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The Road Bad & The Place Dark - Short documentary

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Back in November 2019 my friend Borja Larrondo asked me if I wanted to shoot a new commercial for Medecins Du Monde like the previous one that we had shot together in 2018 but with three twists:

1) It was going to be set in an unknown (at the time) location in Africa.

2) We were going to document what was happening in that unknown location in Africa.

3) It was going to be during nighttime and with no light at all!

I obviously said yes and after months of discussions and preparations we went to Sierra Leone to shoot a documentary about the reasons as to why hospitals there didn't have electricity and how that affected the people from different areas of the country. 

We were in Sierra Leone for several days and when we went back to Spain we had 3 days to review the material and edit it because Medecins Du Monde Spain wanted to launch the campaign as soon as possible.. Nerea Mugüerza, our editor, did an amazing job with all the footage that we got,  she really shaped the documentary and created a sense of story. 
Not only that but she also created the different cuts for the commercial campaigns that the client wanted to deliver.

Right after those 3 days we were ready to colour grade the commercial cuts and then Covid happened and Medecins Du Monde stopped all the processes. At that time we were really sad because we didn't know when we were going to be able to show the reality of what was happening in Sierra Leone but it really helped us achieve what we wanted to achieve in the post production process with the documentary and the commercial campaigns. 

Because of Covid we were able to work with extraordinary colour grader Jenny Montgomery from Company 3, which was like a dream for us because we didn't have any money to give to them. We sent her the material and when it came back it was the first time in my life that I didn't have anything to say in a colour grade other than: "WOW!". 

Sound postproduction had more time to work on it and when we finished everything several months later we still didn't know what was going to happen with the commercial campaigns. 

It turns out that Medecins Du Monde did know what was going to happen because they asked us to shoot a similar documentary in December 2021 focused on the lack of energy in one part of Madrid called "La Cañada Real", which you can learn about on here (https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/oct/27/you-kind-of-die-life-without-power-in-the-canada-real-spain). 

I joined Borja and we went to La Cañada Real to talk to people and convince them to let us film their daily lives, after one week being there we grabbed a camera and we started shooting for 2 days.

This time Medecins Du Monde Spain wanted to broadcast the campaign as soon as they could and that meant that we weren't going to have the luxury of time to post  produce things as we wanted. Regarding colour grading we decided that we wanted to work with people who understood Madrid and the culture of La Cañada Real and after some suggestions from the production company, Lobo Kane, we went to colour grade with GradePunk and Sebastian did an amazing job trying to maintain the quality of the colour grading that we had in Sierra Leone but giving a distinctive look to the part in Madrid that he was colour grading.

The great @Phil Rhodes wrote a wonderful article about the documentary back in July 2020 when we were in the middle of knowing who was going to colour grade the documentary. 
You can read about it on here: https://www.thebroadcastbridge.com/content/entry/15328/creative-analysis-part-3-the-road-bad-the-place-dark-from-the-cinematograph

As of now, the documentary has been selected and showed in different film festivals and has gotten one cinematography award, the BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY AWARD (INTERNATIONAL SHORT) at the Thin Line Film Festival. 

The commercial campaign has gotten two cinematography awards so far.  Best Cinematography at the Emerging Directors Awards 2022 in Ireland and the Bronze Award in Film Craft in the CDEC in Spain 2022. 

You can watch the commercial campaign here

And the trailer for the documentary here


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Thank you very much @Dom Jaeger and @Tyler Purcell ? 

I just got super good news. 

The commercial campaign: "Electricity's positive bill" won GOLD at Directing and SILVER at Cinematography in the FIAP awards in South America, which over 50 years have been one of the key festivals, together with  El Sol Festival, in the commercial world in South America.




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Thanks @Manu Delpech!!

We got into the long shortlist of documentaries nominated for the Goya Awards in Spain!!! Which is quite a thing because short documentaries is kind of the category that nobody cares about ha!. Yesterday the Spanish Film Academy announced the four short docs nominated for the final round and sadly we weren't there, but that's ok! We are happy to have been in the 1st shortlist! ? 

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On 1/6/2023 at 1:14 AM, EDDUS RAY said:

Absolutely beautiful work Miguel. Do you mind sharing some of your process for this? I'm curious what lenses and lighting approach you took


Thank you for your kind words Eddus, 

Apologies for the late reply, I have been super busy NOT being a cinematographer ha. 

I am not sure if I have a process per se when it comes to lighting, what I like and what I always try to achieve is to light things as if they were unlit or as if they were lit by the natural and available light that might come from sources outside or inside the places I am going to shoot on. I usually end up placing all those sources.

I love using practicals to light and I feel that if you are clever you can block scenes and place practicals in strategic places to just light a scene with them. However, I also love lighting people so I can definitely use a source to light medium / close up shots mimicking the light from the practical.

In this documentary we didn't know what we were going to find, we were sent a couple of photos from one of the clinics but that was about it. 

What we did though was (in between the director, Borja, and myself) imagine how we would like our locations to feel and we set some rules as to how we were going to shoot things (I also love doing that, so I suppose that that's part of my process!). 
We wanted it to feel unlit, intimate and honest. We also knew that we wanted to shoot at night and people were going to use their phones or torches to light so we bought some front-head lights in Spain that we ended up using to light or that we gave to people for them to use them while working! 

We spent 1/2 day when we arrived in Sierra Leone walking through the town and through some places that some people wanted us to see and where we could shoot interviews. From there we chose some rooms and we talked about how to light them with the tools that we had.

Our gaffer, Sergio Fuidia and our "person for everything", Diego, were super keys on achieving the look that we wanted because they spent a couple of days in one of the markets in Kabala buying Led torches, lights and etc that we could use as our practicals while we were shooting things during daytime.

The source that we used the most was one of the lights that appears at the beginning that gives a pretty unsettling white light that was perfect for the feel that we were looking for. 

And we pretty much placed the sources that you see in the interiors of the places and the ones that are giving light from outside (we had a set of 4 x Astera tubes,  2 x aladdin and one light that I don't remember the name of but is rectangular, is the size of an iPhone and has different settings and temperatures)

Also, lighting people with dark skin is pretty easy!!.

Regarding lenses, we had a 21, a 29 Supreme Prime and a 2 x extender. We chose those for several reasons:
1) They were small.

2) We only wanted to use two lenses (I shoot almost everything with either one or two lenses).

3) I love how the Supreme lenses render faces, they have a great tridimensionality. 

And I always place a lot of filters in front of any lens anyways! I had a Glimmerglass 1 and a Black Diffusion FX 2 together all the time.

Hope I answered some of your questions!?  ? 

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I got another award! 

Best Cinematography - Bronze in the International section of the Kinsale Awards!!

And an amazing nomination for Best Cinematography at the British Arrows!! ? I don't think that we have any chance of getting any awards on this, the level of craft, production and budgets is, literally, millions away from our doc / commercial but I'm going to the gala to see all these super big names and take photos with all of them! ? 

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As expected, I didn't get any awards in the British Arrows but I am extremely happy with the nomination ? 

However, I got a Gold Craft award for Best Cinematography at the Clio Awards 2023 for the Electricity's Positive Bill commercial. 

I entered the piece in the Student category as I was a student through the years that it took for us to film the piece and also because the fee was $50 instead of $675!

I am extremely happy that the jury thought that a documentary could have a lighting and camera design worth recognising! 



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Thanks @Uli Meyer and @Tyler Purcell :). 

The British Cinematographer Magazine has published an interview about the project.

If anybody is interested, here is the link:


Have a lovely day!.

Edited by Miguel Angel
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Thanks so much @Jeff Bernstein.

Just came back to say that we have been nominated for Best Documentary and Best Cinematography at the Kinsale Shark Awards 2024 in the International Shortfilm category! ? 


Very happy about it! 

Edited by Miguel Angel
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