DP Michael Latham chooses ALEXA Mini
For the feature length, hybrid documentary, CASTING JONBENET, Australian cinematographer Michael Latham shoots with ALEXA Mini.
When cinematographer Michael Latham was given another opportunity to work with Sundance award-winning director Kitty Green he jumped at the chance. Once he realized the size and scope of the documentary she was planning, he also knew his ALEXA Mini would be perfect for the project.
Latham explained, "The first major shoot I used the ALEXA Mini on was the feature hybrid documentary CASTING JONBENET about the death of Jon Benét Ramsey, directed by Kitty Green. She is an exciting director who I have collaborated with over the last few years. The feature film is based on a similar style to Kitty's short documentary THE FACE OF UKRAINE: CASTING OKSANA BAIUL which won Sundance in 2015. That film was a very low budget project, very contained, shot in two days with help from some friends. CASTING JONBENET was a very different animal, with a much larger budget, hundreds of interviews, large cinematic scenes, full crews, and eight months of work. During this time, we were lucky to have the guidance of our producers Scott Macaulay and James Schamus who are amazing at what they do and have already, between them, created some wonderful films including JULLIAN DONKEY BOY, GUMMO, BROKEBACK MOUNTIAN, and CROUCHING TIGER HIDDEN DRAGON."
Michael Latham with his ALEXA Mini
The size and scope of the shoot combined with some challenging logistics created some early hurdles for Latham which he and the crew had to work quickly to overcome.
He continued, "When the project started, I didn't have my ALEXA Mini so a lot of the interviews were shot on other cameras which are OK under controlled studio environments but quite difficult to use in the real world. We shot in two blocks and the second block was much more like a full narrative shoot with a complete cast and crew. We wanted these scenes to feel as cinematic as possible; we wanted them to feel like a film and not a documentary. Therefore, the Mini was perfect. We had always planned to shoot the narrative scenes on an ALEXA since I feel like it produces the most cinematic images."
The shoot consisted of everything from studio scenes with built sets to real life locations, day and night interiors and exteriors, car rigging, VFX scenes, drone aerials, and vista landscapes. The team also had to deal with some rather extreme weather conditions. Latham added, "We were shooting in the middle of winter so some days were minus-ten degrees with heavy snow which always makes for fun times. My camera kit is as small and lightweight while being as free and wireless as possible; I think it's important to be nimble. The ALEXA Mini is great and easy to scale up if you need to. I like that it's very capable as an A-Camera on everything from documentary content to large-scale features and commercials. You can also break it down to fit it into tight spaces with no trouble and yet you can build it up to fit every accessory you can think of. I have customized my Mini with the accessories I prefer and so it's tailored to my needs but as those needs change it's very easy to add or takeaway whatever is required for the job."
The ALEXA Mini is flexible and "very capable as an A-Camera" according to Latham
Latham, the director, and the producers were all extremely happy with the images and results he got while shooting CASTING JONBENET with his ALEXA Mini. For him, the decision to purchase an ALEXA Mini was validated in the best possible way. He concluded, "The great thing about owning a camera is having access to being able to test anything you are unsure about-everything from lenses, exposures, and lighting to paint colors and fabrics. If someone asks you a question, the answer is ten minutes away. Ultimately, for me owning an ALEXA Mini wasn't a money-making decision but it was about investing in myself and my career. It was definitely a big investment for me but it is worth it as it gives me access to, in my opinion, the best image out there."
For more on CASTING JONBENET go to: https://www.michaellatham.com.au/casting-jonbenet/
Photos: Michael Latham