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  • Writer's pictureAlfie Hollingsworth

Lensing My First Feature Film

It began with a casual meeting in the park with a young and ambitious director, by the name of John Farrelly. I'd emailed him about a project he had. Having already heard of the online folktale that is The Sleep Experiment, when John told me he wanted to make it in to a feature film, I was sold on the idea.

Then he told me we'd be shooting it in 14 days and on a budget of about 5k. I was a little worried about this in the beginning; would it possible to complete such an ambitious project in this time frame? After our first location recce, my concerns were largely abated. John and his production manager Peter had found an astonishingly perfect location in the heart of Dublin City, just off O'Connell Street....

The nightlife around Henry Pl.

.....(I think an extremely helpful factor in making this project possible was the fact that 70% of the film takes place in one location, another 29% in the same room made to look like a different room and the final 1% elsewhere in a remote location, which we later heard had been a stones throw from the murder of Rachel O'Reilly back in 2004)

I digress...

The location was in an old office building, meaning we had our green room a couple of stories above our set, the latter being located in the grungy basement. John had a fake wall built to make the room smaller and on which to place our two way mirrors and also added a removable wall section, which we never ended up using, but it was good to have the option.

Our doorway for the next 14 days. Looks legit!

I can assure you our greenroom didn't look this good by day 14.

I knew we'd have to move fast on this film (we ended up shooting about 10 pages a day on average, reaching 16 or 19 on one of the days, I can't quite recall!) so we talked about installing our lighting in the ceiling as practical lighting. John found these wonderful old-fashioned cone shaped lighting fixtures with a green metallic cover, that helped to shape and control the light, whilst also looking great on screen. This saved us time, as for most of the shots I’d just chuck some poly, a flag or net in, get the actors blocking under the lights and we’d be good to go. The downward style of lighting isn’t something I’d usually go for, but I felt it fit the tone of the film well and created these dramatic pools of shadow, which we often used to hide or show the characters and their motives.

The set and lights.

Due to the low budget nature of the film, a lot of freebies were called in and I had what felt like a constant influx of people assisting me with the camera and lighting, most of whom had never done anything like this before, but all of them were extremely passionate and helpful, but it still meant I had to do a great deal more explaining than usual and definitely made this a tiring, yet rewarding, experience. Some unforgettable memories were created with a host of amazing characters, that I had the pleasure of meeting and will hopefully meet again soon.

We shot on my Ursa Mini 4.6k with Sigma Art lenses. I would have loved to shoot anamorphic on this, but the lens choice is limited for EF mount and our budget wouldn't stretch of course, so we had to try hard to create that old look with production design and grading. A few behind the scenes stills....

The cast were such a pleasure to work with and I think we all really gelled. The film was shot chronologically as it suited the dilapidation of both the actors and the set, to do so.

We'd set up a 2-3 minute Steadicam shot for the introduction of the test room, as we wanted the moment the actors arrived into the room in the story, to be their first time. We'd mapped the dimensions of the room and taped an area off upstairs to match this, so the actors could walk in and get their marks right, as they had bags over their heads from the previous scene. This worked well and our Steadicam operator Tiernan O'Rourke nailed it on the first take. He can be seen above(bottom right), balancing the Steadicam. I had so much fun taking this script from words on a page to images on a screen. I'd like to thank Teach Solais for doing us a huge favour and lending us some lighting gear for this. You guys are the best! I'd definitely recommend checking their setup out down in Kilcoole. It's awesome!

I'll finish with a few stills from the film, with a grade that will more than likely change.



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