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Cinematographer Peter Donahue on Shooting Sundance Documentary Prophet’s Prey

in Filmmaking
on Jan 28, 2015

PROPHET’S PREY – Peter Donahue
I first got involved with the Prophet’s Prey project after meeting Amy Berg. Her work has always been something I have admired since seeing her “Deliver us From Evil.”
To shoot a documentary, you first have to know that you are in good hands and feel passionate about the subject. So when Amy said she was going to make another film about the abuses of power within an organized religion — and it involved John Krakauer –I was in!
Like all documentaries, our first challenge was budget. We first thought we should stay away from reenactments, which can be costly and at this point, clichéd in docs and the like. We wanted the interviews to be portraits of our subjects in their real environments, as much as possible.
We knew the surrounding landscapes and architecture would play a big role as well. For these scenarios, we thought the Alexa was the right tool and we were lucky to get access to one. The Alexa with an old set of super speed lenses gave us a nice look for the interviews.
Also, having the Alexa allowed us to use natural and low light situations when they arose. We didn’t have the budget to have too much lighting with us. There were times where we wanted to create a hard contrast on a subject with lighting – like with Brett Jeffs. We put a rigid, foreboding light on him, while we still felt life happening outside the window. It seemed like a good visual metaphor for his dark experience within the church and for the film itself. We also knew there would be a certain amount of verité so we needed a small, more hand-held format. The Canon c-300 and c-500 were perfect and would cut nicely with the Alexa.
To finish the project, we were very lucky to have Drew Geary over at Deluxe/CO3 put the film together visually with all its formats and add a fresh eye and artistic perspective.

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