DP David Morrison captures life with AMIRA

Working with director Lauren Greenfield, cinematographer David Morrison lensed the popular #LikeAGirl Super Bowl spot for Always. Captured on ALEXAs, the powerful campaign effectively turned the phrase on its head to empower young women and went on to win the Grand Prix at Cannes Lions. The team also brought another positive campaign to screen for the Super Bowl, this time focusing on males for Toyota's "To Be a Dad." Production involved interviewing 100 real-life fathers from all walks of life, including several NFL athletes along with their children. The result is an emotional, authentic look at the role of fatherhood and its impact. "To Be a Dad" was one of Morrison's first experiences with the ARRI AMIRA. The DP has since shot several more commercials with the camera, including the next installment of the #LikeAGirl campaign titled "Unstoppable." In this Q&A, the Morrison talks about documenting intimate interviews with fathers on AMIRA and his process working with Greenfield.

Tell us a little about yourself. 

I'm a Los Angeles-based cinematographer and an AMIRA owner. It's my first camera that I've owned and it's a new companion on most of my jobs. I shoot a lot of commercials, features and documentaries, the AMIRA seemed like it would be a perfect fit.

Can you describe the project?

"To Be a Dad" is a commercial for Toyota produced by Chelsea Pictures. The concept was to interview a few NFL players and their kids about their fathers and being a father. We ended up filming 12 different men and their children and we auditioned over 100 men. We also filmed the casting sessions just in case there was a response or emotional nugget that wouldn't be repeated in the actual shoot.

Toyota: To Be a Dad

For Toyota's "To Be a Dad," director Lauren Greenfield and DP David Morrison interviewed 100 real-life fathers from all walks of life which they captured on AMIRA. The result is an emotional, authentic look at the role of fatherhood and its impact.

What did you and Lauren discuss regarding the commercials look and feel? 

We looked at a lot of traditional portrait photography, bold and simple lighting that didn't draw attention to itself but highlighted the subject. I like lighting that is invisible and restrains itself somewhat. We also used a technique that we had explored on the "Like a Girl" campaign, we used two cameras through a Interrotron so we could maintain eye contact to lens and cut seamlessly between wide and tight frames.

Why did you have three AMIRAs on this spot?

It's helpful to have a smaller body when mounting two cameras on a dolly and behind the Interrotron glass - for the interviews we used an AMIRA and an ALEXA M. There were also two handheld cameras that captured verite moments of the families behind the scenes. The AMIRA is such a well-balanced camera on the shoulder; operators fall in love with its design and ergonomic ease.


How long was the shoot?

The casting session was four days and the shoot was two. I've never shot a casting session before and it was extremely helpful in finding the heart of the story with the director, Lauren. The casting sessions were 15-20 minute interviews and there were a lot of emotions and revelations that happened on camera. I think we also built trust with the subjects as well and I was excited to welcome them on the actual set after having a mini journey with them in casting. We tried to have an invisible process in terms of lighting and camera while creating continuity from casting to shoot.

What lenses did you use?

We used the Fujinon 19-90mm and 1-Fujinon 85-300mm. These lenses are incredibly versatile and lite.

Why was AMIRA the right camera for this project?

The AMIRA was a good fit because of its physical design, image quality and if you're an ARRI fan like myself, holding and interacting with the technology is like seeing an old friend. It's just comfortable, and a pleasure to hang out with. Good design informs better decisions, I have no proof of that but I'm sure it's true. ARRI design inspires me, I started shooting on the ARRI 16mm SR2 and there is a definite link between that camera and the AMIRA, same sturdy, no-nonsense intelligent design that is tank-like and yet elegant.

Did you use the in-camera Looks?

I created a look for this in the AMIRA Look Creator. It's a useful tool that unifies all cameras and also gets the agency used to seeing the final "look" that you have in mind. A few years ago in the film days the cinematographer was usually invited and sometimes flown to the final color correction or telecine. That rarely happens now because of the economy and digital workflow. Being able to create a look is so important because the agency and client get used to your vision of the "look" and during the editing phase it becomes the "norm" and then will only be improved in final color correction.

How was it working with Lauren?

Lauren and I have been working together for years and after collaborating with someone for that long there's an intuitive trust that develops, there isn't much that needs to be said. Lauren is a photographer as well and has a keen aesthetic sensibility. It's a bonus to be able to connect on a visual level and have a shared camaraderie.

I love listening to her interview people because she pulls out incredible moments, moments that are personal breakthroughs for the person on camera and for all of us in the room as well. The word invisible keeps coming up, but that describes our process and our collaboration -- the AMIRA is the perfect tool for our process.

Any further comments?

The ARRI camera has been a constant in my life through all the stages of my career: 16mm, 35mm, ALEXA and now the AMIRA. I've used almost every other camera and I always come back to ARRI. The build and image quality are unsurpassed. We're only as good as our tools, yet propelled by our imagination and curiosity. For me, ARRI has been a companion on this journey so far, an extension of my eye and my right hand. I look forward to the future and truly treasure having a reliable partner. It's the Gibson Les Paul of cameras.

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