mean, we’re all here to tell the same story. Whatever the story is that’s on the page, and every decision that anyone makes is to tell that story.
So, if a certain scene seems like it’s going to be played better from just staying wide and letting the actors do their thing, then great. If it feels like the camera should be in there more, moving around a lot, that’s great as well. It all just depends. Every film’s different, every scene’s different, and every shot’s different.
I try to work based on what I feel is right for each scene, based upon feelings and emotion all the time. That’s how I approach film.
S: Did the fact that you had to move so quickly on a tight schedule require you to cut any scenes that were planned?
BU: I think we got every scene filmed that was in the script. Whether they all make them into the final cut is another story. There might have been certain ways of covering scenes that we originally planned for, that we didn’t get.
Often, time does affect how you cover scenes. At least, it did in this film. So, we might have simplified things a little bit. We’re going back to get a few scenes, so we’ve got a pickup that we have to do. We’re going to head out in a couple weeks and get some more shots.
S: Does having a chance for the editor to go over the material and then inform you about pickup shots help you?
BU: It does help. When we were shooting, he [Franco Pante] was cutting takes together, and he came back a couple of times with thoughts on certain shots we should grab that would help the edits, and a few of those we didn’t end up getting.
As far as doing the pickups after the rough edit, it’s definitely a great way to go. In this case, we’re not going to have the luxury of getting a full rough edit before we do pickups. Much of the film takes place outdoors and the foliage is changing, so we have to make sure that we get those shots [while it still looks the same].
S: What stands out for you from your experience working on RAOR?
BU: The shoot itself was a lot of fun because there were so many good people on board. It was great to move at the speed that we did, and to collaborate with everybody on a day-to-day basis. But like always, it all starts with the script. The script was funny, and the cast was great. I am happy to have been involved.
S: Are you working on any other projects right now?
BU: Yes, always.
Thanks for tuning in for this behind-the-scenes conversation with Random Acts of Romance cinematographer Brendan Uegama. Brendan is a freelance cinematographer. He can be reached at brendanuegama.com