“I 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 be commended for your work ethic and ability to lead the crew. And also for your steadfast focus on what will be aesthetically best for the film.” This is what director Mario Kyprianou said to me after completing principal photography on his film– Republic of Rick. In turn, it was a great pleasure to work with such a dedicated, focused filmmaker who possesses so much artistic integrity. And now we are a must-see mockumentary on the top 10 list for Sundance and Slamdance.
The film is a comedy based on the true story of Rick Launer and his paranoid militia’s quixotic attempt in the late ’90s 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 Rick 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.
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 Sony Betacam-SP cameras.
We did a series of tests to make sure the format would hold up with today’s exhibition standards and looked at other recent films such as No and Computer Chess which were shot on even older video cameras. We liked what we saw and purchased 3 of the same model Betacams for a couple of 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.
I operated the camera myself, handheld, for the whole picture. I was often running backward, forwards, and jumping around to follow the action and give Mario the documentary aesthetic he was after. The lighting didn’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.
The Republic of Rick was nominated at the Slamdance Film Festival for a grand jury prize for best narrative, nominated for a jury-prize and winner of the Frels Award at the Victoria Texas Indie Fest, selection at Arizona Underground Film Festival, selected for Worldfest, selected for the Jerome Indie Film and Music Festival, selected for the Victoria Film Festival, selected for the Film Columbia Festival, and selected for the Chesapeake Film Festival.