Part 2: Behind the Scenes of “Bono and Eugene Peterson: THE PSALMS.” Gear and Crew.
If you get a group of filmmaker types together, the conversation pretty quickly moves to gear. It’s an affliction of sorts, one that is hopefully informed by creative choices. That was the challenge with this project — how do we choose the tools that will help us flourish within our “rules”?
The operating word was inconspicuous. We wanted Bono and Eugene Peterson to have the freedom to talk as two friends might if there were no cameras around. For the majority of the project we would have three cameras rolling at all times: one locked on Bono, one locked on Eugene, and one floating between the two getting establishing shots and details. But, again, we didn’t want to be up in their faces. So we filmed everything with long lenses (70–200 2.8 IS on the subject cameras, a 24–105 4.0 IS on the floating camera) that allowed the cameras to be set back and the conversation to flow naturally. But there’s a problem — there is almost no way one can hold a camera with that lens for a long afternoon, so in order for the camera operators to be mobile (and not hate me) we rented three EasyRigs. We never used tripods, even for the conversation that is at the center of the film (other than a wide locked off camera) and this gave the final film a natural feel and gave the operators some additional freedom to move around.
At the point of filming (April of 2015), 4k was fairly unrealistic for us. We regularly use Canon cameras and count us among those addicted to the skin tones of Canon’s Cinema EOS series. So we had three C300s and added Atomos Ninja Blade external recorders to get every bit of detail we could out of the camera and to give us a built-in system of redundancy. For a large part of the time, we were shooting with a significant backlit source so the cameras were all set to C-Log. Finally we had a Sony A7s locked off for a wide angle shot of the conversation itself recording 4K into an Atomos Shogun.
But really, all of this was not nearly as important as the most critical thing we brought to Montana — the crew. John Harrison is a remarkable Director of Photography for how he creates an environment where both the crew and the subjects can be creative and free to be themselves. He established a consistent aesthetic that wonderfully captures what it felt like to be observers of this remarkable friendship. We also had Tim Grant and Zach Whiteside operating cameras who both possess that unique combination of a pursuit of beauty and an understanding that this pursuit may require standing in one place for hours, slowing changing focus on a single subject. And then we had Michael McQueen running sound — lapels on all the subjects and a boom for atmosphere.