Focus On Film

Two Little Boys Goes for a Beautifully Grim Look

Sarkies on location with Fitzgerald in the Catlins (Photos: Matt Grace, ©Tent Pole Films Ltd.)
Fitzgerald with crew on location in the Catlins, New Zealand (Photos: Matt Grace, ©Tent Pole Films Ltd.)
Sarkies on location with Fitzgerald (Photos: Matt Grace, ©Tent Pole Films Ltd.)

The New Zealand film Two Little Boys is an irreverent comedy that follows the riotous adventures of Nige (Bret McKenzie, Flight of the Conchords) and Deano (Hamish Blake, Hamish and Andy) as they struggle with their imploding long-term friendship. The relationship has been put under pressure by an unfortunate incident involving a hot meat pie, a ginger cat, and the untimely death of a Scandinavian soccer star.

Cinematographer Jac Fitzgerald (After the Waterfall) shot Two Little Boys using the new AATON PENELOPE camera in 2-perf mode. It was shot in Invercargill and the Catlins coast at the southernmost tip of New Zealand’s South Island in January and February 2011.

Two Little Boys is set in 1993 and required a look that could take an audience back to this period without it feeling dated. Director Rob Sarkies explains why he used three Kodak Film stocks to help achieve this. “We used KODAK VISION2 Expression 500T Color Negative Film 5229 for flashback scenes (1970s, 1980s and World War One) to differentiate these scenes from the 1993 material, which used KODAK VISION3 500T Color Negative Film 5219 and KODAK VISION3 250D Color Negative Film 5207. We shot 2:35 on 2-perf using a pair of AATON PENELOPE cameras with Ultra Primes.

“Film certainly helped to sell our period,” continues Sarkies, “even though we’ve given it quite a fresh modern grade. Much of the look was created in the art direction. The sets are a study in beige and brown that didn’t require much grading to look ‘beautifully grim,’ a phrase that pretty much sums up the look we were going for. When the story takes to the road, we wanted to emphasize the isolated beauty of the southern landscape and contrast that with the less-than-beautiful situation our characters find themselves in.

“We chose film because cinematographer Jac Fitzgerald and I both love its look, texture and its magic, which enables you to transport an audience into the dreamscape of a story,” explains Sarkies. “Film can feel gritty and beautiful at the same time, which felt right for the story. We were shooting many exteriors in harsh New Zealand light, which begged for film’s dynamic range. For this story, there were also practical concerns about shooting in one of the most isolated parts of New Zealand; film has been proven to be reliable in harsh environments.”

Along with the harsh environments, Sarkies says they had to contend with the weather. “We shot in summer but we had everything from hail to gale-force winds to contend with. We also had large-scale, night street scenes to shoot (in summer with only eight hours of actual night in that part of the world) and an extended night lighthouse climax which included a lot of greenscreen work. Overall it was a challenging shoot logistically with over 50 locations — so we were constantly on the move, up and down the coast chasing (and being chased by) the weather all the way.

“Shooting wildlife interacting with comedians was also a big challenge,” adds Sarkies. “The film contains scenes with penguins, sea lions and dolphins, which certainly made the producers nervous as achieving them was such an unknown. But in every case the wildlife ‘performed’ as expected and a bit of magic was captured on film. Shooting our actor Maaka Pohatu surrounded by a flock of rare Yellow-eyed Penguins as the sun rises was one of the highlights of the shoot — and looks incredible in the finished film,” concludes Sarkies.

Two Little Boys was selected for the prestigious Berlin Film Festival Generation Section in 2012, and will be playing in New Zealand and Australia.

“We chose film because [we] both love its look, texture and its magic, which enables you to transport an audience into the dreamscape of a story.”

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