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10 Days, 2 Cameras, Infinite Possibilities: Creative Production Solutions for ‘Be Somebody’

"The [Canon C300 Mark II] had better resolution and dynamic range than the original, and it had a smaller setup than the it was perfect for this all-handheld shoot," says DP Eve M. Cohen.

When people endeavor to shoot a feature film in Los Angeles on a ten-day schedule, everyone involved had better be prepared to hit the ground running. The creative team of Be Somebody, currently streaming on several platforms, made sure they were ready to tackle just about any contingency when they started shooting last December. The film was directed by Joshua Caldwell and shot by frequent collaborator Eve M. Cohen.

“The more prep you have, the better off you are,” Cohen says, noting that they had two weeks to prep the two-week shoot. She says that their experience with locations on this film was similar to that of most lower-budget films: “You think you’re going to end up at one location and you suddenly can’t shoot there, but you still don’t have time to wait around.”

The film concerns Emily (Sarah Jeffery), a not-very-popular high school senior, and her chance encounter with Justin Bieber-like pop star Jordan Jaye (Vine star Matthew Espinosa). As she hides the runaway celebrity, who is fleeing the pressures of fame, the two form an unusual friendship. Shooting took place entirely in real houses, schools and hangouts in the Los Angeles area.

“Location shooting with a lot of company moves is always tiring, but Josh and I had a great plan of attack,” Cohen says. Caldwell rehearsed with the actors and worked closely in preproduction with editor Will Torbett.

Cohen, who shot everything entirely handheld with two Canon EOS C300 Mark II cameras, elaborates, “We talked a lot about extra things we could grab that could help tell the story and fill in moments in case we couldn’t get everything we wanted.”

Cinematographer Eve M. Cohen.

The crew was small, consisting of a first assistant pulling focus for each camera, a shared second and a DIT. “We would shoot [cross coverage] as much as we could but sometimes didn’t want to compromise lighting setup. Sometimes B-camera would just pick off things that might be interesting.”

The C300 Mark II had just come out when they commenced shooting. “I’d shot a lot of documentary work on the original C300. It was a workhorse and I was really interested in seeing the Mark II for a narrative work. The [Mark II] camera had better resolution and dynamic range than the original, and it had a smaller setup than the C500, which would have needed an external recorder, so it was perfect for this all-handheld shoot.”

They recorded to CF cards in Canon Log Gamma 2. The Mark II offers 12-bit 2K and 10-bit 4K recording modes; Cohen chose increased bit depth over resolution, in part to have that much more information to work with during the grade. The DP rented the camera bodies with PL mounts to accommodate Cooke S4 prime lenses, which she supplemented when necessary with Angenieux Optimo and Canon Cinema Zoom lenses.

The cameras were mounted inside cages from Wooden Camera that she carried for the duration of the shoot. “I like Wooden’s accessories,” she says, noting that she and Caldwell both operated. “I like a heavier camera and Josh likes a lighter feel. We had three different size rigs: a big one with all the accessories, a real lightweight down-and-dirty rig with just the camera and lens, and one that was in between.”

Gaffer Anthony Stivale had access to a relatively large lighting package from the Leonetti Company, which allowed for interiors to be lit with big HMIs pushing through windows and gave the actors and operators freedom to roam nearly 360 degrees around the space. Big lights notwithstanding, there was still a limit to how much control Cohen could have of natural sunlight given the small crew and a schedule requiring they cross off as many as 11 pages a day.

Here, Cohen says she took advantage of the dynamic range of the Mark II’s sensor and the 12-bit C Log format. “We had a ton of information to work with in the grade,” she says. “Knowing that, I knew I could be more flexible on set if the light outside changed. I wouldn’t say I ‘fixed it in post,’ but I would say that the [dynamic range we took into the grade] saved us money later.”