Death Diary, a film by comedic duo Joe Nehme and Patrick Brophy and also starring actress Anais Fairweather is a fun dark comedy about adultery and plotting to kill your husband. When I signed on to the project I knew it was going to be a quick turn around of three days with a skeleton crew and a half ton grip and electric package. I decided to really use that to my advantage since this was a dark comedy, I went with more of contrasty tone to the film and just let some scenes play darker.
We began day one in the bedroom since it had the best natural light to build off. Most of the shots inside were shot with only a 2×2 reflector and pieces of duvetyne to kill some ambient and unwanted reflections.
This approach was simplistic in design and allowed us to move at a pretty quick pace. And once I got the rhythm down I was really pleased with the results I was getting.
I carried the same principles over when we did a company move to a near by park. Our go to gear was again a few small 2×2 reflectors and a 4×5 silk. Using the sun as a 3/4’s backlight I used the reflectors for the needed fill and for the times I had to shoot in the direction that made the sun my key, that’s when the 4×5 silk came in to play. On the camera I had a 1.2 ND as well as a circular POL filter, so I was able to keep my stop at F4 for most the shooting.
We did have a quick scene in the parking lot of the park as well. And for that scene I had the car moved so that the sun would provide a 3/4’s back light from camera right and I was able to sneak in the small 2×2 reflector below camera in the front passenger seat. So with both actors in the front seats, the 2×2, and my camera, it was quite cozy inside that car, which wasn’t that big to begin with haha.
For the rest of the interiors in the house I continued with the minimalist setups starting with the kitchen. Since the scene called for something a bit lighter then the bedroom, I choose to keep it a bit more high key. With the practicals turned off and the thin blinds half way closed, I snuck in a Kino to camera right and out of frame to provide just a little separation for Anais against the set.
We also had a few scenes in the dining room and it’s here I feel like I made my real only blunder in choosing the correct lighting unit. For what ever reason, I think it was either the blocking prevented the placement of the necessary stands or if the unit would of been in the shot. I choose to augment the practical chandelier with multiple 200w medium based Edison bulbs, then wrapped them in black wrap to control the spill and clipped some 250 to finish the job. If I had to do it again I would of just went with a good sized china ball, skirted with duvetyne on a dimmer. It would of saved me a lot of time adjusting the black wrap on the Edison’s. But in the end I was happy with the results I got, even for a small blunder haha.
For the film’s big climax scene, a scene which was the most fun to shoot, I really got to play with some creative lighting setups! I wanted to go for a look you’d see in the traditional “red scene” setup (NOT red wedding, for you GOT’s fan’s). The backyard we were filming in was perched on a hill overlooking the city and at night provided a great backdrop of twinkling city lights. I wanted to take that look over into the the background of the areas of the backyard that were too dark for us to shoot against. Red string lights were placed in the bushes in frame and then to help boost the red glow, I added a Mole Tweenie as a rim light with Red 60 gel placed on it. For talent’s key light I used duel Arri 1k fresnels to camera left, the scene required Anais to talk towards camera so I needed to be able to light the area evenly. Overall this was my absolute favorite thing to shoot for the film. And You can bet dollars to donuts this scene will be making an appearance on my next cinematography reel!
Death Diary was a great filming experience and I’m sure it will be a great festival run once it’s finished in post. It was the kind of shoot where since it was such a small cast and crew, people came together as colleagues and left as friend’s. So let me just leave you with the final screen grab I wanted to share with you, I know it was one of Anais’s favorites!