Bad Penny

Andy Brame: Director/writer
Phillip Elgie: Director of Photography
Ally Beiswanger: 1st AC
Greg Boyd: Gaffer/2nd AC
Sean Hurt: Sound
Benjamin Wilson: Still Photographer


I was asked recently to shoot a short film, "Bad Penny" by Andrew Brame. I love shooting things like this, but this one had some unique challenges that I had to address, so I thought that it would help if I worked through the process...

On set with my 1st AC Ally Beiswanger. Photo courtesy of Benjamin Wilson

On set with my 1st AC Ally Beiswanger. Photo courtesy of Benjamin Wilson

Challenge #1: One shot

        After speaking with the director, reading the treatment, and talking through everything from story, locations, characters, and lighting, we decided that the most effective way to shoot this, was to do the entire film in one shot. (Actually three shots, but more on that later). The first thing that this meant was I would not be able to adjust exposure, or lenses from scene to scene so I would have to be able to shoot on a camera and lens setup that met certain requirements: 

  1. It would have to be light enough to carry since we were going handheld in order to follow the action.
  2. Since we were shooting outside, lighting was going to change, so I wanted to make sure the cameras dynamic range would be enough that we wouldn't clip highlights or lose too much in the shadows, we did use some reflectors and negative fill, but I didn't want to risk it. 
  3. The lens would have to be able to facilitate tight closeups and good establishing wide shots in a fairly tight area.
  4. We wanted to use a gimbal, because after testing it out, shoulder mounted ended up being too shaky during the walking scenes.

So, I decided on this gear:

  1. Sony A7SII
  2. Rokinon 24mm t1.4 lens
  3. DJI Ronin-M with thumb controller
  4. Ikan Wireless follow Focus
  5. SmallHD DP-4  

Challenge #2: Lighting

        Since we decided that we weren't going to cut during a scene, the lighting had to stay the same and remain in the same position during the shoot. This made it a little difficult to fine tune, but knowing the story and actors blocking helped me decide where to point the lights and which to use for what parts. I decided that the best way for us to work, was to light "pockets" of the scene where the actors were going to deliver there lines and the majority of the action occured. Here is the lighting plan that I gave to the director and gaffer for the interior part of the shoot.  

Interior Lighting Diagram.jpg

Challenge #3: Transitions

        Hands down the most difficult thing that we encountered was how to transition from shot to shot. During the film we follow the action from outside, to inside a coffee shop, and then back outside again. Transitioning these shots makes it slightly easier because things like exposure and white balance are going to change, but figuring out a way to make this seamless was quite difficult indeed. We ended up using a combination of whip pans, running the camera into things and cutting to the next shot as it fills the screen, and moving the camera through a window to make it seem like the camera is a part of the scene but unconstrained by physical objects.

        The key to success in any of these situations is having a plan, simulating the camera flying through a window can be difficult, but knowing what we wanted to accomplish allowed me to do tests beforehand to make sure that on shoot day, there wasn't any questions as to what we needed to do to make it happen. Having people wait on you to shoot is never a good thing. 

There were a lot of unique challenges that we had to overcome in order to shoot this, but all in all, it was an amazing experience and we ended up with a product that we are super proud of and would not have been possible without the top shelf cast & crew that we had working together towards a unified vision. I was lucky to be a part of it. 

Here's to the next one...