DP David Kruta on Shooting the Movie Concussion
At the end of last year I interviewed DP Dave Kruta about shooting with the Red EPIC [See: DP DAVID KRUTA AND THE RED EPIC]. At the time I also talked to him about the independent movie Concussion, which he’d just finished shooting. The movie is currently in post-production:
Q: How did you come to work on the movie Concussion?
I was contacted out of the blue by the director, who’d seen my reel. She interviewed a whole bunch of DPs and I guess we just connected over the script and what she was trying to do.
Q: Can you tell us about the movie?
It’s about a woman named Abby who is a bored, wealthy, lesbian housewife from the suburbs. By day, as her kids sit in school, she becomes a prostitute for women, while she also flips lofts for a living. She’ll buy a studio space and turn it into a loft and sell it, and she ends up entertaining clients there.
I kind of describe it as similar to American Beauty, in that sort of vein of frustrated-suburban-life with a little bit of fantasy. It’s very low budget, but it’s a beautiful film. We had a whole slew of amazing actors. Our lead actress was Robin Weigert from Deadwood, and other actors included Maggie Siff of Mad Men and Janel Moloney of The West Wing.
As far as everyone else involved, we had a very young crew. Somewhat inexperienced, but experienced enough to make it happen.
Q: You own a RED Epic, but was that the only reason you used the camera for this project?
I think using the Epic on this was perfect because, to me, it’s a cinematic camera. It’s made for cinema, and I only see a movie like this being projected in a theater, I don’t intend watching it on Vimeo or something like that.
I fought to shoot it on the Epic. I think something like an Alexa might have actually slowed us down because there was a lot of handheld shots. The movie was almost entirely handheld, so the small size and weight was really helpful. We had Zeiss Superspeeds – mainly for the price and the speed at which they can shoot – so it was great having these light, little lenses where you could shoot at 1.3. This was very important because we shot mostly available light, or modified with silks, but it was almost entirely available light and small lamps.
Q: And was most of it interiors?
I would say a large chunk of it was interior, and bits and pieces outside. There were shots of people walking around, and the actual concussion scene of Concusion was shot outside at a park.
Q: You said that by the time the shoot ended you had 12 TB of data. How long was the shoot?
It was a 22-day shoot.
Q: What was the onset workflow?
We had our post supervisor/editor/post guru-in-general who came on-set to do data management. He had a Mac Pro with a card reader and a couple of RAIDS, and he would just offload to those.
I think he just used the Finder and dragged things over. Each card would take maybe a half an hour or something like that to off-load. It definitely wasn’t ideal, but it got us through and he just set it up with a boat load of hard drives.
Q: How many cards did you have for the camera?
I have four 128GB cards
Q: Were you cycling through those or did they cover the whole day?
We would cycle through them during the day. It really depended on the day; sometimes we could get through the whole day without using all four cards, and sometimes we would have done 12 cards worth in a day.
Q: Were you shooting 5K HDRX?
There were a few scenes were I did use the HDRX, mostly close-ups with a window behind them, but in general I didn’t use it. We didn’t have the sort of data wrangling infrastructure to burn through cards that quickly.
Q: Is that the only reason not to do it? If you had the cards would it make sense to shoot everything in HDRX?
I think it’s sort of an aesthetic choice, because there are certain situations that you might want to use it; but there’s also a sort of beauty to letting things go and not worrying about every little pixel on the screen. This sort of goes back to my thoughts about RAW vs. burning-in-the-look that you want as a DP. I think it’s also about how much you trust post to make the choice in good taste and have it look good.