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Back in February Ciarán gave me a call telling me that he was going to have the opportunity to shoot a commercial in Italy for the Gillette Venus brand and he asked me if I would like to go with him and shoot it for him. Knowing how passionate Ciarán is and how much he cares about the projects he picks I said yes straight away. The script was the story of a relationship between a mother and a daughter and the fragile moments when each of them are vulnerable and don't know how to approach each other because of puberty. After that initial call we started developing the tone and the approach that we thought could suit the story we had in our hands. I had a very strong reaction to the script because I had a difficult relationship with my parents during my puberty (I was pretty much a loose bullet 😄) but perspective (and age) made me realise that my parents were absolutely right about everything they said and they taught to me so this project for me was pretty much my Thank you letter to my parents (especially to my mum!). I feel that every time that you're able to make a personal connection with a project that project becomes something else, is attached to you forever and you do the best you can to make it as wonderful as you can. Ciarán told me that he wanted to go back to how we used to work together when we first met, just being free to create a scene and shoot it as freely as we could. Basically the idea was to use the script as a base to shoot a short-film and work on it as if we were shooting a longer narrative project. I like telling stories and I love telling stories in longer formats so I was delighted when he said that. From my side, as a DP, I think that I am at a point where I am gravitating towards a more documentar"ish" approach in my lighting (whatever that means) and letting the beautiful flaws of documentaries to fall into my lighting decisions, I do think that if the natural and available light of a location is already perfect for the story you want to tell there is no point on trying to be better than nature! I suggested that we approach the script from that angle and make use of whatever tools we could to create a rougher and more real than usual look for the brand. After a couple of consultations with the client we were all on board with that approach and we started taking a look at how we were going to do so. Because the script was about confrontation and vulnerability I thought that we could make use of a panoramic aspect ratio (2.40:1) and not center the characters. In terms of the camera language, since you usually are extremely focus and unaware of your surroundings when you're picking a fight with somebody I thought that we could start the project with extremely close ups of the mother and the daughter while they are arguing and open the frame a bit towards the end. For the confrontation scenes I thought that using a hand-held camera could add more emphasis to the vulnerability of both characters but a more gentle steadicam and intimate approach should be used while the characters where on their own to show that they were in their safe spaces. Thankfully Ciarán had the same thoughts! In order to be able to focus on the characters more I wanted to shoot with the Sony Venice in full frame anamorphic and I wanted to use the flaws of old anamorphic lenses to wrap the characters around them in a subtle way. Now, I am not a big fan of anamorphic lenses but I think that I found THE ONES in this project. Initially I thought about using either the B or C series from Panavision but Panavision was not in Milano where the production was going to take place so the camera rental house that was suggested by the production company came back to me with a selection of old anamorphic lenses that they had, including the beautiful JDC Xtal Express!!!!!!. They weren't sure if any of the lenses from that selection could cover Full Frame either in the Venice so I went to the camera rental house after the scouting, shot a couple of tests with different lenses and found out that I had fallen in love with the Xtals. The 35mm and the 50mm covered just about the 2.40:1 area in full frame but from the 75mm onwards we were good. In the end we used the 35mm and the 50mm, with the 75mm + diopters for extremely close-ups Moviepeople, the camera rental house, told me that those lenses hadn't been used in years and they went to calibrate and collimate them. Run by Casta Diva in Italy the production was absolutely fantastic, we flew to Milano for two days to look for the right location to shoot on and after we saw several of them we picked the most interesting one BUT the most difficult one from the production point of view. It was a 4th floor with not very good access to natural light, no balconies and streets where it was impossible to put either a cherry picker or a condor to light from outside. On top of that it wasn't very production friendly in the way that it didn't have an operating lift and it didn't have much space to put the agency and the client either! And yet, we picked that one because it had a soul and we felt that the rooms could tell a story as well. Everybody was so passionate and supportive about the project that we knew that we could make it work no matter what difficulties we were going to find. I like operating and I'm not a fan of giving away the camera to a steadicam operator but our fabulous producer brought a fantastic steadicam operator whose name is Luca Sportelli, he was so amazing that I only want to work with him from now on!!! 😊 On the lighting side I am very fixated on what I want and the fixtures I want to create the mood / tone I am looking for and it takes me a while for me to trust somebody I don't know.. however, again, our producer brought a gaffer who is just THE BEST one I have worked with in my short-time as a DP, Francesco Galli, (Call Me By Your Name, Suspiria, The New Pope are just some of the movies he has worked on) and if I could I would work exclusively with him from now on (well, him and Sergio Fuidia! 😄). When I talked to him about the kind of tone I want and shared references with him he came back to me with paintings and frames of different movies / projects. Since that moment I knew that I had found my soulmate gaffer-wise. Seeing Ciarán direct our two wonderful talent, Louise Anne Cole and Scarlett-May Grant was fantastic; he is so subtle that when he changes something you don't realise it until the talent have unfolded the scene! it is just mind-blowing! Everybody in this project was extremely caring, passionate and gentle, from our PA to the people from Gillette that kindly took us under their wing and offered this opportunity to us that I miss them so much!!. Now, here is the commercial! 😄