Canadian Cinematographer Magazine February 2021

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February 2021




ARCTIC SHOOTING with Geoffroy Beauchemin, Jeremy Benning csc, Martin Wojtunik, Mike Reid and Goh Iromoto

Gerald Packer csc and David Makin csc Talk Comedy

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A publication of the Canadian Society of Cinematographers

FEATURES – VOLUME 12, NO. 9 FEBRUARY 2021 Fostering cinematography in Canada since 1957. The Canadian Society of Cinematographers was founded by a group of Toronto, Montreal and Ottawa cameramen. Since then over 800 cinematographers and persons in associated occupations have joined the organization.

We facilitate the dissemination and exchange of technical information and endeavor to advance the knowledge and status of our members within the industry. As an organization dedicated to furthering technical assistance, we maintain contact with nonpartisan groups in our industry but have no political or union affiliation.

Shooting the Schitt: Gerald Packer


and David Makin

By Fanen Chiahemen

The CSC is a not-for-profit organization run by volunteer board members of the society. Thank you to our sponsors for their continued support.


Talk Comedy

Credit: Galafilm Productions



On Thin Ice

By Geoffroy Beauchemin


Credit: ZEISS

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Credit: CBC Television

The CSC provides tangible recognition of the common bonds that link film and digital professionals, from the aspiring student and camera assistant to the news veteran and senior director of photography.

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By Ian Harvey

COLUMNS & DEPARTMENTS 2 4 6 7 8 10 12 27 30 36

From the Editor-In-Chief From the President In the News What's Up at the CSC CSC Award Winners CSC Member Spotlight – Simon Shohet On Set Alone Across The Artic Lure of the North Production Notes/Calendar/Classifieds


Cover Schitt's Creek (L-R) Annie Murphy, Eugene Levy, Catherine O’Hara and Dan Levy. Credit: CBC Television

Canadian Cinematographer February 2021  Vol. 12, No. 9 EDITORIAL BOARD JOAN HUTTON csc, Editor-in-Chief FANEN CHIAHEMEN, Editor, JANEK LOWE, Photo Editor PATTY GUYADER, Copy Editor SIMON EVERS, Graphic Designer GUIDO KONDRUSS, Advertising Manager, GEORGE WILLIS, csc sasc CLAUDINE SAUVÉ csc SUSAN SARANCHUK, CSC BOARD OF DIRECTORS Zoe Dirse csc Jeremy Benning csc Rion Gonzales Joan Hutton csc Kristin Fieldhouse Guy Godfree csc Claudine Sauvé csc George Willis csc, sasc CSC EXECUTIVE PRESIDENT George Willis csc, sasc PAST PRESIDENT, ADVISOR Joan Hutton csc VICE PRESIDENTS Philip Lanyon csc Bruno Philip csc Penny Watier MEMBERSHIP CHAIRS Arthur Cooper csc Zoe Dirse csc EDUCATION CHAIRS George Willis csc, sasc Martin Wojtunik AWARDS CHAIR Arthur Cooper csc ONLINE CONTENT COMMITTEE Jeremy Benning csc – Co-Chair Christina Ienna – Co-Chair Carolyn Wong – Co-Chair DIVERSITY COMMITTEE Kristin Fieldhouse - Co-Chair Nyssa Glück - Co-Chair Rion Gonzales - Co-Chair Samy Inayeh csc - Co-Chair MENTORSHIP COMMITTEE Nyssa Glück – Co-Chair Iris Ng – Co-Chair RELATIONSHIPS Gaston Bernier OFFICE / MEMBERSHIP / SUBSCRIPTIONS 131–3085 Kingston Road Toronto, Canada M1M 1P1 Tel: 416-266-0591; Fax: 416-266-3996 Email:, Canadian Cinematographer makes every effort to ensure the accuracy of the information it publishes; however, it cannot be held responsible for any consequences arising from errors or omissions. The contents of this publication may not be reproduced in whole or in part without the express written consent of the publisher. The opinions expressed within the magazine are those of the authors and not necessarily of the publisher. Upon publication, Canadian Cinematographer acquires Canadian Serial Rights; copyright reverts to the writer after publication.Canadian Cinematographer is printed by Winnipeg Sun Commercial Print and is published 10 times a year. One-year subscriptions are available in Canada for $40.00 for individuals and $80.00 for institutions, including HST. In U.S. rates are $45.00 and $90.00 for institutions in U.S. funds. International subscriptions are $50.00 for individuals and $100.00 for institutions. Subscribe online at

ISSN 1918-8781 Canadian Mail Product Sales Agreement No. 40013776 Return undeliverable Canadian addresses 131–3085 Kingston Road Toronto M1M 1P1 THE CANADIAN SOCIETY OF CINEMATOGRAPHERS IS A NON-PROFIT ORGANIZATION.

2 • Canadian Cinematographer - February 2021

FROM THE EDITOR-IN-CHIEF Joan Hutton csc It was an eye-popping New Year’s moment when I learned about the machinations in Bell Media’s executive suites. In one swift chop, Canada’s largest private media company purged the majority of its content leadership from its offices. Seven individuals – constituting some of Canada’s most seasoned content executives, such as Mike Cosentino and Tracey Pearce to name a couple – were laid off. Eerily enough, this executive cull came one day after Randy Lennox, President of Bell Media at the time, concluded his four-year tenure with the media company and walked out the door. Lennox had previously announced his departure last October. Interestingly, Bell did not go outside the company to replace Lennox. Instead, Group President and Vice Chair Bell Canada and BCE Wade Oosterman assumed Lennox’s presidency. This same strategy also followed with the vacuum left by the departing seven executives. Their duties were divvied up among the remaining Bell Media executives. Executive shakeups of this magnitude are rare in Canadian broadcasting, but when they do happen it usually is tied to the selling of assets. Bell Media, remember, is only a division of Ma Bell, whose core business is telecommunications. As have many media companies, Bell Media has seen a drop in its revenues during the pandemic. Bell Media’s recent third quarterly report shows that operating revenues are still lagging, down 16.4 per cent as opposed to the second quarter where it had dipped down by 31.2 per cent. This is not saying that Bell Media is on the auction block at all. The executive maneuvering could simply be a new president tightening the fiscal belt during tough times. But it could also portend that Bell Media is pulling away from the drama commissioning business. This, however, would seem to be at odds with other major media companies around the world that are investing in dramatic content now more than ever and restructuring to take advantage of the burgeoning global streaming market. It’s a very unclear picture being presented by Bell Media and no one seems to be sure of its endgame. Whatever that might be, there is one thing for certain, it will have considerable impact on Canada’s broadcast media landscape.




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FROM THE PRESIDENT George A. Willis csc, sasc I am very pleased to announce that the CSC has been designated the beneficiary of an endowment from a fellow cinematography organization that has passed into the folklore of our profession. The Canadian Independent Camera Association saw its dawning in 1994 in the midst of the electronic field camera revolution. It was formed by a small group of independent cinematographers to counter unfair treatment by camera manufacturers and distributors at the time. After purchasing expensive cameras and gear, a major complaint by independent owners was a virtual lack of follow-up support and resolution for a myriad of problems ranging from defects and parts replacement to faulty tape. The founding of the CICA was headed by Don Purser csc, and part of its original membership included Claude Barns, Robert Brooks csc, Walter Corbett csc, Carlos Esteves csc, Gordie Judges, Paulis Kolycius, Jim Mercer csc and Richard Wilmot. Right from its first meeting, with 18 members in attendance, there was a vital sense of community and robust resolve. Inspired by a strength in numbers and a booming voice, the CICA shouted. The manufacturers heard them loud and clear, offering their support almost immediately to the new organization. This promoted the beginning of a mutually beneficial dialogue between independent cinematographers and manufacturers. By 1995, the CICA had grown to 150 members and had opened its welcoming arms to other independent craft workers such as sound recordists, gaffers and make-up artists. Basically, if you were a freelancer, you could join and no longer be alone. The CICA also tackled industry issues common to everyone such as border crossing requirements, GST interpretation and half-day rates to name a few. At the height of its activity, the CICA sported more than 400 members in Canada, the United 4 • Canadian Cinematographer - February 2021

Kingdom and the United States, where petitions were being put forward to form state chapters. The CICA also branched into charity work, donating thousands of dollars from its raffles to food banks. Annual golf tournaments over the course of the CICA’s existence raised more than $250,000 for children’s charities. After 17 years, as technology and circumstances changed, the CICA felt that it had run its course and stopped operation in 2001. Today, the CICA is writing its final chapter with the disbursement of its remaining funds of which the CSC has received $14,841, which is earmarked to help fund our mentorship program. I would like to thank the CICA for its generous gift to our organization. The CSC and I would also like to acknowledge the debt of gratitude we owe the CICA for its years of service championing cinematographers for the betterment of our industry. I am also pleased to announce a new and important initiative that’s about to get underway at the CSC. It’s the newly formed “Revenue Generation Campaign” with the goal to revitalize the CSC revenue base and put the CSC on more solid financial foundations. Spearheaded by the CSC Board of Directors and CSC Executive Officer Susan Saranchuk, the campaign group will work hand in hand with funding strategist and not-for-profit specialist Gail Picco to develop a plan that will open untapped revenue streams to better position the CSC in meeting its future needs and demands on our Society. Gail Picco has spent three decades working in the not-for-profit sector at the senior level, significantly in fund raising, relationship building and communications. She has also served two terms as Chair of the Regent Park Film Festival. The CSC looks forward to working with Ms. Picco.

In The News CSC Member Projects Among TIFF’s 2020 Top 10 Canadian Films

film production industry. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed. Grandé Studios facilities have already provided facilities for several Bell Media productions including Transplant, shot by Pierre Gill csc (see June 2020 issue) and the feature film The Song of Names (winner of the 2020 CSC Award for Theatrical Feature Cinematography), in addition to several Hollywood blockbuster movie productions such as X-Men: Dark Phoenix, Jack Ryan, and Moonfall.

Projects shot by CSC members are among Canada’s Top Ten list selected by the Toronto International Film Festival for 2020, it was announced in December. Among the feature films are Funny Boy (Douglas Koch csc), Inconvenient Indian (Chris Romeike csc) and Possessor (Karim Hussain csc), while Benjamin, Benny, Ben (Peter Hadfield) was selected as one of the top 10 Canadian shorts of 2020. The Canada’s Top Ten list is compiled by TIFF’s team of programmers in collaboration with film Aeon to Open First Sound programmers and critics across the nation. Stage in Hamilton

POV and Comweb Foundation in the fall announced a five-year agreement that will see the donation of a quarter-million dollars directed towards POV’s mission to provide BIPOC and diverse creatives with the access needed for meaningful and successful careers in media production through technical training, career development, mentorship, paid jobs and internships. The commitment by Comweb Foundation comes after the creation of a new bursary in association with the Toronto Film School, Bell Media, RedLabTO, William F. White International, and Project 10, which gives BIPOC creatives access to yearly scholarships followed by paid internships at partner production companies. Bell Media Partners with Grandé Studios to Increase Quebec Content Bell Media and Grandé Studios in the fall announced a new partnership that aims to bring increased resources to Quebec’s French-language content creation and production communities. Bell Media has acquired a minority investment in the Montreal-based company, which provides production facilities, camera and lighting equipment rentals in Montreal and Toronto, as well as technical services to the local and international TV and 6 • Canadian Cinematographer - February 2021

Credit: Aeon Studio Group

POV, Comweb Foundation Announce Five-Year Commitment

Aeon Studio Group announced in December that Aeon Bayfront Studios, located in its Hamilton Studio District mixed-use development, will be open for business this month. Located at 243 Queen Street North, Hamilton, the sound stage comprises an approximately 80,000-square-foot facility on a total of 7.5 acres of land. The site features: a 27,000 square-foot-main stage with 50-foot ceilings and clear span; 40,000-plus square feet of additional production space of varying ceiling heights; 6,500plus square feet of furnished office space; a paint shop in an out-building with two paint booths; and approximately 4 acres of outdoor space suitable for backlot uses. The studio is located across the street from the Barton Tiffany lands, where Aeon is planning to build the rest of the Hamilton Studio District, a live-work-play hub for the creative industries that will feature studios, offices, retail and residential space.

What’s Up at the CSC The CSC is a not-for-profit volunteer-run organization which serves to foster the art and craft of cinematography in Canada. We encourage our members to volunteer on the various committees dedicated to different aspects of our society. Being part of a committee is also a benefit of being a member; it’s a great way to network and get to know other cinematographers and to come together with shared visions to create new initiatives or assist with ongoing ones. 1. MENTORSHIP PROGRAM The Mentorship Program has been launched, and the matching up of the mentees and mentors complete. Thank you to all the CSC members who agreed to mentor and thank you to the mentees who are taking place in this inaugural six-month program.

3. CSC LIVE In the works for February, in line with Black History Month, the CSC Live hosts will be associate member Rion Gonzales, associate member Keenan Lynch, and associate member and gaffer Rohan Lawrence.

2. DIVERSITY The Outreach and Education Division of the Diversity Committee is working on a program that allows the CSC to conduct an outreach program that gives visibility to communities, organizations and schools. The hope is to educate people about the CSC and Canadian cinematography as a path to employment. In doing so, it is our hope that an increase of membership will be the outcome. Particular attention will be placed on outreach to BIPOC and diverse communities with the goal of expanding access, opportunity and education to those that have been underrepresented in the film community. To facilitate this, we are working on an instruction manual (a “how-to” book) that will allow anyone at the CSC to step in and carry on the work that is needed to allow for a successful outreach program.

4. AWARDS The CSC Award entries have been submitted and the juries will meet this month. Nominations will be announced in March 2021.

5. CANADIAN CINEMATOGRAPHER MAGAZINE The “Free Issue” promo that started in December 2020 continues until June 2021

CSC Mourns Death of Stephen Cook We are saddened to hear of the passing of Stephen Cook ( January 9, 2021), former owner of Arri/Nagra. Stephen was fondly known as Mr. Arri in Canada throughout the 1960s and 1970s. Our condolences to Suzanne and Joseph Sunday and their extended family. Canadian Cinematographer - February 2021 •


Courtesy Amazon Studios

As part of a continuing series, Canadian Cinematographer will be recognizing two 2020 CSC Award winners per issue.


Martin Buzora The Story of Pema

8 • Canadian Cinematographer - February 2021

COMEDY SERIES CINEMATOGRAPHY Sponsored by Vanguarde Artists

Courtesy Escaped Ape Productions

D. Gregor Hagey csc Wayne “Thought We Was Friends”

Canadian Cinematographer - February 2021 •


CSC Member Spotlight

How did you get started in the business?

After film school at Queen’s University, I worked as a PA in commercials for a year before transitioning into the lighting department. It was harder back then, pre-digital, to build a reel. I got my start shooting music videos where you had to earn the trust of producers and directors before they would hand you a 35 mm camera, 5000’ of film and a crew. I was lucky enough to have some good ones get me started.

Credit: Simon Shohet csc

Who have been your mentors or teachers?

I learned a great deal from cinematographers Brendan Steacy csc and Tico Poulakakis csc. Both are highly collaborative and encouraged me to contribute artistically, not just technically, at a formative time in my career. I also learned so much working with talented directors like R.T. Thorne, Harv Glazer, Director X, Warren P. Sonoda and Marc Ricciardelli and so many others.

Simon Shohet csc What films or other works of art have made the biggest impression on you?

Growing up in the ‘80s, I had a steady diet of Spielberg, John Hughes and Spike Lee. If I were to choose a single film that inspired my love of cinema, it would be Spielberg’s Empire of the Sun. I could relate to Christian Bales’ character being a British kid in a foreign country. I also had a love of aviation and seeing the waving pilot in a P-51 at 500fps was pretty mind-blowing. I was lucky enough to spend some time with cinematographer Allen Daviau ASC when I was starting out; a wonderful man lost recently to COVID-19. 10 • Canadian Cinematographer - February 2021

What cinematographers inspire you?

There are so many, but Sir Roger Deakins bsc, asc, cbe would have to be at the very top of the list. Over the past 30 years he has consistently brought the craft to new and exciting places. His work with the Coen brothers are some of my favourite collaborations of all time. Emmanuel Lubezki asc, amc and Hoyte van Hoytema asc, fsf, nsc as well, consistently dazzling work.

Take Your Pick

Name some of your professional highlights.

Receiving my CSC letters and joining the SESLER roster are both up there. What is one of your most memorable moments on set?

I was in Jamaica shooting a music video with Director X. It was one of the first ever shot on RED. We knew very little about the tech, so we brought the camera’s owner, Vinit Borrison, with us to manage it. The first shot we did was a crowd scene with hundreds of people, and Vinit pulled a still and brought me over for a look. We zoomed into tiny faces in the background and I was astounded by the detail. I knew everything was about to change. What do you like best about what you do?

Being on set with all the right people, all the right tools and having the opportunity to explore new ways to light something, frame something and discovering new ways to tell stories.

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What do you like least about what you do?

Being told it’s too expensive. What do you think has been the greatest invention (related to your craft)?

For me, the digital revolution is more profound in lighting than in camera. The paradigm shift in image acquisition does not influence the way we execute our craft the way that LED lighting has in the last decade. The tools we have acquired provide a limitless palette that is immediately adjustable and far more efficient. It is truly a renaissance for lighting design. How can others follow your work?

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Canadian Cinematographer - February 2021 •




Credit: Lu Zhang

On Set

Courtesy of Ahmad Al Morsy csc

Associate Member Angel Navarro III with director Tricia Hag Filipino short film called Huwag Mataranta. Ahmad Al Morsy csc with director Jason Sklaver on set of their film Time Fears the Pyramids.

Credit: Hass

Credit: Christian Tisdale

Associate member Drew Hyttenrauch filming on RED Weapon for an undisclosed Netflix pilot.

12 • Canadian Cinematographer - February 2021

Credit: Eric Milner

goriles on the set of a

Director of photography and camera operator David Bercovici-Artieda (associate member) with key grip Shawn Montgomery in a “Louisiana swamp” shoot for the miniseries The Ruby Landry Saga on location in Vancouver Island.

Associate member Kyle K Chappell on day 10/25 in the IIHF World Juniors TSN Broadcast Bubble in Edmonton, AB.

Credit: Kyle K Chappell

Associate Member Bryce Zimmerman frames up a shot in Mount Work Regional Park on Vancouver Island for a Hoka One One commercial.

Canadian Cinematographer - February 2021 •


LED screen technology and virtual production (Mixed Reality) Behind the scenes of MELS mixed reality shoot, which brought the New York City and Paris skylines to the studio in Montreal.


resh off the heels of the Emmynominated The Mandalorian, interest in LED screen technology and virtual production (Mixed Reality) is increasing rapidly. Disney’s The Mandalorian – which was nominated for 15 Emmys and won awards for its cinematography, special effects, and production design – has proven that Mixed Reality, which combines virtual backgrounds with practical cameras and foreground lighting to produce in-camera VFX, is ready for the spotlight. Although the technology is still in its infancy, the production industry and filmmakers are adapting quickly. They have been abuzz with the possibilities, realizing the advantages in both costs and creative potential. “Mixed Reality is the most groundbreaking, revolutionary breakthrough in maybe 50 to 70 years, and possibly since sound,” explains Greig Fraser, asc, acs, one of the cinematographers behind The Mandalorian, as well as Dune and Batman. He continues, “When processed screens came out as a technology, that was sort of a breakthrough, but they looked a little hokey in the early days. I have major contentious issues with processed blue and green screens because they contribute nothing to environmental

lighting. With Mixed Reality, everything around you is a lighting tool, just like when you are trying to light a set. We are at the infancy of where this technology will go, and it’s still possible to put a bounty hunter on a desert planet with an infant child. I’m always speculating about where this technology will be in 10 years and what it can do. We’re only at the beginning.” With the pandemic causing an acceleration in change, more and more production professionals are interested in learning about virtual production. As a result, studios have started building virtual production stages. Montrealbased MELS Studios launched their own virtual stage with an LED wall in late October, bringing together a customizable virtual production stage with their VFX department to offer a ready-made solution for filmmakers. “It’s a great new tool, but like anything new, it can be complex at the beginning because you are bringing different worlds together, and they need to understand how to work together,” explains MELS President Martin Carrier. Carrier came to MELS with more than 20 years of experience in the gaming industry and recognized the growing interest in virtual production. The stage he set up in

14 • Canadian Cinematographer - Arri Advertorial - February 2021

Montreal can be scaled to meet the needs of filmmakers, complete with ARRI’s bestin-class remote heads, cameras, lights, and lenses. Although filmmakers have been abuzz about virtual production’s potential, the response was surprising. “One of many surprises was the enthusiasm from the ad-making world, who are just like, ‘You know what? We can’t travel right now. This is a great way to capture different locations on screen and deliver a great product.’ That was pretty surprising because we thought this is going to be a solution that’s limited to larger productions.” Benefits Unlike a green screen, virtual production combines virtual reality LED screens in combination with practical production. The technique allows actors to interact with their surroundings and allows crews to make creative decisions. As Christina Wise, MELS Head of VFX, put it, “You’ve heard the saying, ‘We’ll fix it in post.’ Now we can fix it in prep.” “Although we do a lot of pre-viz, a lot of the time, you don’t get to see what the final product will look like while you’re working on it. You live in an imagined reality. With this technology, even if you decided to replace the background

a role. I’m not even talking about the technical stuff like how its reflected off cars and windows but even the quality of light when you are in an outdoor situation. It’s very hard to reproduce that quality of lighting when you are in a green screen situation. The light that flows from an LED screen interacts with the local environment and results in a beautiful and naturalistic effect.” Another benefit, as Fraser points out, is travel. With the pandemic forcing many to curtail travelling, virtual productions offer filmmakers an opportunity to bring the location to you. Fraser says, “As a cinematographer, it gives me much more control than shooting in front of a blue screen. It gives me more control in other ways that aren’t even obvious. For

ARRI’s Camera Stabilization Specialist Alan Lennox prepares the SRH-3 stabilized remote head to enable social distancing on set.

example, if a production designer loves the look of a location that is impossible to get to, you can send a still photographer out to get photos and build this location virtually. It opens the door to hundreds of possibilities that we haven’t thought about.” end of part i

All images courtesy of MELS

(because we capture all the necessary information to do that), you’d still get a real sense of what the final product will be as you are shooting it. I think that’s interesting for the actors, for the directors, on so many different levels. You are interacting with what you are shooting instead of guessing,” explains Sara Mishara, a Montreal-based cinematographer who shot MELS proof of concept virtual stage production. Mishara, who has worked on more than 14 feature films, adds that the LED screens used in the background also emit realistic lighting on a subject. “For lighting, [virtual production is] a real game-changer because lighting is not just how light hits a face and reflects off of skin. The entire environment plays

New stages like MELS Mixed Reality Production System bring the shooting location in-house and allow process optimization and social distancing. Canadian Cinematographer - Arri Advertorial - February 2021 •





Gerald Packer csc and David Makin csc Talk Comedy


By Fanen Chiahemen Images courtesy of CBC Television

hen Schitt’s Creek first premiered on CBC in January 2015 (see December 2014 issue), the Toronto Star called it “one of the best CBC comedies in years.” The pilot attracted more than 1 million viewers, and at the 2016 CSA Awards, the series took home more than half a dozen trophies, including Best Comedy Series, and Best Photography in a Comedy Program or Series for Gerald Packer csc. The show’s heroes – or rather antiheroes – the Roses, a once filthy-rich family of four now broke and forced to live in a run-down motel in a town named Schitt’s Creek, which they once bought as a joke, were portrayed by Eugene Levy ( Johnny Rose), Dan Levy (David Rose), Catherine O’Hara (Moira Rose) and Annie Murphy (Alexis Rose). A month after Schitt’s Creek’s CBC premier, it debuted on U.S. cable channel Pop TV, and the show’s popularity held over subsequent seasons, as the Roses bloomed, so to speak, evolving from being shallow

16 • Canadian Cinematographer - February 2021

and disdainful to adapting to a simpler life with each other and without money. Critical acclaim and a 2017 deal with Netflix led to the show more than doubling its ratings and amassing more than 3 million viewers. The sixth and final season of Schitt’s Creek, which began airing in 2020, proved to be its most successful – at the 72nd Primetime Emmy Awards, held virtually due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, the series made history by winning all seven major comedy awards, capping off a great run for cast and crew, including Packer, who shot Seasons One through Five, and David Makin csc, who shot Season Six. Landing on Netflix was a game changer for the series, Packer contends. “It was great for Canada; I think having the world audience on Netflix really pushed it to another level,” he says. The mandate for the show, however, remained the same, according to Makin. “As far as the cinematography, we were there to shoot the actors being funny and try and make it not look like a brightly lit comedy,” he says. For Makin, shooting Season Six was “a different

kind of challenge as a DP, as it was not like starting a new show,” he says. “Because they weren’t replacing Gerald by any means. He was just off on another show and they had to bring somebody else in. They weren’t looking to change the look. They had their rhythm and their look and that was very clear to me. I had to go in there somewhat matching the look and the feel of the show, but at the same time subtly add my own aesthetic, as every DP is different.”

Having REDLAB’s Walt Biljan as the colour timer on all seasons was an asset. “Dan, Eugene, Walt and I came up with the look of the show and honed it every year,” Packer says. “My team, [operator] Kaelin McCowan, [operator] Johnny Colavecchia, [gaffer] Loreen Ruddock and my key grip Mitch Holmes were instrumental with their ingenuity and expertise through many of the seasons.” As the DP, the blockings were the most important part of each scene, Packer says. “Because the motel

rooms were small, it limited the movement of the actors in the scenes. So we had to figure out how to keep things interesting with lighting and framing and to complete nine-plus pages a Catherine O'Hara (left) day,” he explains. and Sarah Levy on the “It was tricky because the bulk set of episode 609, of it happened in those motel Rebound, lensed by rooms, and they’re basically like David Makin csc. one long bowling alley,” Makin

“I don’t think they hired the DP on this show to be funny. Comedy is what they do. We are there as cinematographers to capture the magic of all the talented actors.” Gerald Packer csc

Canadian Cinematographer - February 2021 •


adds. “Just one long room with a little window at both ends and that’s it. So trying to get any sort of moulding or layering is challenging at the best of times. You can do it, but with the time restrictions and the amount of people in there, that kind of complicated lighting setup could take hours, and you just don’t have it to shoot 11 pages a day. You find the best compromise between lighting the room as best as you can with five or six people, running two cameras handheld while trying to make it all look realistic and not too bright and flat. “As I said, I didn’t change much,” he continues. “I think I added one or two practical lights on a dresser but even then, Dan was committed to continuity and would say, ‘That wasn’t there for five seasons, 18 • Canadian Cinematographer - February 2021

I don’t know if you can put a light there.’ And I replied, ‘Well, it’s okay, it’s a hotel room. Some things can change, and if we put it there, at least there will be a bright spot in the frame, and it will help me motivate a light source from that corner.’ Very rarely could you shoot sideways and use the window as a lighting source. There’s no natural light moulding in there, it’s just whatever the practicals are.” It was well into preproduction before Makin found out that Season Six would be the last. “That made Dan Levy (left) and Emily Hampshire on the set of episode 609, Rebound, lensed by David Makin csc.

Eugene Levy and Gerald Packer csc on the set of episode 106, Wine and Roses. (L-R) Eugene Levy, Catherine O’Hara and Chris Elliott in the episode 110, Honeymoon. (L-R) Eugene Levy, John Hemphill and Karen Robinson in episode 205, Bob’s Bagels. (L-R) Karen Robinson, Chris Elliott, Eugene Levy, Rizwan Manji and John Hemphill in episode 310, Sebastien Raine.

Annie Murphy in episode 601, Smoke Signals.

it interesting for me to see how they were going to wrap it up,” he says. “For my DP research, I watched the five seasons ahead and caught up on all the storylines, as well as Gerald’s lighting and camera technique.” That it would be an emotional season to shoot was undeniable. “I went to some of the table reads, and I remember Eugene coming out of the readthrough for the last two episodes and as he was shaking his head and grinning, he says, ‘I thought this was a comedy. Everybody’s crying in there.’ Even in the walkthrough rehearsal everybody was very emotional, and everybody was bawling.” The last scene they shot on stage was David and his partner Patrick’s wedding. “They figured they’d shoot it as the last scene so everybody was at their

“We as cinematographers just service the story, and to do anything different would have been wrong. So it’s not to draw attention to the cinematography, it’s to try to draw attention to the story.” David Makin csc emotional height. I thought that was a good idea. It was very smart,” Makin says. “We figured we had to get as much cross coverage on the wedding as we could. We knew that Dan’s and Catherine’s characters would be the most emotional, so in the first setup of the nuptials we cross-covered with three cameras. We shot Dan’s coverage from Catherine, Dan’s coverage from his partner Patrick, and also Catherine’s split coverage back to Dan and to Noah [Reid]. It was a bit of a challenge, especially with Catherine’s bishop-styled headdress!” The talent and dedication of the cast left a big impression on both Packer and Makin. “It was amazing to watch Catherine and Eugene and just how they embraced everybody and every actor that was Canadian Cinematographer - February 2021 •


there,” Makin says. “It wasn’t like they did a performance and then walked off set and went to their trailers. They Scene from episode 514, were there most of the Life is a Cabaret. time. Eugene was there because he was a producer, and when he wasn’t on camera he was sitting by the monitors and chatting with everybody. I remember one day while we were adjusting the next shot, Catherine didn’t go anywhere, she just sat on one of the beds in the motel and we were all singing old TV theme songs with her.” Although Packer’s work on the series earned him two CSA Awards – in 2016 and 2018 – he credits the success of Schitt’s Creek to “good writing and good acting and really just talented Canadian actors.” “I think first off the success is just the writing and the heart, the fact that it went more towards the heart and the relationships,” Makin concurs. “We as cinematographers just service the story, and to do Catherine O’Hara and Eugene Levy on the set of episode 401, Dead Guy in Room 4, lensed by Gerald Packer csc.

“Because the motel rooms were small, it limited the movement of the actors in the scenes. So we had to figure out how to keep things interesting with lighting and framing and to complete nine-plus pages a day.” Gerald Packer csc

20 • Canadian Cinematographer - February 2021

anything different would have been wrong. So it’s not to draw attention to the cinematography, it’s to try to draw attention to the story.” “I don’t think they hired the DP on this show to be funny,” Packer jokes. “Comedy is what they do. We are there as cinematographers to capture the magic of all the talented actors. We’ve got our helpers like our gaffers, grips, lighting, camera and sound, and we all just try to capture the magic on the day, and it was really fun. It was great working with some really nice people, and that’s how I like to look at it. We were there, but it wasn’t because I’m funny.” Makin adds, “I can be funny… Back when I was shooting Kids in the Hall, the cast would tease me by saying, ‘David, you’re not funny. You know funny, but you’re not funny.’ I like to think that they were expressing what Gerald is saying. We’re not the funny ones. Our job is to know the funny and how best to capture it.”

“I went to some of the table reads, and I remember Eugene coming out of the readthrough for the last two episodes and as he was shaking his head and grinning, he says, ‘I thought this was a comedy. Everybody’s crying in there.’ David Makin csc

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T O RO NTO • MISSISSAUG A • O TTAWA • CAL GARY • E D MO N T O N • V I S T E K . C A The Visual Technology People

Credit: Galafilm Productions

2020 CSC Award Winner

On Th

Feeling preyed upon by a polar bear for the first time is an experience that can put things into a steady focalpointed monochrome perspective.� 22 • Canadian Cinematographer - February 2021

Thin Ice


Main photo: Inuit guides at Ikpiarjuk (ᐃᒃᐱᐊᕐᔪᒃ) (Arctic Bay). This page top: Frame from Under Thin Ice. Bottom: Production crew on location at Ikpiarjuk (ᐃᒃᐱᐊᕐᔪᒃ) (Arctic Bay).

Credit: Jean-Benoît Cyr/Galafilm Productions

Credit: Galafilm Productions

By Geoffroy Beauchemin


ilming in the Arctic is a cinematographer’s dream. Inquisitive eyes can discern the subtle hues on the pale landscape. If there are more than 100 Inuit language terms to describe snow and ice, in the digital world of bit(s), there is an infinite way to expose the pure shades of white in this remote part of the world. Polar bears appear very yellow on a sunny day but can quickly blend in with clouds, fog, snow or even rain. As observant as one can be while watching for bears, you have to look at yourself to see colour in a whiteout. Underwater is another planet. Whites turn into blue and green palettes that reflect on the ever-evolving sculptured icebergs. This colourful dream materializes like in a fourth dimension when your face descends into -1.4 Celsius water. From spring to autumn, 24 hours of sun with a never-ending sunset offer magical colours and contrast but is hard on the crew’s resting time. Documenting this vast area that regulates global temperature is a privilege that comes with worthwhile efforts, even in the most adverse conditions, especially when we know that the documented icescapes will probably have disappeared in the next few years. The responsibility to raise awareness is enormous in a context where the world’s attention is focused on an invisible enemy: COVID-19. The 10-year deadline scientists warned about before a tipping point in the climate chain reaction has been eclipsed in the media by a tiny virus. And it’s a shame. Looking back on making Under Thin Ice makes me realize how precious our freedom is, how fragile our survival has become. One should never take this liberty for granted! Feeling preyed upon by a polar bear for the first time is an experience that can put things into a steady focalpointed monochrome perspective. No one is wholly protected like we used to think. Odyssée sous les glaces originated in the mind of underwater cinematographer Mario Cyr while diving on assignment in the Arctic. After more than 40 trips documenting wildlife at the poles for major broadcasters, he witnessed how climate change has transformed the land and seascape, profoundly affecting the lives of Inuit communities and the fauna that they depend upon. Hoping to invest his knowledge into a Canadian based Canadian Cinematographer - February 2021 •


Credit: Galafilm Productions

Boat beside an iceberg in Ilullisat, Greenland.

production, Mario and experienced Galafilm executive producer Arnie Gelbart put together a fantastic team to tackle the challenge of creating a quality production with a fraction of Blue-Chip project budgets. As lifeless as the frozen desert can seem, the goal was to expose this kingdom’s fragility and complex species’ interdependence. Helped by Inuit guides, Mario Cyr and expert cave diving cinematographer Jill Heinerth provided a human perspective as they courageously dive in hazardous freezing waters alongside icebergs, walruses, and polar bears. 1st AC Martine Leclerc did special preparation at MTL Grandé with whom we put together a “basic” camera package. To reduce costs and weight, we chose not to use any cranes or large stabilizers as we already had two ARRI Minis in Gates U\W housings and diving gear. For topside, one AMIRA was the primary camera with drones, a DSLR, and multiple GoPros. The Canon 50-1000 was a fantastic lens to capture polar bears without disturbing them 24 • Canadian Cinematographer - February 2021

and was used with a Fujinon 19-90 standard zoom lens. We later changed the AMIRA for a Sony F55 for its light weight and low power consumption. Everything was carefully packaged since the equipment would be exposed to water and long bumpy Ski-Doo and boat rides. The expectations were high, and the window of opportunity small. Prioritizing wildlife documentation, plans were changed daily as dictated by mother nature and the striking reality of melting ice. We made two trips to the Canadian Arctic and one to Greenland of around 10 to 12 days each. Usually, the norm on nature documentaries is double or triple this time. Weather, visibility and animal encounters are all elements that can prolong a schedule and bust a budget. Most days started around 1 p.m. and finished at around 3 to 4 a.m. to get the best light. The first segment, in Arctic Bay, was the hardest. Compared to the previous year, water spread over the ice one month earlier. Set up a week

Credit: Jean-Benoît Cyr Credit: Jim Heinerth

Geoffroy Beauchemin in Naujaat, Repulse Bay Naujaat (ᓇᐅᔮᑦ) Nunavut. In Ikpiarjuk (ᐃᒃᐱᐊᕐᔪᒃ) (Arctic Bay). An iceberg in Ilullisat, Greenland.

Credit: Galafilm Productions

before, our basecamp was drenched in pools when we reached it. Tents had to be moved to remaining “islands” of snow and ice. We took care of all the camping chores. Cooking for ourselves and our three Inuit guides added to the already busy schedule, but warm food was the best reward after a hard day’s work. Director Denis Blaquière, a former comedian, made us laugh and helped keep good spirits while juggling the busy schedule in fluctuating weather. Still photographer Jean-Benoit Cyr worked long hours with data wrangling. He also helped with camera equipment as I had no official AC on location. Jill Heinerth, the only woman within the sixperson group, was always cheerful and courageous, no matter what situation arose (even when peeing overboard a rocking canoe). Soundman Marco Fania helped us discover the unusual sounds of four different mammals singing together with a hydrophone (a sequence that didn’t make it to the edit).

Credit: Galafilm Productions

Belugas swimming in Ikpiarjuk (ᐃᒃᐱᐊᕐᔪᒃ) (Arctic Bay).

Documenting this vast area that regulates global temperature is a privilege that comes with worthwhile efforts, even in the most adverse conditions.” Canadian Cinematographer - February 2021 •


Behind the film lies an incredible human-nature adventure from which we all learned about our limits and the fragility of our planet.” This sonorous symphonic image was very inspiring when shooting topside and underwater. The silent world beneath the ice is not quiet at all! Over the ice, at the floe edge, the quality of silence is exceptional. Being able to clearly hear the blows of narwals and belugas helped locate them to get the shots. Even the delicate swishing sound of feathered creatures could be heard from afar. As a cinematographer, I’ve always paid particular attention to sound, a dimension so crucial in documentary filmmaking as we often frame according to what is heard. My father, Serge Beauchemin, a retired soundman, must have transmitted his genes. “See with your ears and hear with your eyes,” I often heard. In Greenland, we spent most of our shooting time on a small but comfortable boat searching for whales and a safe iceberg to dive around. The drone was the perfect tool to capture the vast field of floating mountains. Because we were so close to the magnetic pole, I had to pilot in full manual mode with no compass or automatic return to home function, particularly stressful when flying in and out of a moving boat with no landmarks. The aerial camera, however, was the best way to frame-up the action and display impressive shapes of icebergs. With limited time and reduced underwater visibility, we often documented the reality of nature filmmaking with all its difficulties. Reaching our last destination, White Island, was particularly challenging. When we finally spotted walruses after searching for six days around the island, murky waters made it too dangerous and impossible to film them underwater. Pole cams were useful but gave a limited perspective. This deception was overcome by the numerous polar bears we encountered on and around the island. Luckily, near-perfect conditions made the underwater bear 26 • Canadian Cinematographer - February 2021

swim-by shot possible with everyone hoping for the divers’ safe return. Later that night, we celebrated the exploit around fresh arctic char prepared by our Inuit chef Nina Malliki. This time nested inside a bay, our basecamp was on solid ground with prospector tents. Our guide Solomon Malliki provided a tiny wooden shack where the crew slept side by side in sleeping bags. The plywood walls gave a sense of protection from the ravenous polar bears roaming around. It’s an advantage to have your subject come to get their closeup! We did have to scare them away a few times. The giant mosquitoes were by far the most annoying, sometimes in too excessive numbers to do an interview or even a wide shot. From selling the concept to shooting it and creating a story with the dailies, nature documentary filmmaking can sometimes be a dangerous adventure. But as unpredictable as this process can be, when everyone does their best, there can be no regrets. Even with the best preparation done by coordinator Gloria Straccini, achieving our goals would not have been possible without the local Inuit peoples’ precious guidance. Behind the film lies an incredible human-nature adventure from which we all learned about our limits and the fragility of our planet. Screening the final result was very gratifying and confirmed yet again the talent of editor Alain Belhumeur. He used the best material, working with producer-writer Natalie Dubois and the director, to compose a story that cannot leave the viewer indifferent. I also want to acknowledge the work of Noé and Christian Sardet for their amazing macro shots of the invisible aquatic life. Colourist Claire Deruelle carefully took on the challenge of harmonizing different sources for the final touch. Because of the pandemic, the year 2020 will have left a space in cinematographic productions, in a time when documenting nature’s changes has never been more critical. As much as science can warn the public with facts and predictions, humans need to be deeply touched to better integrate the situation’s gravity. Anthropocene is a reality. Hopefully, films like Under Thin Ice will help raise global consciousness about the fate awaiting our children if business goes on as usual.

2 By Jeremy Benning csc, Martin Wojtunik and Mike Reid



ocumentary filmmaking is often an exercise in remote logistics planning involving a very small team. Looking back on how we made this film, it reminds us of astronauts getting trained on how to use cameras in space, not only the technical aspect of it, but also getting them to think of how to tell a story with a lens. Our hero subject was essentially our spaceman. Director Francis Luta and DP Jeremy Benning csc had made a short documentary about professional explorer and best-selling author Adam Shoalts (dubbed “Canada’s Indiana Jones” by the Toronto (L-R) Adam Shoalts, Mike Reid and Francis Luta filming near Star) in 2015 called Explorer, which was the begin- the mouth of Thelon River in Nunavut. ning of our relationship with him. This evolved into Adam asking us to make a feature doc about his sesquicentennial solo trek across the Arctic. Between the months of May and September 2017, over 100 days, Adam would traverse some 4000 km from west to east on foot and canoe alone. The terrain was radically diverse, from lakes (some with ice breakup), rivers, rapids, creeks, rocks, mud, sand, tundra, morass, hills – the full gamut. And bugs. Clouds of mosquitos, black flies and so on. Adam had been meticulously planning this trek for years, and he was doing it regardless of the film being made. As a completely indie film, the steep Top photo and above, Adam Shoalts. Canadian Cinematographer - February 2021 •


GoPro footage of Adam Shoalts in the film Alone Across the Arctic.

Jeremy Benning csc.

Martin Wojtunik shooting along Dempster Highway, NWT.

28 • Canadian Cinematographer - February 2021

travel costs of sending our micro teams into the north meant we could only manage doing this for three short points over the course of Adam’s journey – beginning send-off, middle supply drop and the end. Working as a team, Jeremy, Francis, Martin and Mike split up the tasks of who would shoot what and how. All of us took turns shooting various aspects of the film, with Adam handling all the solo expedition footage. Our first mission was to work with Adam in prep to determine the size of camera kit he could manage to carry along with his 54lb custom Nova Craft canoe, two supply barrels and a backpack. Mike suggested the Sony AX100 4K camcorder, along with two GoPros. Adam had given us an ultimatum of 5.0lbs of camera gear. This gear that Adam would carry had to serve a few purposes – tell the story in the best quality possible while also being lightweight with excellent battery life and efficient storage media. We set up the Sony camera so that Adam could turn it on and all he had to do was hit record and frame himself off of the flip screen. To test the gear in similar conditions that Adam would encounter, and determine how many batteries and cards he would need, Mike used the AX100 daily for a few weeks, recording about an hour at a time and keeping it and its batteries in his fridge between uses. The GoPros and Sony AX100 could be charged (very slowly) off of a USB solar panel. We asked Adam to try shooting an average of 30 minutes per day in order to ration cards while also giving us enough footage to fully express the breadth of his journey. Another challenge we were faced with as filmmakers was that because we had to lean on Adam so much to capture the main story’s visuals with consumer-grade cameras, the responsibility to set the tone for his trek with

various traditional cine cameras (RED and Canon) carried much more weight for us. We only had three points in the journey where we were afforded the opportunity to paint our canvas as cinematographers, as Adam’s shooting was going to be mostly testimonials and POV style of filming. To set the film’s tone, we employed vast wide-angle vistas, moody, brooding countryside shots and extensive drone work to not only showcase scale but to also lay out the daunting scope of Adam’s mission. During prep, Francis worked with Adam to think about his shots, to ensure he captured wides, moments of quiet, and so on. For a man who would be focused on an intense trek, the visual storytelling requirement to make an engaging film may not have always been his first priority. Director Francis Luta piggybacked onto the midtrek supply drop float plane, which Adam had already chartered. Francis flew three hours north from Yellowknife with local DJI Inspire drone op Pablo Saravanja to meet Adam on the Coppermine River.

Canon Canada donated an XC10 4K camcorder for Francis to use; this was the camera he carried when he was alone with Adam or when Martin or Mike were tagging along with their full-size cameras. One of the more nerve-wracking aspects of making this film was not being able to see the footage or check it until the mid-trek supply drop where Francis was able to trade media cards and batteries with Adam. Thankfully, Adam followed his prep training by Francis, Martin and Mike on how to shoot, and we were blessed with well-framed, sharp, well-exposed footage – and good in-camera sound! Using text messaging over a satellite phone, Francis was able to send Adam notes on the first leg footage, with tips on what to capture more of, framing, talking points, etc. As a team, all of us were incredibly impressed with the calibre of footage Adam managed to capture, all whilst braving the elements and physical demands of achieving his finish line goal in Baker Lake, Nunavut.

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T O RO NTO • MISSISSAUG A • O TTAWA • CAL GARY • E D MO N T O N • V I S T E K . C A The Visual Technology People

Lure of the North

Credit: Courtney Iromoto

By Goh Iromoto


rior to this project, I’d done another short film called Pull up in Vermillion Bay and a number of commercial campaigns photographing in Northern Ontario. I learned the important art of layering and how much of a difference wind can make in lowering temperatures out on open frozen lakes. These commercial projects were how I initially met Dave and Kielyn Marrone, the couple featured in Lure of the North who live off the grid year-round. I shot the film in two parts. I was admittedly in-

30 • Canadian Cinematographer - February 2021

spired after watching The Revenant back in 2016 and wanted to capture an essence of that film but with real people. So we filmed for three to four days in March of that year using Dave and Kielyn Marrone’s property near Espanola, Ontario, as our base camp. The property is 40 acres with thousands of acres of crown land surrounding it. Some of the shooting we did that first time was on crown land. As I do with many of my personal projects that I both direct and shoot, my wife Courtney supported me, recording sound, prepping my gear, drone and gimbal, and all


toboggans quite difficult. I recall one day where it took us the entire day to travel a mere 2km! I ended up doing quite a lot of prep and testing for this shoot. For the first phase in 2016, I was relatively new to operating a gimbal, so I did plenty of tests both in nature and with a subject. The main goal was to achieve something of my own vision having been inspired by Chivo’s [Emmanuel Lubezki ASC, AMC] work in The Revenant. For 2017, the biggest challenge was trying to pare down the essential gear for the eight-day expedition. We each had to pull a traditional expedition-style toboggan. These often weigh around 300lbs+ each once layered with all of our winter gear, camping gear, food, tools for winter (ice pick, saws, axes, stoves, etc.) and camera gear. The other challenge was that they’re designed so that the only accessible area during travel is a small box about 14” x 14” at the very front. Normally this is where snacks, water and extra gloves or layers would go, but in my case, I had to use it for packing my camera and extra batteries. It forced me to strip the camera down to its essentials, simply so it could fit and be efficient when filming. Like most documentary-style scenarios, it was more of a priority to have a camera that could be available and efficient, rather than a camera that was perfect and fully loaded. Being a self-funded project, I chose the RED Dragon in 2016 and the RED Helium 8K in 2017 mainly because it was the camera I owned. I definitely also had more confidence in the RED system for being able to pull through extreme conditions. In terms of lenses, I mainly shot this piece using the Sigma 18-35 mm f1.8 art lens. I needed something that was light, small, had the range I was looking for, could be used in low light, and had a beautiful aesthetic quality that worked with the feel I Main photo: Dave (left) and Kielyn Marrone during the production of was going for. There were a number of Lure of the North. Canadian Cinematographer - February 2021 •


Credit: Courtney Iromoto

the other tasks needed to make the shoot happen. We luckily had the help of a friend who would drive us around on a snowmobile to get some of the smooth tracking shots you see in the film. We came back home with some beautiful footage, but I felt that there was something missing, something that felt more authentic to the actual experience of a winter expedition. Because we had essentially staged all our scenarios, there was an element of truth that was missing. The main look and feel I was trying to achieve was one I describe as cinematic realism. It’s one of beauty that would showcase the landscape and the people with a sense of elevation but also intertwined with a sense of something raw and real. So in February 2017, we decided to embark on an actual expedition together for eight days up in Temagami, Ontario. We had a much smaller handheld kit. No gimbals or anything that would bog us down. Lots of batteries. A small mobile media managing kit and a Mavic Pro for aerial shots. Inevitably, all our tracking shots were shaky. Snow or wet ice splashing on the lens was constant. And the frustrating effect of lens condensation when going in and out of warm tents was a constant battle. But all of these moments ended up being used in our film, because it was just so much more representative of how this experience feels. We started off in bone-chilling temperatures with crisp mornings and having to chip away frost off the bottom of our sleds. But then we also had days where the temperatures rose creating beautiful atmospheric fog, and even slush which made pulling

Credit x2: Courtney Iromoto Credit x3: Goh Iromoto csc

Left photos: Dave and Kielyn Marrone in Lure of the North Above: Goh Iromoto csc filming Kielyn Marrone and out on a lake during production.

challenges on this shoot. Two to three of my batteries completely died due to condensation buildup. Also lens condensation – I had used all my previous tricks, including wrapping lenses in tight plastic, but it was just inevitable in most cases. The worst was when it built in between the elements and you couldn’t do anything about it but wait or shoot with it. Everything else held up great. Filming in cold conditions, for me, has similarities to filming underwater. It’s easy enough to assume that if you can operate a camera, that it shouldn’t 32 • Canadian Cinematographer - February 2021

be so different. But being able to operate normally while in different conditions and attire is another thing. Make sure that you spend an equal amount of time preparing for your clothing. You want to be able to move smoothly, freely and comfortably, and yet stay warm. You want to layer when temperatures warm up or get cold all of a sudden. And you want to even practice operating with all of these layers on, including snowshoes if that will be part of your attire. It’s different to normal operating so it’s worth spending the time and energy preparing.

Canadian Cinematographer - February 2021 •


Tech Column

Credit: ZEISS

New Zeiss Supreme Mak


here are few lens manufacturers who can hold a candle to Carl Zeiss when it comes to quality, consistency and reliability. So when the marquee rolled out the latest in their Supreme Prime series last summer, more people have been checking out this lineup of 14 lenses – with the final lens in the set, a 15 mm T 1.8 prime, set to launch soon – to see how it compares with the Zeiss Masters both in look and digital capability. Calgary-based director of photography Craig Wrobleski csc, who used them while shooting Shrine in Boston last fall, has his own humorous take: “It’s like the Zeiss Masters and Cooke S4s had a one-night stand and this is the result.” Sure, it’s tongue-in-cheek, but it aptly and succinctly describes the end result of the new lens line. The sharpness is still there across the frame, but there’s a more subtle and gentle roll-off so it isn’t as clinical 34 • Canadian Cinematographer - February 2021

as previous lines. “It is a different look and I think this shows that Zeiss is talking and listening to DPs,” says Ron Steinberg, Sr. Product Manager at Gentec International’s Professional Imaging Group, which handles the brand in Canada. “With the focus roll-off, there’s an extremely delicate skin tone; it’s not harsh at all.” Initially in 2018, Zeiss released the (all T1.5) 25 mm, 29 mm, 35 mm, 50 mm and 85 mm lenses, and has since added 18 mm, 21 mm, 100 mm, 135 mm, 150 mm (T1.8) and 200 mm (T2.2). The 15 mm will also be T1.8. The other difference is they’re compact and light but still maintain the Zeiss robustness. Want warmer still? There’s a parallel series of Prime Radiance, which offers seven lenses with a still warmer cast and controlled flares for large-format coverage. The Supreme line also captured the Netflix series The Queen’s Gambit with its stunning retro-glam couture and 1960s interiors shot partially in Cambridge, Ontario, by DP Steven Meizler on a RED MONSTRO. When it came to the Supremes, it was the form factor that attracted Wrobleski, who employed the initial release two years ago on In the Tall Grass. As cameras continue to shrink in size and weight, the lighter glass makes for a more balanced package, a bonus when shooting handheld or with gimbals, as he explains. “Zeiss is dependable glass, but I’ve sometimes missed the character of a Cooke,” Wrobleski says. “And the other thing, especially

king A Mark shooting In the Tall Grass, was the form factor. We tested a bunch of lenses, shooting with the original LS, not the Mini, which was brand new at the time, and it’s a sizeable camera. I needed a lens that wasn’t going to add more bulk. We looked at the Cooke S7, but with the LF, it made a beast of a camera; the whole film took place in grass, and we knew we’d be using Steadicam and gimbals a lot. The Cookes were beautiful, but they were as heavy as the camera. When I cracked the case on the Supremes, never having seen them, I was blown away.” The result, which Wrobleski describes as a “rounder image,” was also a pleasant surprise, while the extended metadata also proved useful. He used the Supremes more recently on Shrine, a Sony Pictures project shot on the VENICE that required a lot of VFX, and so the lens data was invaluable. “They’ve been very reliable, having shot them on three projects now, winter cold, summer heat,” he says. “In the Tall Grass was a punishing project on gear. Middle of an Ontario summer, a hot field, humid with bugs, dust and rain.” The lenses themselves are extremely sharp, Steinberg says, and the tagline is “gentle sharpness,” but make no mistake, Zeiss aren’t going soft on anything. “The difference is that when the Master Prime snaps into focus, it’s razor-sharp but in going out of focus it drops off immediately, which is kind of harsh,” he says. “With the Supremes, they’ve controlled how the focus rolls off. It falls off nice and delicately, so you have this great skin tone; it’s gentle but not harsh when capturing a face portrait, for example.” According to Steinberg, word has gotten around and the lenses have been shot on a series of projects including The Umbrella Academy (Season Two), Locke & Key, Designated Survivor (Season Four), and In the Tall Grass, married to a range of full-format cameras including the ARRI LS, RED MONSTRO, Sony VENICE and the ALEXA 65 in 5K mode.

There are also a few other technology upgrades built into the series because, like everything in the cinematography world, lenses have also seen their role impacted by demand for digital data. The Supremes come with the standard metadata of Cooke’s /i technology and goes a couple of steps further, layering on their Zeiss eXtended Data (XD), which considerably speeds up data correction since it can be done in post with a couple of clicks rather than manually. Steinberg says there are some palpable benefits from the eXtended Data, which captures focus distance, f-stop and can calculate depth of field per frame. The Zeiss eXtended system adds two components, lens shaping and distortion to a resolution of one millimetre. This becomes useful when using green screens, for example, he says, since the computer has no distortion. However, with the metadata, any of the two images can be melded as one, incorporating the data for a seamless blend. “Before, to do this you had to send the assistant to the rental shop and shoot a grid with every lens at every stop to capture the distortion,” he says, but it still resulted in some estimations. The eXtended data gives perfect information and eliminates the time-consuming process of having to manually record the characteristics of each lens, not to mention cutting the cost of both the assistant and the rental house. In the event a scene has to be re-shot, matching up the lens is made easier by the metadata captured and recorded, he adds, right down to the serial number. It’s playing into Netflix’s production machine because that data might speed up and make workflows more efficient, which in turn cuts costs as the understanding of how to apply it evolves. Ian Harvey is a journalist who has been writing about digital disruption for 20 years. He welcomes feedback and eagerly solicits subject matter ideas at

Canadian Cinematographer - February 2021 •


Production Notes & Calendar


8-BIT CHRISTMAS (feature)

DP Samy Inayeh csc B Camera Operator Keith Murphy B Camera 1st Assistant Kyryll Sobolev

to April 26



DP Pieter Stathis csc

to February 18


BIG SKY, THE I (series)

DP Stephen McNutt csc, asc, C Camera Operator Ian Kerr csc

to April 23

Pitt Meadows


DP Kamal Derkaoui csc

to February 5


CHROMA (series)

DP Craig Wrobleski csc (alternating episodes) 2nd Unit DP/C Cam Op D. Gregor Hagey csc

to August 17



DP David Geddes csc, asc (alternating episodes)

to May 7


DEBRIS (series)

DP Michael Wale csc (odd episodes) & Tony Mirza (even episodes)

to March 10


EXPANSE, THE VI (series)

DP Jeremy Benning csc (alternating episodes)

to May 3


FLASH, THE VII (series)

DP Alwyn J. Kumst csc, sasc (alternating episodes)

to May 19



DP Ken Krawczyk csc B Camera Operator Paula Tymchuk

to February 25

GUILTY PARTY (pilot series)

DP Paul Sarossy csc, bsc, asc

HOT ZONE: ANTHRAX (miniseries)

DP Thom Best csc (alternating episodes)

to May 24


IN THE DARK III (series)

1st Assistant Pierre Branconnier

to April 22



DP Thomas Harting csc

to March 6


JANN III (series)

DP Brett Van Dyke csc

to March 30


KUNG FU I (series)

DP Neil Cervin csc (odd episodes)

to April 26


LOST OLLIE I (series)

DP C. Kim Miles csc, mysc, asc (odd episodes) 2nd Assistant Marco Bossow B Cam Op/2nd Unit DP Brad Creasser

to March 17


LOCKE & KEY II (series)

DP Dylan Macleod csc (alternating episodes) C Camera Operator Rion Gonzales

to March 31


MAID (series) DP

(Block 2 & 4) Guy Godfree csc & (Block 3) Vincent De Paula csc

to March 3


MILL STREET (series)

DP Philip Lanyon csc (alternating episodes) C Camera Operator J.P. Locherer csc

to June 16



DP/Operator David Bercovici-Artieda

RAPHANIS I (series)

DP Gavin Smith csc


DP Pierre Jodoin csc (alternating episodes)

to April 1


RIVERDALE V (series)

DP (Block 1) Ronald Richard & (Block 2) Brendan Uegama csc

to April 30



DP/Operator Mark Irwin, csc, asc, 1st Assistant Karl Janisse B Camera Operator Matthew Irwin

to February 5


SLUMBERLAND 2021 (feature)

B Camera Operator Ian Seabrook csc

to May 15



DP Philip Lanyon csc (alternating episodes) C Camera Operator JP Locherer csc

to June 4



DP Steve Cosens csc & Daniel Grant csc (alternating episodes)

to June 30



DP Glen Keenan csc (alternating episodes)

to July 16



DP Michael Story csc (alternating episodes) C Camera Operator Jill MacLauchlan

to May 28


SUPERMAN & LOIS (series)

DP Stephen Maier & Gordon Verheul csc (alternating episodes)

to May 27


TITANS III (series)

DP Boris Mosjovski csc & Fraser Brown csc (alternating episodes)

to June 11


TURNER & HOOCH I (series)

DP Corey Robson

to April 19


VICAP I (series)

DP Marc Laliberté csc & Brendan Steacy csc (alternating episodes) Camera Operator Peter Sweeney

to April 13



1st Assistant Ciaran Copelin

to May 3


Y: LAST MAN, THE I (series)

DP Catherine Lutes csc (even episodes)

to July 5



DP Vincent De Paula csc (alternating episodes) B Camera Operator/2nd Unit DP Christopher Oben

to March 25


CALENDAR MARCH February 26-7, Kingston Canadian Film Festival, Kingston, ON, @canadiancinematographer @csc_CDN

Toronto Alberta

Victoria to May 21


MAY 17-20, Canadian Screen Week, Toronto,

Canadian Cinematographer welcomes feedback, comments and questions about the magazine and its contents. Please send your letters to Letters may be edited for clarity and space.

36 • Canadian Cinematographer - February 2021

EQUIPMENT FOR SALE Arriflex BL camera with 12 - 120 blimpted Angenieux lens, several film magazines, and accessories. Arriflex S camera with 9.5 - 95 Angenieux lens, film magazines, and accessories. C P 16 camera with angenieux 12 -120 lens with several film magazines and accessories. 2 Canon Scoopic film cameras, one takes a 200 foot load. Bell and Howell DR 70 wind up camera with lenses. Al Sugerman at 519-768-1623, or at Sachtler Video 20P Head (7x7) with carbon fibre standard legs (thick) 100mm ball base, pan handle, interior spreader, rubber feet and hard case. $5000 Michael Ellis 416-729-6988 COLORTRAN Nook light with bard doors and bulb. Includes long power cable and Quartzcolor 2K switch. $75. LOWEL Blender with AC power adapter, battery adapter for Canon E6 batteries, 1 protective screen, 3 diffusion screens. Very Good condition. $250. CHIMERA Triolet with 3 bulb adaptors, Chimera 9890 ring, glass diffusion dome and small Chimera pancake lantern (type 1864). $475. CHIMERA Extra Small Video Pro Plus with 3 screens (type 8115, 16"x22"). New condition. $200. CHIMERA Small Video Pro Plus Strip bank. (type 8155, 9"x 36"). Good condition. $250. 416.587-4848 ALEXA ITEMS FOR SALE Arri Alura T2.9. 18-80mm (PL Mount, Feet) CAD$20,000 OBO Arri Eyepiece Leveler (EL-3) Brand New CAD$400 OBO Arri Viewfinder Cable Medium KC151S Brand New CAD$350 OBO Please email Ian Toews csc at: Canon CN-E Prime Lenses. 24mm T1.5, 35mm T1.5, 50mm T1.5. In excellent condition. EF mount, covers S35 and full frame. Asking $3400 each. Contact 35 4x5.6 Schneider filters: ND’s, color correction, diffusion, grads 2 138mm Tiffen Tobacco, Sunset grad 2 138mm Schneider Tru Pola, 85 Pola 2 138mm Schneider CU diopter #1, Cu Diopter • includes case and pouches for every filter. • Excellent condition • 4x5.6 and 138mm. clears included Today’s value in U.S. dollars $13,705 U.S. Selling price $9,500 CDN CONTACT: Bert Tougas H: 514-634-2374 C: 514-913-2376 I have 15 - 3x3 Tiffen filters for sale - fogs, Promists Grads, 812's etc. all with cases. $185.00 - contact Barry Casson csc - 250-721-2113 or e-mail TIFFEN ULTRA STEADICAM , HD Ultrabrite color monitor ,HDMI Decimator 2,Iso-elastic arm, 4-24 volt batteries, 1-Pag battery charger 24v,1-Lentequip battery charger 12/24v,Klassen vest and carrying bag, 1 Preston F1+Z transmitter 1 Preston MDR-1 receiver,1 Preston control, 2 motors, 2 batteries, charger, numerous Hill motor mount brackets rossette brackets and rods, 1 long dovetail plate,1 short dovetail plate, 1 docking bracket,1 fgs wheel chair/dolly adaptor,rain cover, too many cables, hard cases and accessories to list.This rig was well maintained looks new, all it needs is a few upgrades. $23,000.00 cad 416 817 3938 or Rick Kearney Preston FIZ 2 kit - $5,000 2 x Arri MB-20 studio matte box - $8,000 Arri LMB-15 Clip-on matte box - $1,200 Power-Pod Classic - $5,000 Please contact Michael Balfry csc @: michaelbalfry@gmail. com for a complete list of items. Looking for a set of old, no longer used, standard legs with Mitchell base. Or any type of disused heavy camera support. This is to be used to mount a Mitchell BNCR camera in order to place it on display. Anyone with access to such a tripod or with information about one, please contact me: 416-691-6865 CAMERA CLASSIFIED IS A FREE SERVICE PROVIDED FOR CSC MEMBERS. For all others, there is a one-time $25 (plus GST) insertion fee. If you have items you would like to buy, sell or rent, please email your information to

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