Directed by Al Benoit
The Homesick projects consist of two fashion films for the Homesick Clothing Company that are centered around the bittersweet nostalgia of being homesick, where that feeling comes from and what home means.
Both Benoit and I have been heavily influenced by the work of Terrence Malick and Emmanuel Lubezki, especially their use of steadicam to carry the audience with the characters in intimate moments where we can witness how they behave as if unobserved. Steadicam became the backbone of both of the films and the versatility that it provided was invaluable in improvised scenes.
In the first Homesick film we were presenting a character in a city that was unfamiliar to her and only became recognizable through experiences in a relationship. We wanted to show a version of Chicago that would be less recognizable to a Chicago audience. Anamorphic lenses hold a certain nostalgic quality for me, growing up on films shot with a 2x squeeze on 4-perf, but for the purposes of this project I was more interested in the textured falloff and distortion to push the image a bit further outside of reality. We would be approaching production similarly to non-fiction, scheduling locations around the best possible sunlight and having no or little control over lighting outside of blocking for better results, so we needed something that would consistently add character to the image.
I chose the Kowa Prominar anamorphic set for their low contrast and warm, almost earthy color, which gave the image a slightly vintage feel. We planned on a significant amount of long Steadicam and handheld takes, so I paired the compact Kowas with a stripped down Red Epic-X. The Kowa lenses rendered an image with a mild softness, even at T5.6, so I bypassed diffusion and had a standard filter package of neutral density, IR filtration and a circular polarizer.
The second Homesick film was a road movie through Tennessee that follows a young women on a journey to find a new home. For this film we wanted to hold more of the location in each frame, and use the locations as something that was either imposing or expansive and freeing.
We stayed slim and chose a Ziess CP2 15mm and 35mm Super Speed. The 15mm helped us uncompress and hold more of the location, even in closeups, while also exaggerating motion and presence. I chose the 35mm, because it is the normal focal length for the Epic-Dragon at 6K and would allow us to hold onto some of the location, but give enough compression for more delicate scenes. The T1.5 35mm was also useful in low light situations and the CP2s compact size and low weight was advantageous for the extensive Steadicam and handheld work. To help tame the CP2s sharpness and harsh contrast I used Schneider Hollywood Blackmagic filters, which gave a slight bloom tapering highlights and softening skin tones.
Color was an important story telling tool for the second Homesick film. We designed a simple strategy focusing primarily on blue, yellow and purple to carry the arch.
Blue is a quiet color. Blue can communicate a range of emotions, but it is always cerebral. Once Chloe is alone, in her new home, we used blue to carry the quite and contemplative state.
Yellow is a vibrant color that carries a lot of energy. Yellow can also be cautionary as well as acidic in different tones, but we focused on the energy that it carries and used it to set the tone for Chloe's celebration of past and future in her new home.
Purple was probably the most important color used in the film. For our purposes we used purple as a symbol of change with mystical undertones. There are hints of purple throughout the film, but it culminates in Chloe being invited to step through the purple door into her new life.
Both Benoit and I came away from these projects with a confirmation of our ability to execute storytelling effectively in an improvised environment with no support. We developed a simple premise and, knowing conditions would likely change, laid out a plan for the design. We had to work on our feet and respond to near hourly obstacles, but we were on the same page and the premise made decision making easy and we quickly pounced on opportunities. I also learned that I could hike four miles of mountain trail carrying thirty pounds of camera and Steadicam and still operate at the end of it.