Packing for any job for me is a huge deal. Most of my work involves travel on airlines not only internally in Australia but quite regularly Internationally. I thought I’d start blogging about my new project “Machette Maidens Unleashed” by talking about the logistics of travelling and working.
The project is uber cool! Directed by Mark Hartley, the project reunites almost all the team who participated in Mark’s other documentary “Not Quite Hollywood”. I return to my former role as Cinematographer. I don’t usually shoot these days for other people but Mark and I are old friends now. Beside “Not Quite Hollywood” was such an amazing experience, I often say “It’s the film school I never had”! So I couldn’t pass on “Machette Maidens” simply because it will be another amazing “film school I never had” experience.
Here is the official blurb on what the project is about:
“Machete Maidens Unleashed! is a fast moving odyssey into the subterranean world of the rarely explored province of Filipino genre filmmaking.
It is the new feature film from Mark Hartley, the director of the award-winning documentary Not Quite Hollywood.
Machete Maidens Unleashed! is the first detailed examination and celebration of Filipino genre films and the undervalued auteurs and actors who brought them to life in such an explosive way.
From the early ’70s well into the ’90s the Philippines was a back-lot for a bevy of B-movie mavericks and cinema visionaries alike. The country was utilized for its inexpensive labour, exotic locations and distinct lack of rules. A large body of genre work emerged that somehow managed to capture the raw, chaotic energy of contemporary Filipino culture. These productions (a cavalcade of monster movies, jungle prison movies, blaxploitation and kung fu hybrids) were miraculously made at a time when the country’s political situation was repressive at best.
Machete Maidens Unleashed! begins with the partnership of acclaimed local filmmakers Gerry de Leon and Eddie Romero whose BLOOD ISLAND trilogy found large and enthusiastic drive-in audiences across America. When legendary maverick producer Roger Corman was introduced to Romero and de Leon he instantly discovered the Philippines was economically suited to low- budget filming. Corman quickly set up camp and produced a number of “Woman In Prison” films starring genre favourites Pam Grier and Sid Haig.
Throughout the ‘70s and ‘80s the appetites of thrill-hungry cinemagoers around the globe continued to be satisfied by prolific local auteurs Cirio H. Santiago (TNT JACKSON) and Bobby A. Suarez (CLEOPATRA WONG).
In the late 1970’s Francis Ford Coppola re-invigorated a whole new epoch of filmmaking by choosing to shoot APOCALYPSE NOW in the Philippines – leaving the jungle full of discarded sets to be used repeatedly by a host of low budget productions over the next couple of decades.
Our journey climaxes in 1981 when this country fights back and reclaims its very own special national identity via the inaugural Manila International Film Festival and accompanying Film Market. Conceived to showcase the Philippine’s glorious screen culture, the market’s biggest success was FOR Y’UR HEIGHT ONLY, a low budget, home-grown James Bond spoof starring an 83cm primordial dwarf named Weng Weng. The film sold to countless international territories and is now arguably the most well known exemplar of the Filipino genre film abroad.
Machete Maidens Unleashed! is the ultimate insiders’ account of genre filmmaking in the Philippines. A role call of local and international survivors from this period will be interviewed all adding their distinct and honest account of this Devil-may-care school of filmmaking. Sitting alongside the talking heads will be a dazzling array of outrageous film clips from key Filipino titles.
Machete Maidens Unleashed! is produced by Fury Productions and Bionic Boy Productions. It has been financed by Screen Australia, The Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), Screen Queensland, Film Victoria, ABC Commercial and The Melbourne International Film Festival (MIFF) Premiere Fund.
It will be completed in July 2010.”
Mostly we are carrying everything we need for the production. Gear has to be light. Here is some of the gear I’m taking with me on this trip and I generally take on every trip:
- My trusty Canon 5DMKII which is still only shooting 30P at the time of writing. I’m hoping a firmware update will see this camera shoot 24/25P.
- Manfrotto 190CXPro4 Carbon Fibre Legs with a 128RC Pan/Tilt Head.
- 100-400mm Canon Zoom
- 50mm f1.4 Prime
- 15mm f2.8mm Prime
- 24-105mm Zoom
- Gorilla Pod
- 9 CF Cards most of which are 16Gig Sand Disk
- Zacuto Z-Finder
- Apature GigTube Viewfinder
- 2 x 580EX Flashes
- 2 x Pocket Wizard Radios + Trigger
- Remote/Intervelometer controller
- IR Cut Filters
- IR (very dark) filter
- ND8 Filters
- UV/Sky Filters
Additionally for the production, we are shooting on a Sony HVR-Z7P HDV based camera, recording sound via a mixer & pro mikes. The decision to shoot on this old school style camera platform has more to do with logistics. Because we are filming for 22 days straight, with little time between interviews, we don’t wont to carry raided drives to download flash based cards to. Instead, we tested several Tape based cameras for sharpness, dynamic range and build quality and arrived on the Sony HVR-Z7P. This was after a full blown lighting test and then grading it on Melbourne Based Lab, By Deluxe’s Scratch system, before printing it back to 35MM film. The tests were so conclusive it actually shocked me. I tested a Canon HDV camcorder and several other systems including the 5dMKII. It looked amazing printed back to film and will be our backup system should the “A” Camera go down. The 5DMKII shoots 30P so it’s not a great option at this stage for that reason alone!
We’re carrying our immediate lighting kit which includes a 1×1 LED litepanel, a Dedo for a backlight and stands. Mostly we will run things off battery (except for the Dedo which we will use a 120V & 240V supply) because we are filming in so many countries with different power systems. On “Not Quite Hollywood” I used a Chimera Ball light as our main key.
The problem with this is that we move so quickly, the 500W globe takes 30 minutes to cool down. This time the Key will be the LED light. It stays cool all the time so we should be able to pack up much quicker then last time. It’s also a bit more hard wearing then a fragile globe. All these kits will be stored in Pelican cases for security. There are some other things like a white bed sheet as a cheap & light weight bounce board, Flexifill’s, Batteries, Adapters & Power boards. That’s actually a major point. I always carry an Australian power board to connect all my chargers & accessories, via one OS adapter, to the local power supply. Seems simple but often forgotten. I also carry an Airport Express base station to create a WiFi zone in my hotel room. There are still many places that offer cable access only so having both my Macbook Pro and my iPhone connect to the internet is important.
Finally everything that doesn’t fit into Pelican cases and my onboard Lowepro All Weather Trekker, goes into a hard shelled suit case. Because we fly domestically and internationally all the time, the cases cannot exceed 20kg per bag. This figure varies with each airline but that’s the general rule. The problem this time is that we are traveling to the Northern Hemisphere for a good portion of the project and then ending at the equator where the temperature is +31ºC all the time with humidity reaching 90%! At the moment, New York is experiencing -9ºC and so is the UK and France! This makes packing for your own personal comfort really hard, while maintaining that 20KG limit! I’m taking a single ski jacket (onboard) a leather jacket and jumper, 2 pairs of jeans, some shirts and a reasonable supply of under garments. The rest is a good set of thermals, 2 pairs of shoes and toiletries! My suitcase is also carrying my Tripod, extra lens bag and flashes, so I’m full! I can’t afford any T-shirts or other clothing and have decided that I’m going to have to buy stuff along the way. We don’t have a lot of time off on the job so I’ve made sure I have enough to cover me for 9 days straight at any given time.
So as you can see, a great deal of thought has gone into the packing process. For me this is actually compounded even further as I will be leaving the production in Singapore and staying on to complete a Canon TVC there. That’s for another 7 days. I then fly to Jakarta Indonesia to shoot another TVC there also before Posting it in Singapore. So I’m actually gone for nearly 2 months.
So Monday 1st of February, we kick off the Doco! We fly to LA and then on to Las Vegas for the first round of interviews. I will do my best to update the blog as I go, but there may be large portions of inactivity due to lack of time or internet access. Cheers!