Pushing The Envelope
How recent NFTS graduates Ben Hecking and Andrew Alderslade really showed what film could do.
You might think that making a show reel on 16mm to demonstrate the benefits of shooting on 16mm stocks might prove a little dry for two new filmmakers. Not so, according to director Ben Hecking and director of photography Andrew Alderslade, who were chomping at the bit to show exactly what film was capable of in the 21st century.
“I suppose it could be hard to be creative on a project of this nature but Jerry Deeney at Fujifilm wanted it to be as fun and creative as possible, it was quite liberating,” says Hecking. Hecking and Alderslade wanted to create something entertaining, first and foremost, but that also sold film to anybody who might not think of the format or were scared to use it.
“When we approached Jerry about doing a Complete 16 promo, we wanted to show our love of film and hoped that it would rub off on other people,” says Hecking. “We really wanted to produce something that stripped away the technical information and sold the 'idea' of shooting on film to directors. It's fun, creatively liberating and - with the package - as simple and cost effective as shooting on any other format. The only limit is your imagination.”
“Jerry wanted something eye-catching and gave us a freedom that stimulated creative possibilities,” adds Alderslade. “That was a great remit to have. There were no strict parameters or boxes to tick.”
“We were really excited about shooting on as many different stocks as possible,” Hecking continues. “Ultimately, we wanted the commercial to do two things: promote the Complete 16 package and show off the variety of 'looks' you can get from film.
The pair attended the NFTS together and both remember an early tutorial that ended up proving useful. “The workshops showed that the Eterna Vivid 160T converted to black and white really well,” says Hecking. “So we used that for the 'behind the scenes' bookends on this project, to create photographic quality, naturalistic and handheld.”
From there, they shot a fashion segment on the Eterna 500T, a fantasy section on the Eterna Vivid 500T, a bridge scene on Super F-64D and a Blade Runner-influenced future scene on Vivid 160T. When it came to the “period drama” chapter, the genuine creative flexibility of the shoot truly came to the fore.
“It was shot on Eterna Vivid 250D,” smiles Hecking. “In earlier conversations, we wanted to shoot this on Eterna 400T, but…”
“Ben's a big fan of the 400T,” picks up Alderslade. “It was actually all loaded in the magazine and ready to go, when this beautiful sunset and wonderful colours started to pop. We had this Vivid 250D with us, and it occurred to me that we might not get a chance to expose something like this on that stock again during this shoot. What's great about Ben is that he was open-minded enough to let me do it.”
“The Vivid 250D is now one of my favourites,” nods Hecking. “We're basically just really good friends. So I left him to it and I concentrated on directing. I had complete trust that he'd deliver the goods. Filmmaking is all about teamwork and we had a really great team. A trusting environment pushes everyone to deliver better work and I think the film really shows that.”
“There's been some bemusement about our choice of stocks, actually,” says Alderslade. “They don't seem logical for some. For the night exterior, we used Vivid 160T because we wanted to remind people that you didn't need a high-speed stock to shoot at night if you light it correctly and that you could have all the advantages of a medium-density stock in terms of that extra bite and resolution.
“And our use of the Eterna 500T in the beauty lighting for the fashion shoot has come under scrutiny too, but that was for a more practical reason. We were shooting high speed and I wanted some of the highlights to be quite hot, so having that extra speed was useful. It really worked for close ups that we wanted to be a little bit softer and more flattering.”
“Fuji stocks have quite a specific character,” says Hecking. “Any one of the scenes could have been shot in the same way but on a different stock and would have had a different feel. That's what's great about film.”
“If you want the best results, film is a great option,” adds Alderslade. “You get all the extra benefits of the craft - it's going to be more atmospheric and often more photogenic. If you run out into the night with a high ISO digital camera it's going to lack that control. There are myths floating around about digital versus film and we wanted to show how robust and flexible film truly is.”
“We had to setup, shoot and then de-rig seven worlds at seven different locations in two days,” says Hecking. “It was a monumental task and it's a wonder that we pulled it off. The promo is my new company's, Edgewax Films, first commercial project. Hopefully, we'll be shooting all our work on film.”