“I Knew It Would Be an Amazing Journey To Go On”: DP Annemarie Lean-Vercoe on Is There Anybody Out There?
Filmmaker Ella Glendining has always wanted to meet someone who shares the same rare disability that she was born with. The problem is, she’s not sure such an individual even exists. This quest is the basis of Is There Anybody Out There? her intimate documentary that incorporates personal video diaries alongside interviews with people she meets with bodies similar to her own.
UK-based DP Annemarie Lean-Vercoe shares the female cinematography collective that connected her with the director, how the shoot adapted to COVID complications and the documentary touchstones her and Glendining used as references.
See all responses to our annual Sundance cinematographer interviews here.
Filmmaker: How and why did you wind up being the cinematographer of your film? What were the factors and attributes that led to your being hired for this job?
Lean-Vercoe: I am part of a female cinematography collective in the UK called the Illuminatrix, and I responded to a message about a doc project being filmed near Brighton, close to where I live. I met the director [Ella Glendining] and really wanted to be involved with telling her story and be with her on her search to find someone with the same disability as her. I knew it would be an amazing journey to go on with her.
Filmmaker: What were your artistic goals on this film, and how did you realize them? How did you want your cinematography to enhance the film’s storytelling and treatment of its characters?
Lean-Vercoe: I saw some of Ella’s previous work, and loved her visual style, how she edits her work together and translates the world onto the screen. We talked about how stylistic she wanted to go with this personal project. We wanted the audience to feel like they are on Ella’s personal journey, which I feel you are, with the video diaries combined with observational doc.
Filmmaker: Were there any specific influences on your cinematography, whether they be other films, or visual art, or photography, or something else?
Lean-Vercoe: Ella and I looked at her previous work which inspired our naturalistic look to be intercut with textures of nature—and more importantly to reflect her sense of fun, to capture this playfulness with scenes that show the thoughtful and reflective side of her personality. We also looked at the films My Beautiful Broken Brain and Minding the Gap.
Filmmaker: What were the biggest challenges posed by production to those goals?
Lean-Vercoe: COVID delayed our principle shooting, but it also meant that Ella and I had lots of regular short bursts of filming to show the passing of time whilst we were waiting to travel for principal filming. It enabled Ella and I to establish a friendship and work relationship that made work fun and we bounced ideas off each other.
Filmmaker: What camera did you shoot on? Why did you choose the camera that you did? What lenses did you use?
Lean-Vercoe: I shot using 2 cameras, the Canon C300 or C500 and the Panasonic Lumix GH5. The film is an observational doc with me mostly shooting and recording sound—I had to be lightweight, compact and quickly versatile, so I shot with 2 SIGMA zoom lenses. The SIGMA Art zooms are fast at F1.8 and I mostly used the 18-35mm and occasionally the 50-100mm lens.
Filmmaker: What was the most difficult scene to realize and why? And how did you do it?
Lean-Vercoe: We had a large scene meeting several new characters in the film for the first time and also had a second camera person and sound person, so from a technical point of view the shooting unit expanded drastically for just one day, and having been such an intimate film for so long it was a change of gear!
Filmmaker: Finally, describe the finishing of the film. How much of your look was “baked in” versus realized in the DI?
Lean-Vercoe: I shot everything in LOG so I could grade in post, we wanted to keep the film naturalistic and have color space to add a light touch look.
Film Title: Is There Anybody Out There?
Camera: CANON C300, CANON C500, PANASONIC LUMIX GH5
Lenses: SIGMA ART 18-35, SIGMA ART 50-100
Lighting: LED LIGHT PANELS
Color Grading: BASELIGHT