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Kodak’s “Understanding”: Interview With Director Terry Rayment

March 2, 2017

Kodak's Understanding Short Film

“Understanding” is an important and powerful short film about love, family and coming out of the closet. The film is also a unique piece of promotional content for Kodak’s Vision3 500T 5219 film. This past September Expressway was very excited to work with our friends at Lets Go Eskimo, a bi-coastal creative studio and award winning production company, on this emotional and socially impactful short film. When the director, Terry Rayment, talked to me about getting involved with “Understanding”, I was moved by the content and excited to be included. It was also equally exciting to see that a strong brand partner like Kodak was supporting and promoting this sort of socially impactful content. I had the great opportunity to interview Terry, also the owner of Lets Go Eskimo, about the film and the experience.

Kodak's Understanding Short Film

Nic Reader, Expressway Cinema Rentals (ECR):
How would you describe this film in its purpose? Why this subject matter?

Terry Rayment, Lets Go Eskimo (TR):
Creating this type of content is one of, if not the main reason we got into this business in the first place. To be able to partner with people who are brave enough to take strong stances on controversial topics is immensely gratifying.

(ECR): Where did this concept originate?

(TR): The concept really came out of a lot of what I was seeing in the news. There seemed to be a really heavy disconnect between urban and rural areas, especially when it came to value systems. We wanted to help reach people with this film. So that is where we started, location. After placing us in a deep rural setting and establishing environment and mood, then it was creating the characters and ultimately the conflict. I knew if we were going to put so much time and resources into this project we had to make sure it was authentic and that people could identify with the story. That’s where the idea of the son coming out was born.

Kodak's Understanding Short Film

(ECR): Was this written with the intention to shoot on film?

(TR): It was not. But when the attachment to Kodak was in the talks we realized that would make a much better story, both in front of and behind the camera.

(ECR): How did you get connected with Kodak to sponsor the film?

(TR): The Internet!

(ECR): What are the advantages of shooting on film?

(TR): The look Kate (Arizmendi, Director of Photography) and I were going for was a modern western, something like No Country For Old Men. So after doing more aesthetic research it began to make more and more sense to shoot on 35.

(ECR): How did shooting on film vs digital change the budget?

(TR): It was slightly more expensive I believe, but that was because we were rolling a lot of film. We were shooting constantly; not overshooting but just ran scenes with a lot of heads and tails. Our other option would be to shoot on Alexa or Red, which could have been totally appropriate.

(ECR): Was this your first experience Directing using a film format?

(TR): It was and I can’t imagine it will be the last.

(ECR): Was it different preparing for this project than if shooting digitally?

(TR): There was really not a big difference in prep, but when it came to on set it was drastically different than the fast paced shoot – review process we’re used to in digital. We were stopping mid takes because of roll outs, and not being able to see the cleanest image in the monitor was a big hurdle, but it was all worth it.

(ECR): How did you decide the look of this picture?

(TR): We wanted something a little bit nostalgic and above all something that was really confident in its look — the framing, lighting, blocking. We designed very simple shots in theory that allowed the actors space to move. So when you watch the film, the camera language seems rather elementary, but there was great consideration that went into establishing that.

(ECR): What film stock and camera did you decide on and why?

(TR): We used the Panavision Millennium XL with the Primos. The stock we chose was Kodak 35mm Vision3 500T 5219. After researching, Kate recommended this to get the closest look to our vision.

Kodak's Understanding Short Film

(ECR): Did shooting on film change the relationship with the cinematographer at all?

(TR): Kate and I have worked together in the past and we have the same taste and speak the same language. She has a unique eye and can bring a lot to the scene that I can’t, and vice versa, so it makes a really good team. The amount of trust I have for Kate behind the camera for both compositional and lighting reasons is huge

(ECR): Can you tell us about any particular scene or set up that was either more difficult or satisfying within this format?

(TR): Not really one over the other, but I will say the size of the camera made it more difficult for Kate with some of the hand held tracking shots (especially running up the stairs).

(ECR): Did you spend more time blocking with the actors and allowing them to find moments in rehearsals so that you could craft the scene before shooting a take?

(TR): Yeah absolutely. In consideration of the film stock, it wasn’t that ‘roll on everything’ mentality. There was a lot more private conversation behind the camera than direction given in front of the camera.

(ECR): Do you think the overall feel of the set was different, considering the different process from digital and knowing there was less room for error?

(TR): In a way there was, especially with the dynamics of the image. I’m used to having control over the more technical details of an image. Here we sort of had to just trust the film. There was also an adjustment in the flow and rhythm of the set, but we found it pretty quickly and committed to it.

(ECR): What made you want to film this project in PA?

(TR): First off, the look. We were able to achieve all of our settings close enough to Philadelphia where we were able to get all of the resources. Secondly, crew. There is world class G&E in the area and your team at Expressway does such a great job of putting that together for us. So we really only had to fly in key members (myself, cinematographer, etc…) and we could service the rest locally and on budget.

(ECR): Tell us about the post schedule. Is everything being digitized? What type of work-flow are you using for post?

(TR): We went through 48 drafts of this. The editor, Scott Hanson, was undyingly loyal to the project and making sure we got it to a good place. We had it digitized at Cinelicious here in LA, they are super committed to film and supporting people who shoot on all formats.

Kodak's Understanding Short Film

(ECR): Tell us about the post schedule. Is everything being digitized? What type of work-flow are you using for post?

(TR): We went through 48 drafts of this. The editor, Scott Hanson, was undyingly loyal to the project and making sure we got it to a good place. We had it digitized at Cinelicious here in LA, they are super committed to film and supporting people who shoot on all formats.

(ECR): Have you experienced any difficulties in Post that would be different if shooting digitally? Who is handling the color correction and how is that process going?

(TR): There was some noise inconsistencies we had to deal with but after it went to finishing we had that worked out. Luke Morrison at The Mill handled color and put a really tasteful look on it.

(ECR): What is the final output going to be for the project?

(TR): A shiny 1080p Quicktime movie.

(ECR): With this experience, are you planning to shoot on film more in the future?

(TR): Absolutely.

(ECR): Are there any moments or stories you want to share from this production?

(TR): I went through a couple bottles of Advil on set.

We wish to thank Terry and Kris for involving us in this film. We are truly honored to work with Eskimo. Please check out Understanding and share.

 

Kodak's Understanding Short Film

Written By: Nic Reader – Owner / Creative Director

Nicholas Reader

When not creating awesome stuff Nic spends his time in the woods and on the water. Being such an avid outdoorsman helps keep him trim and tight.