South Australian Kirsty Stark talks about her experience as the inaugural winner of the NFSA/ACS John Leake OAM ACS Award to an Emerging Cinematographer.
Having shot a number of short films at university, including two on Super 16mm film, I realised that I had since been unable to shoot on film. This was partly due to the emergence of digital formats and partly due to the difficulty in raising the money required for film-based projects.
Consequently, I started the Epic Films project with another emerging cinematographer, Vivyan Madigan. We planned to each shoot a short film on s16mm, while giving emerging writers, directors and other key creatives the opportunity to work on a semi-professional film set, under the mentorship of industry professionals.
As well as the ACS/NFSA grant, we raised our budget through a fundraising quiz night, grants from the Helpmann Academy and significant in-kind support from local film companies and industry professionals. After inviting local Adelaide writers to submit scripts, we set up a selection panel, and chose Landscape Scene and L’Artiste! to go into production.
Landscape Scene, shot by Vivyan, is the story of a painter who sets up his easel to paint the perfect landscape, only to come across something more sinister when a hit man arrives at a quarry in the distance, ready to shoot his victim. It was written by Luke Marsden and directed by Mike Williamson, and stars David Wilson, Checc Musolino and Vince Poletto.
L’Artiste!, which I shot, is about a mime who goes on an imaginary shooting spree in a park, drawing an unsuspecting public in on his greatest act. It was written and directed by Luke Marsden.
Both films were shot back to back in a week in Adelaide on a property near Victor Harbour. Guidance came from industry mentors, including Ernie Clark ACS, our cinematography mentor, and Leona Cichon, our producing mentor, who worked with us from the initial stages of the project. The ACS/NFSA $5000 grant was used to hire a s16mm Arri SR3 camera from Cameraquip in Melbourne, as well as pay for the processing and telecine of our film rushes.
Working on s16mm was a fantastic learning curve for everyone involved in the projects and we put a lot of time into planning exactly how we would make use of our few rolls of film. As a cinematographer, I learnt a huge amount throughout the entire process of the projects, from planning a film-based project to working with film on set and even discovering what is possible in a film colour grade in post, thanks to the support of Oasis Post.
L’Artiste and Landscape Scene premiered to around 300 people over two screenings at the Mercury Cinema in April. They received very positive responses from the audiences and we now plan to enter the films into festivals both in Australia and overseas.
Copies will also be sent to the National Film and Sound Archive to be placed in their collection.
Image: a still from the film L’Artiste!