2015 was a big year for the young DQ. My biggest narrative project was "Jeffstown", an independent feature length comedy in the vein of 'The Big Lebowski" and "Inherent Vice", Directed by Joshua Briggs. Essentially, a hapless protagonist gets caught up in a huge conspiracy to gentrify a neighborhood in Brooklyn while trying to recover his stolen guitar.
Making an Indy Feature
I learned that working on a low budget indy film means that your role in the credits (In my case, DP), is only one of the many you have to play in order to make something great. Past Selecting the camera package, securing loaned gear from connections, and working out the aesthetic with the director, I also designed the sets and organized a lot of the crew.
The colors we were working with were a muted blue and green for our "good guys" and red, white, and black for the antagonists.
Josh and I had a very good shooting relationship. He had a tangible idea of what he wanted but left room for me to contribute creatively. Between the two of us, we designed and carried out a very uniform aesthetic on a low budget.
We shot on an a7s. We liked the ISO flexibility and small size of the a7s because we were shooting in a number of bars and other places that we had access to only for a few hours at a time. We needed to be set up fast and be able to work in available light when necessary.
We liked the camera's specs on paper, but we found the sony sensor to be very exacting with contemporary lenses. This is to say that there was too much detail in the image, making it look very digital and displeasing. To address this, we started experimenting with vintage lenses in pre production.
We wanted character from our glass, so we tried the helios 44-2 and mir 24n, but they we're a little to unpredictable and distorted for the look we were going for. I then borrowed a set of vintage nikkor ai-s lenses from a friend to test out, and fell in love.
The lenses were soft without lacking detail detail and paired beautifully with the a7s. The skin rendering we got out of this combination was really something else. I loved the lenses so much that I bought a set after the production.
Grand Old Time
"Jeffstown" was an excellent experience. Given my roots in Second City and UCB, I've always had a passion for comedy. The performances were great, the director was a blast to work with, and I had the opportunity to cut my teeth on a feature length film.