The Cinderella Moon production rented my camera as the “B cam” and I was going along for camera support and to help shoot VFX plates for the production. For 3 months (57 shooting days) the production traveled from 5 different remote villages throughout south-west China and finishing just outside Beijing. It was an intense shoot.
When I arrived, I quickly learned that the VFX supervisor I was to work under had a scheduling conflict. The director, Richard Bowen, quickly put me in charge of acquiring all the VFX shots. I can remember Richard telling me, “I’m sure you’ll figure it out.”
Keep in mind that I was brought on the production late, and had not attended any of the pre-production meetings. In fact, I had just arrived in China a day before.
So for the first half of the production, I was on set following the main crew and taking copious notes for all the shots that needed VFX background plates. I measured tilt, lens, aperture and focus data in my VFX camera log. All the while I helped support the two RED cameras and data backups on the shoot with my crew, Samuel Lam, Max Chan and Megan Olinger. This was important because not all the VFX shots were outlined in the shot list, and often a shot would require a background plate to fill in the correct landscape we wanted.
Then about 40 days into the shoot I would ship off to a remote location in the Baoshan Mountains 8,000 feet above sea level. This was probably the most amazing village I’ve ever seen to date. Armed with camera gear, my notes, a long list of shots, and hard-drive full of reference captures from the A/B cameras so I could check my work directly with the real footage. My task here was to shoot the distinctive mountain range that would be inserted into the background of the various scenes that were shot in other locations. We were effectively making five different villages look like one. The key aspect of that illusion would be our “hero” mountain range.
Baoshan AKA “Stone City” 7.47998658898007,100.4338788986206
For 10 days I would get up before sunrise, throw on a 40-pound pack filled with camera gear and hike up 500 vertical feet up the mountain and shoot. Then with some planning, I would hike down the mountain and hit various spots along the village and river to cover the various background shots needed. I would hike one thousand vertical feet every day, up and down stone stairs, along steep farm tiers and irrigation channels to find the perfect shots.
During the heat of the day (and it was HOT) I would huddle up inside my shady guest room and test my day’s work by comping the shots I had taken with footage from the shoot using After Effects. Weather, sun angle and camera angle where all important factors in trying to get the shots to match. Hiking back to the same place 3 or 4 times wasn’t out of the question – just to get the shot I needed.
Though I was thrown into managing the VFX shoot, I was thankful that I had 20 years of organizational and CGI skills to get me through the task. What I thought would be an experience where I’d further learn from incredibly experience cinematographers and VFX artist, turned out to be a no holds barred dive into the responsibility of getting it all done. There was no one but me to make it happen. All and all it was an amazing adventure.
Here are some of my BTS photos (and a select group of other crew photos) from the shoot: