Guest post: Cinematographer Daniel Stephens on making a film in Maine
A Cinematographer's Perspectiveby Daniel StephensOriginally posted at AnatomyOfTheTide.com on 8/26/11It's not often that a film, especially in script form, reaches out and tells you to make it. When one of our producers, Tom Craig, said this to Joel Strunk (writer/director) and I over a year ago it made my heart skip a beat. My own involvement with this film goes back nearly five years when Joel asked me shoot a commercial for him. After we had wrapped the commercial and were having a post-production drink at a local bar in Rockland, Maine, he mentioned to me that he had a feature script he'd been working on for almost six years (now over 10). He asked if I might be willing to help him produce it and to shoot it. As we'd just had a dandy time out in Tenants Harbor shooting, I thought, "why not?" I asked him to send me the script so I could read it. I knew he could write a commercial, but I had my initial doubts about whether that skill would translate into feature-dom. Great, even good feature scripts don't often come along so easily.A few days went by and I didn't receive anything from Joel. I began to think that perhaps he had moved on. Then I got a call from Joel - "Daniel, I want to come by your house and drop off a copy of the script." "Sure thing, Joel." He showed up about an hour later with script in hand. And to my surprise, proceeded to tell me the entire story while sitting, and sometimes acting out scenes, in my living room. It was amazing to watch him as he took on role after role, and to listen and watch as the story unfolded. I finally had to stop him. "I want to read the script," I said. I want to see if the text on the page grabs me as much as your storytelling ability." He graciously handed me the script, though I likely could have listened to him all day.That night I read the script straight through and realized, just as Tom had, that this film was telling me to come make it. I could see in magnificent and sometimes painful detail the incredible expanse of the water surrounding this tiny island off the coast of Maine. I was caught by the vehemence with which it held these two boys, the film's protagonists, in its grasp. Sometimes lovingly and sometimes painfully. The words morphed into shots which melded into scenes and I felt as though I was watching a finished film. Anyone who has a read a typical script knows that this doesn't happen very often and yet, here it was, vibrantly and visually coming to life as though I were sitting in front of the massive silver screen at New York's Zigfield, or, more apropos, in the warm charm of Rockland's Strand. I was, and still am, so many years later, utterly entranced by the film and it's visual and dramatic complexity and reality.Of the myriad visuals that fills my mind's eye when I consider my upcoming work as the film's cinematographer, one is very similar to the splash banner of this website - the lone boy standing at the cliff's edge confronted and possibly comforted by the expanse of cold, blue-green water stretching out before him. The mystery of what is beneath the surface and the complex way in which that surface mirrors the world above it. It's a powerful image that forms the foundation of the story - the ocean as a keeper of secrets and a reflector of the world around us, and further, the island as crucible and the island as protector. These two themes have formed the basis of my visual perspective about Anatomy. That the blue horizon of the sea both provides a strong line in the camera frame, a place upon which to balance the lives of these boys, and a strong line through those same lives that leads them inexorably to their fates.Production begins in just ten days and I look forward to realizing the visual splendor and emotional highs and lows of the film through the small viewfinder on our camera set out in the wilds of Maine's mid coast. I look forward to sharing more of these insights and experiences as the film gets underway.Daniel G. Stephenscinematographer for Anatomy of the Tide
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