Â Â Â â€œI call you the Doctor because it was like watching a surgeon at work and I was proud to have you on our production. I think you’re what every director would look for in a director of photography. You need to beÂ commended for your work ethic andÂ ability to lead overworked crews. And also for your steadfast focus on what will be aesthetically bestÂ for the film.â€ This is what director Mario Kyprianou said to me after completing principal photography on his film,Â Republic of Rick. In turn, it was a great pleasure to work with such a dedicated, focused filmmaker who possesses so much artistic integrity.
Â Â Â The film is a comedy based on the true story of Rick Launer and his paranoid militia’s quixotic attempt in the late 90’s to secede Texas from the United States. It has been selected for the Slamdance film festival, starting this week in Park City, Utah, where directors such as Christopher Nolan (Memento), Marc Forster (Monster’s Ball) and Jared Hess (Napoleon Dynamite) made names for themselves along with their cinematographers: Wally Pfister A.S.C., Roberto Schaefer A.S.C. and Munn Powell, respectively. Moviemaker magazine has listed it as one of the 10 must see movies at Sundance and Slamdance as they both celebrate major anniversaries; 30 years for Sun, and 20 years for Slam.
Â Â Â In approaching the look of the film, Mario found news footage covering the original incident and loved how the look of the video captured the feel of the period. So we set out to replicate it by using the same equipment: standard definition,Â Sony Betacam-SP cameras.
Â Â Â We did a series of tests to make sure the format would hold up with todayâ€™sÂ exhibition standards and looked atÂ other recent films suchÂ asÂ NoÂ andÂ Computer ChessÂ which were shot on even older video cameras. We liked what we saw and purchased 3 of the same model Betacams for a couple hundred dollars each.Side-by-side testing with each camera enabled me to calibrate any differences between them and familiarize myself with the exposure and latitude characteristics of the format.
Â Â Â I operated camera myself, handheld, for the whole picture. I was often running backwards, forwards, and jumping around to follow the action and give Mario the documentary aesthetic he was after. Lighting didnâ€™t have to be perfect; we wanted it rough and natural as if we just stumbled into the middle of a situation and started shooting. For exteriors, we aimed for a brutally hot and dusty feeling whenever possible but often had to shoot under cloud cover to accommodate our schedule.