ICG ECA Winners Shoot Shorts on Film

Published on website: January 29, 2014
Categories: Awards , Industry , The StoryBoard Blog
(L-R) Kodak's Bob Mastronardi, honoree Carmin Petramale, Steven Poster ASC, honoree VanNessa Namlunas and Dejan Georgevich ASC at the International Cinematographers Guild’s annual Emerging Cinematographer Awards

The 2013 winners of the International Cinematographers Guild Emerging Cinematographer Awards have gotten to see their work on the big screen with showings in Los Angeles, New York and the Ojai Film Festival. Most recently, the winning short films screened at the 2013 edition of Camerimage in Poland. Here’s a look at how VanNessa Manlunas and Camrin Petramale relied on film to tell their stories:

King of Norway / VanNessa Manlunas
Manlunas, a second assistant based in Los Angeles, knew she was lucky when she began talks with writer-director Sylvia Sether for the autobiographical short film King of Norway, where Sether made it clear that she only saw her story being shot on film.

“Because of the story (about Sether’s own father involved in a tragic boating accident) and its vulnerability,” says Manlunas, “we needed something more raw, that had a texture that felt like it was lived in. We felt that digital was too clean looking for the story we wanted to tell.”

The project raised money on Indiegogo, but funds were still limited of course. They had planned to shoot on 35mm because of cost factors, but a few days before their start date, Panavision notified them of a grant they had won. Manlunas was able to use an older stock she’d been keeping her eye on in order to maintain the grain and stay away from that polished look.

“This was my first time shooting film,” says Manlunas, “so you can imagine the gravity of that and the excitement of the project as a whole. I’d spoken to a lot of friends and colleagues about shooting film and I’d loaded a lot on commercials with Kodak’s (VISION3 Color Negative Film) 5219 - a very fine-grain stock. So from that I knew I wanted to go with an older stock with more grain. The 16mm 7230 was what I’d originally wanted.”

The opening scene of King of Norway takes place under water with the camera diving into the sea, mimicking what Sether’s father saw, falling into the depths. Manlunas spent two days on that scene, testing with DSLRs to see how the bubbles looked coming up past the lens.

“I watched the footage on my laptop that night to see the tests,” she recalls, “and in no way can it replicate anything that 16mm did for us in the end. After seeing it on the big screen, the bubbles are the first thing everyone mentions to me. The visuals lend themselves to the story so well that I’m not sure any other capture medium would have worked the way 16mm did.”

The grant from Panavision, that included an ARRI SR3 camera package, allowed the King of Norway team to allocate those funds instead to purchasing the film. And the results are more than Manlunas could have ever hoped for.

“I had no idea that through the cinematography this film was going to pick up speed the way that it did,” she admits. “Just getting through the production process was the end goal for me. When I submitted to the ECAs I told myself, ‘If it’s meant to be, it will be, and if it’s not, it’s not.’ That phone call from (ICG President) Steven Poster really took me by surprise.”

Memoirs of a Parapsychologist / Camrin Petramale
For Petramale, a loader from Chicago, it’s no shock seeing his work on a television, having shot numerous national and regional commercials and a TV show. But this experience has been the first time he’s had his work seen by so many people at once and on a big screen.

“Since I want to transition into doing more narratives,” says Petramale, “it's a proud moment, and also an incredibly humbling experience to have my work seen by not only my fellow brothers and sisters in the ICG, but also by members of the ASC, who, as a young cinematographer, I've looked up to since I first fell in love with movies.”

Memoirs of a Parapsychologist is a short film about a young man staying in a haunted farmhouse that awakens the demons of his tortured childhood. The line between reality and the paranormal becomes blurred and he must navigate the treacherous limbo between sanity and madness.

“As a cinematographer,” explains Petramale, “I was searching for images with energy that served the story. Film allowed me to create visuals that coincide with the lead characters' psyche. Film gave me the freedom to have my images slowly change and evolve with my character and manipulate the audiences' feelings accordingly. Film echoed the look we needed. I knew even before I tested that I wanted to shoot on 35mm.”

Ultimately, film allowed Petramale to play with granularity and use it to help tell the story. “As a whole story, film aided the evolution of the narrative to happen in a way that the tone and mood could be felt by the audience,” he explains. “Shooting digital would not have given me the same effect and I don't think the story would have come across properly.”

Petramale relied on equipment from Columbia College and Panavision Hollywood, as well as a generous stock deal from Kodak. With that money saved, he was able to get a 2K scan and all the camera accessories he needed for the film.

“It’s a very different genre from anything I’ve done before,” says Petramale. “I really wanted to show my versatility, and I came to the realization that I would have to do something out of my comfort zone in order succeed. I started researching a lot of horror films like Jacob’s Ladder and The Shining just to try and get a better understanding of the style. My previous work involved shooting people as characters, but I feel that with the horror genre the atmosphere and the setting themselves are also characters and a lot of my work went to create a good representation of that, with the help of Kodak stocks, of course.”

King of Norway and Memoirs of a Parapsychologist from Emerging Cinematographer Awards on Vimeo.