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“Shooting in the Woods Can Be Really Exciting”: DP Wilson Cameron on Good One

A young woman with wavy brown hair looks out from behind a tree stump and branches.Good One, courtesy of Sundance Institute.

On a trip to the Catskills, 17-year-old Sam’s father is so preoccupied looking out for his oldest friend that she begins to feel suffocated. Such is the premise of Good One, the debut feature by the Los-Angeles based India Donaldson.

Also debuting on Good One is cinematographer Wilson Cameron (Glass Note). Below, Cameron discusses the film’s natural development toward longer takes, the fun and difficulty of shooting in the woods and the various films that served as reference.

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?

Cameron: India and I have known each other for a long time and had made a few shorts together. Her first short was actually the first narrative project that I ever shot, so I feel super lucky and grateful that we got to make this feature together, which was both her first feature as a director and my first feature as a DP. She had been trying to get a different feature made, but it had been taking a while. In the summer of 2021 we were talking, and she said that she’d written this other movie that she wanted to try to make. I read the script and loved it—the way the characters kind of naturally develop and feel so lived in, and the way it takes these unexpected turns. I asked if I could also help produce, because I really wanted to be involved in the overall process. India was into that, and we just went from there.

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?

Cameron: We talked about the cinematography for a long time leading up to the shoot. It’s a film with three central characters who all get a lot of attention, but our guiding principle was, “when in doubt let the camera be in Sam’s world.” We also thought a lot about how scenes could play in longer takes, with less traditional coverage. It was something we always kept in mind for each scene, and it ended up being such a satisfying way to shoot the movie. Sometimes this meant wider master shots, but sometimes it meant long medium-ish shots that panned around with the character.

Filmmaker: Were there any specific influences on your cinematography, whether they be other films, or visual art, of photography, or something else?

Cameron: Joanna Hogg films were a touchpoint for the kind of long take approach. And we looked at Kelly Reichardt films, which have some wonderful and thoughtful camerawork. I had also just seen the new restoration of Millenium Mambo, which has some incredible medium shot long-takes with tripod camerawork tracking the characters around a space. We also talked about Ozu-style shots for the nature cutaway moments when we were in the forest. And India pulled lots of visual reference, stills, old 35mm hiking photos, paintings, etc.

Filmmaker: What were the biggest challenges posed by production to those goals?

Cameron: The biggest challenge, as with all productions, was time. We shot the movie in just 12 days, 10 of which were on location in upstate New York. Despite the limited schedule, the crew was incredible and truly came together as a focused team. We were also dealing with the reality of shooting on location in the woods, which meant ticks, poison ivy, and even a bear encounter! Our 1st AC, Will Colacito, did an amazing job getting us up and running out on location and keeping focus sharp in some really challenging scenarios. The camera and G&E team were all stellar and brought great energy: 2nd AC Nell Geer, gaffer Caiya Sanchez-Straus, key grip Autumn Stevens, DIT Will Kempner. The entire crew was great, and it felt like a bit of a camp vibe. It was a really fun shoot!

Filmmaker: What camera did you shoot on? Why did you choose the camera that you did? What lenses did you use?

Cameron: We shot on the Arri Alexa Mini with Zeiss Super Speed lenses. The camera package was provided by Arri Rentals in New York, and they really helped us put together a great kit that would work for our production. A lot of the hiking scenes were shot moving around in a forest, so we tried to keep things as lean as possible. We also had a Blackmagic Pocket 4K camera that was the perfect B-Camera for a handful of scenes.

Filmmaker: Describe your approach to lighting.

Cameron: For the interior locations we took what felt right for the space and maybe put a bit of a spin on it or stylized it a little bit. We did a lot of pushing an M18 through a window, or adding titan tubes here and there. There were a number of specific looks to craft, like some blue evening light in the hotel room or early morning light from a window.

For the exteriors, it was about shaping and controlling light or staging things in a way that would best utilize the natural light. Shooting in the woods can be really exciting because you suddenly get pockets of nice light coming through the trees.

Filmmaker: What was the most difficult scene to realize and why? And how did you do it?

Cameron: There’s a long campfire scene that was probably the biggest challenge. The time of day is just after dinner, so we didn’t want it to be pitch black, which is also less visually interesting. Our plan was to shoot the scene over two afternoons, in soft ambient light with no direct sun in the frame, and then grade the footage down in post. We also had firelight playing on our actors faces that had to be in the right balance for exposure. We found a great spot at our forest location that was behind a hill and would work perfectly when the sun passed a certain point. The challenge was in riding the exposure/ISO and balance of fire light, as we lost the ambient light toward the end of the day. We shot two cameras simultaneously in this scene, which was never something we’d planned to do. We were lucky that the crew was full of great filmmakers—Alex Bliss, who is also a DP and director, was on our production team and jumped in to operate B-Camera for some scenes, which was a lifesaver.

Filmmaker: Finally, describe the finishing of the film. How much of your look was “baked in” versus realized in the DI?

Cameron: We had a custom LUT on set that I used a lot, and then in post I spent a week grading all of the footage myself and creating dailies. We knew that we wanted to have a very strong look, and it was important to me that everyone seeing the rough cuts and working with the film throughout post would be looking at something that was in the same world as where we were going to land. When we were ready to get into the grade we started working with our colorist, Cédric von Niederhäusern. Cédric is an incredible collaborator, and he was game to take the dailies grade as a starting point and then work his magic from there. We looked at more inspiration for the nuances of the look, including Somewhere (2010), which is one of my favorite films.


Film Title: Good One

Camera: Arri Alexa Mini, Blackmagic Pocket 4K

Lenses: Zeiss Super Speeds

Processing: DaVinci Resolve

Color Grading: DaVinci Resolve

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