Weekend Warriors: Canis Belli.

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Many months ago I met up with filmmaker and blogger Robin Schimdt or as he is knows on Twitter  aka_elskid, at the London screening of  Zacutos Camera Shootout 2011. In the pub after the event he talked about an ambitious short film he had written set in the trenches of the first world war, Canis Belli. I told him if he needed a hand to give me a shout. Now when you usually hear about plans for short films of this scale you very rarely hear of them again. The ambition and scale usually halts any prospect of actually shooting them.

Fast forward almost five months and I get a message on Twitter from aka_skid to see if I was available as he was about to shoot the film along with co-director Gez Medinger, aka JerzyBondov. The film was to be shot over two and a half days on a permanent standing set just north of  Ipswich on Trench Farm. The set was been used from many major productions including Downton Abbey

I couldn’t make the first days shoot because of a prior commitment so I headed up to Suffolk in the early foggy hours of Saturday morning. Two and a bit hours later I was in a field in Suffolk surrounded buy world war one soldiers, and a film crew for the weekend.

A couple of months prior to this I had world on another  short film, which I had production managed and was set on the last day of the Second world war, Dolka Dots. That was a musical based film about a GI and local girl at VJ celebratory village hall dance. Canis Belli couldn’t be any further removed.

A light rain peppered the location as the cast and crew brought the script to life, shot by shot. The film was being on the Red Epic using anamorphic lenses to give it a truly cinematic look. Not your average short film shoot by any stretch of the imagination.

Usually on small films I have to wear many differing job hats, production manager, driver, location manager,  but on this one I just  one to shoot publicity material using my Canon 5D for still and Robins Sony FS100 for video, a camera I had not used before. The FS100 is an odd little thing, kit like in construction making it very easy to back down and carry and quite easy to use, despite some glaring problems with the LCD screen being on the top, useless if it is higher than your eye line. This aside it is a great camera, for the money can’t be beaten, despite sony needing to be sat down and someone explaining that ergonomics and general design are something that should not be an third party extra, Zacuto probably love this camera because of its flaws they get to exploit. The kit lens on the FS100 is OK and has great range but when you swap it out for some better glass the camera excels. Using a Canon 24-70mm  L f2.8 on the FS100 the camera becomes a far better camera, despite unable to control the electronics on the lens, you are stuck with no aperture control having to rely on controlling the shutter and the gain. With mechanical lens mounted aperture control the FS100 would be awesome. Robin edited what I, Stephen Parker and a few others shot over the three days together giving a flavour of what Canis Belli will be along with how it was made.

For the stills I used just two lenses my Canon 24-70mm L f2.8 and my Canon 70-200mm L f4 IS. The f4 IS is about half the weight on its faster and more expensive brother which is great if you’re carrying it around for 8 hours. Below are a selection of behind the scenes photos and film stills from the 1164 frames I shot. All images were processed using Apples Aperture.


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Canis Belli is being produced by Joel Mishcon of Chrome Productions