I had met Rondell playing dodgeball oddly enough and we became friends soon after. Rondell had a infectious personality and tone to him. He was always so happy and smiling. Rondell was actually the only person I got to do any sort of prep with. I said I wanted to go out location scouting one night and that was partly true but I really wanted to get a better idea of who Rondell was. It's tough to truly know someone and I thought it would be fair to use this opportunity to get deeper into Rondell's life and also to let Rondell know why I was doing this project, so he could decide if he wanted to participate.
It hasn't been an all together smooth ride for Rondell. I think he's still trying to find his home. I believe that he's excepted and found himself though and that's a beautiful thing.
Look wise going into Rondell's part, I knew I was shooting super 16. There wasn't even a close second. I knew I wanted to illustrate his personality on the screen. Colors would be a prime characteristic of his look. I also shot some older stock. Vision 2 500T 5229 in lower light. I used this stock to give a sense of despair which was hard to convey because even when Rondell talks about the negative his upbeat infectious tone is still there. But I felt so sad for him when he said "anything that wasn't me was beautiful" at a point in his life. I needed to shift gears visually for that small part. I also wanted to be very playful with the camera. Much more so than usual. I wanted the camera to feel like a friend walking around the city with Rondell.
Jennifer had starred in a commercial I shot for a company called Halo a ways back. She is gorgeous on camera. But beyond her being a former beauty queen. I wanted to get a POV from someone who's outer appearance is more important to them than most. I say that with complete respect because as a Actress and model it's important. I knew she had a son but I didn't know anything about him or her. I didn't know until the interview that that was her biological son. And then when she asked if she could talk about her trans sister who had been excommunicated from her family I realized her story was far more complex than I had imagined. I think what I appreciate so much about Jennifer is that beauty to her is excepting it wherever it is. Her part ended up being a love letter to her sister and an honest confession to her family unwilling to see beauty if a form that scares them. Jennifer embraces the idea of beauty far beyond her own and by the end of her interview I was tearing into the view finder.
We went in treating her part like a Fashion film. I have always really been inspired by old vogue covers and wanted her part's look to be inspired by those. I shot tons of different formats and stock trying to recreate that smooth contrast look of the late 80s and 90s fashion. Our main format was 3 perf 35mm. I also shot some super 8 and a tiny bit of super 16. I underexposed the vision 3 stock by 1 and 2 true stops and then lit her key side one stop over. Then I pushed processed 1 & 2 stops to really bring the grain structure out and get a smooth contrast. 35mm really has a wonderful grain structure to it but when you're shooting for Instagram and the internet in general you have to push the stock one way or another to get those wonderful details of 35mm out so the audience can feel them. I shot Vision 320T 5277 and Vision 2 250D 7205 and then over-scanned the frame. I also shot super 8 and scanned that negative at 4K to add more style. Some I wanted to use for a candid BTS look and others I wanted the look to feel even more classical.
I think what we ended up getting worked perfectly. I feel like the visuals and her story juxtaposed each other in a wonderful way. You have the beauty in the visuals of a gorgeous woman right in front of the lens but then you here her story and you know the beauty of her outer appearance falls by the wayside in comparison to what she really believes beauty defines.
Cameras: Arricam LT 3 perf movement, Aaton LTR, Canon super 8 814
Lenses: Angeneuix 10-110mm, Cooke S4i
Formats: 3 perf 35mm, Super 16, Super 8
Stock: Vision 320T 5277, Vision 2 250D 7205, Vision 3 250D 5207 & 7207, Ektachrome
The Moskow Family
Natasha and Jacob have been friends of mine for a long time now but since Natasha got pregnant I haven't seen much of them. Natasha has such a glow to her on camera and I think because of her and Jacob's background I was interested in shooting a part with them that had a sense of nostalgia. I feel like new parents all have a moment of clarity when they realize that in fact their parents before them were just as clueless and scared when they had kids. By the end of the interview I could see Natasha really felt at home. She had almost a moment of clarity. You could see in her face she felt so loved and lucky to have a family. At the beginning of the interview I never would have thought she would have ended trying to keep herself from crying but that's the beauty in this part. I didn't ask them too many questions now did I in any of the parts. The best things happened when were were having a conversation and when her and her husband were trying to articulate what beauty was to them in this new chapter of their life.
I wanted the whole piece to be captured in super 8 which isn't easy. 2 1/2 minutes a cartridge doesn't leave you a lot of time to run the camera. And stopping the experience is never an option so choosing when to shoot was really important. But that led to it's own issues technically. In since super 8 cameras don't have a crystal sync, lining up sound becomes a big problem. I wanted their part to look like a old home video that their parents before them would have taken. Something about that feeling of happy memories that super 8 can give a person made it the right format for the Moskow Famly,
Cyrus "GLITCH" Spencer
I knew Cyrus a little going into the piece. I used to shoot dance concept videos about 5 years ago and he was already a known commodity in the dance world. He popped back into my head as he just starred in a Mountain Dew commercial I had shot a couple months earlier. I've always loved watching dancing and Cyrus has such a unique style. I wanted a POV of an artist on beauty. I didn't want to ask him how he defined it. He filled in the details around the idea brilliantly. I came at his part in a much more cerebral way. I knew it was going to be less about the dancing and more about him so I wasn't after some choreographed routine. I wanted to see him freestyle a bit but it was more so about his expression and his vibe.
LA traffic got us into some trouble which caused a delay in Cyrus's arrival. I wanted to shoot the hard sun coming from the side window but the sun had already dropped to a point where that wasn't doable. I still wanted that hard contrast look so I decided to unscrew a old mirror off a bathroom wall and and throw it on a C stand. The last sunlight that had a great yellow hue to it do to the smog line in LA was kicking right into the mirror giving a hard key right on to Cyrus's face. I don't know what the contrast ratio was at that point probably 14-1. Also I wanted to bring out a lot of grain for this one. I really wanted to feel it so I under exposed by two stops and pushed for some of these hard light shots. Super 16 felt right for this and honestly because of busy schedules I didn't have time to plan to have anything else. I planned some standard 8mm but my camera was acting up.
Jessica & Kathleen
Beyond Jess and Kathleen being and I'm not exaggerating two of the best producers I've ever met they're also about the most gorgeous couple I know. Jess had produced a car spot I shot a few weeks before we shot her part. She graciously let me shoot her on her Birthday. I like both of them because they have an excitement about each other. It's sort of like two kids that have a crush on one another in elementary school. I also think the challenges they face as gay women and the backgrounds they grew up in left them wondering where the idea of beauty fit in. But I think when they look at each other that's the answer. It's always great rolling the camera and listening and watching people try to figure out how to define beauty. That was the beauty of shooting this piece. Seeing them both try to find the right feeling to convey.
Look wise I had wanted to use some older stock as I feel like the grainy and less contrasty look at times fits the rather new chapter they're going into in their lives. They also have a chic look but usually wear darker colors and solids. Also Jess being as organized and brilliant. She has a way of being somewhat analytical with how she breaks down stuff, but that wall sort of shatters when she talks about her wife or her wife talks about her. I used vision 2 and some vision 3 and then pulled the vision 3 stock to alleviate some contrast. I shot on one old cooke zoom and one really old lomo zoom.
The Tousey Family
So Brian Tousey was actually my middle school teacher. I reached out to him because I wanted to do a POV from the standpoint of a middle class straight white guy. Also someone who has had a bit more time experiencing life. Brian and Maya have a more realized notion of beauty. They're living it. They have found their home and what's beautiful to them. I shot super 16 mostly on this. 500T 7219 specifically to get a little more grain out and was really trying to get an old 70s movie look to the exteriors except the family shots. I also shot 4 perf 4x3 specifically because I wanted to shoot a family portrait of them all on a much cleaner negative. I think the clarity of the frame helped give a sense of completion to their idea of beauty. They're further along in their journey together and I think 4 perf did does sell that idea better.