February 24, 2007

Revisiting FilmZambia Crew Reels

BY CYNDI GREENING, PHOENIX, USA — Working on the film trailers has us revisting all of the shooting days and recalling the terrific, dedicated work of our amazing FilmZambia crew. Their dedication and determination were unparalleled. So, a reminder to take a look at their reels if you're looking for a crew member who will do whatever it takes to get your film done!

December 12, 2006

Happy Birthday, Cyndi!! We love you!

Cyndi and younger sister Sandy in the driveway on Grandma Greening's farm in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin. Sandy found the haircuts quite alarming ... Prince Valiant, anyone? The shoes are something else, too! Mine look a little large while Sandy's look a little on the tight side. Notice how her feet are punching up like bread rising in a pan. Sandy was one of my best buddies in my youth and continues to be one of my closest allies. Seeing the photo of the two of us is a terrific birthday gift!

Pamela, "BA" Bowman
Happy 50th birthday!
There are so many things I could tell the world about you. Nervous? You should be! Let’s see…

You are who you are and “you are quite clear” on what you want. What is unique about you is your ability to help others gain clarity on what they want. I have benefited from your constant teaching this year. You have given those you know such a profound gift of self. As you have given us a sense of who we are I have watched you discover more of who you are. It is true we call you the GT (giant toddler), but in truth we all need to be more childlike. We all need to accept and love people as they are. This empowers all to become more of who they are intended to be.

Thank you for all you have done this year. I am quite confident that your next half century’s contribution to the world will be very significant, valuable and LARGE! Your brilliance is shining brighter all the time. We are not blinded by the light, but guided by it.

Thank you Cyndi. I celebrate your life.
Always, Pamela

M.K. "Gypsy Punk" Racine
Joyeux Anniversaire, Cyndi!

This is the second year I have been able to be part of your birthday and I hope to continue this well into the future. You have come to be a major part of my life, Cyndi. Academically you enabled me to flourish in the creative and supportive environment you so patiently and consistently provided. And eventually, the technical expertise you supplied me with, met the creativity I had within. Thank you!

Professionally, you entrusted me in roles and responsibilities far beyond that of which I thought I was capable. Again, I learned from you not in a classroom, but in the openness of a country primed for growth and opportunity, a reflection of me. How can I possibly thank you enough?

Personally, Cyndi, you have become a dear friend, one who provides humor, words of wisdom, comfort, compassion, knowledge, a positive perspective, and timely wit, among so many other gifts.

I don’t believe there is a birthday gift ample enough to show my appreciation for you and the various ways in which you have enriched and impacted my life. This birthday I wish you all the happiness you can handle through the gifts of love, friendship, good fortune, success, prosperity, good health and all other gifts important to you. Thank you and Happy Birthday, Makumba!

Je t’aime! –MK

Carlos "Shake Shake" Espinosa
Feliz cumpleanos…

Cyndi, well what can I say, even though I have known you for quite a few years already, I have not formally said happy birthday to you, You always hide it so well.

The big Five-0; well you are young at heart. It has been a privilege to be one of your students, to learn from you, to be motivated by you, to get pushed like nobody has pushed me before and more importantly to have your friendship. You have given me many wonderful gifts in life and this I cannot repay you...thanks for everything you have done for me.

So far, you have accomplished great things in life, and it seems that you are just getting started, I hope to be part of many more birthdays and experiences.

Te deseo felicidad, prosperidad, salud, amor y dinero……Cheers!

Nick "Tick-Tock" Marshall


Well wishes for all birthday celebrations! Thank you for sharing some of your knowledge and honesty with me. You've been a patient teacher and a caring friend. I hope your birthday is joyful and fun.


Jared "Grace" Moschau
I wish you a happy birthday and the best big 5-0. You have been a great influence on me and have pushed me to do things that I wouldn’t make myself do and I am not the only one. You are a role model to everyone that is part of the crew and also like a mother. I appreciate everything you have done for me and the opportunities that you have given to me. I hope you have another 50 great years.
Happy B-day Cyndi,

Robby "NPB" Brown
Hey Cyndi, Happy Birthday…The way I see it, the glass is half full…love you, Robby!

Michael Montesa

Happy Birthday Cyndi. Thank you so much for everything. Thank you for being my awesome mentor and for letting me work with you through all these years. Thanks for all the advice and thanks for being sweet and caring friend.




More birthday wishes to come throughout the WEEK!!!!
Alec "Sleeping Beauty" Hart
Jacob "Jacobo" Felix
Shawn "Nikolai" Downs
Edgar "Billie Jean" Rider
Heath "Karaoke King" McKinney

November 21, 2006

New Perspectives

Cblog.jpgBY CARLOS ESPINOSA, MESA, ARIZONA, USA - This last week, I went to an electronic store (no names) and came across a few nice cameras. I was looking at a Canon XL2 and a few Sonys that I cannot recall the models. It was weird since I was viewing the cameras differently this time, since my trip to Africa. At first, I did not notice but it became clear what I was doing. I was like, "Hmmm, no I don't like this button here, or why is this here, they should have placed this here....” and so on. As I held each camera, some models felt more natural to hold than others. It was funny because, in the past, I always read reviews about different camera models. I guess this time I was doing my own reviews, contemplating which camera I would donate my kidney to purchase over another.

Lately, I have been able to watch more films, since I have a little more free time on hand, and I see them differently. The way they are shot, the way they are edited, it seems like I used to have on foggy glasses and now, everything looks more clear as to why films are shot and edited as they are...or at least I think so. This takes me to the next thought and that is, what is next? I want to start working on something now but it is harder when you are going solo. So, umm, hello? I am eager to start a new project, or even continue to provide support on editing the documentary and the feature film.

About two weekends ago I was able to participate in a 24hr film festival by Apple. I worked with some of the crew members again. Even though the film was not completed how we wanted, we had a blast. It felt so good to go out and work on something you have a passion for and love doing. Even if this meant getting up at 4:30 a.m. with almost no sleep at all. While shooting, I felt more comfortable than before, setting the camera up quickly and getting good shots; especially since it was dark and a little tricky to focus (because of a fence that was in front of the action). I was able to shoot through it, however. Maybe the pressure was not as high, or I like to think that what I experienced in Africa has helped me to be more confident in my work. I only wish I could be part of more projects, but then I realized that between the real world, my job and my obligations, at times this is harder to do. Maybe soon I will have a job that revolves around film, where I will be able to focus all of my energy towards and do great things.

It is an odd feeling that next month it will be three months since that great adventure in Africa. I was home sick this weekend, so I went back and read every single blog from day one. It is interesting to read our thoughts and our expectations before going to Africa, while being there and after coming back. Reading these blogs took me back there. I could not help to laugh many times, having these images play back in my head while reading some of the blogs. I wonder if we will ever have an opportunity to do something like this again. For some reason, one day is sticking out in my head and this was when we went to shoot the exterior shots of the town. Even though we still had a strict schedule to follow, the day was rather quiet, calm and very fun. I could tell that the skeleton crew was having a great time shooting and going around Lusaka. It was not fun, however, when Mike was slacking in alerting me of oncoming traffic...good times.

September 22, 2006

Blast from the past

_MG_8242.jpg BY CARLOS "SHAKE SHAKE" ESPINOSA, TEMPE, ARIZONA - It’s early Monday morning and I am a little grumpy; it is my first day back to work. I came into the building and it feels extremely odd being here. When I came to my desk, I noticed that my calendar read Monday, August 7th. The moment froze and it quickly took me back to that day. I remember being extremely excited, scared and paranoid, trying to make sure I had all my medicine and other items ready for Zambia. I remember that I kept calling Mike, asking random questions about the amount of stuff he was taking. Even though I went over my luggage twice, once I got to Lusaka, I realized I had forgotten items back home. My thoughts and memories were interrupted when I saw I had 1089 emails to read and people waiting for my help; nice way to come back to work.

This trip has had a big impact on me; I have discovered and strengthened my beliefs in what I want to do with my life. While being in Lusaka, I found it weird that I would come home to the lodge extremely drained from working all day, eat late, get almost no sleep, but always looked forward to the next day, in order to do it all over again. I was talking to Cyndi yesterday and she asked me if I wanted to shoot some interviews for her…if I wanted to, my response was simple, I would love to. I think I have been exposed to what I really want to do in life, and it is hard when I am away from it.

We, the crew, have been talking about how we want to keep working on other projects. Cyndi has shared her thoughts that we could actually start working in the industry now, by going our own separate ways. I am sure most of the crew has a great amount of potential for success in the film industry. The only thing in the back of my head is - it will never be the same. Especially if it is not going to be with the crew I was part of for 27 days…the Film Zambia crew. I can’t explain how, in this short amount of time, these people made such a huge impact in my life.

During the last week in Lusaka, I remember thinking “this is it." In only one week we would be heading back home to return to our lives. On the plane ride, I had a feeling similar to when one crams before a big test. I was trying to remember everything about the moment, since I knew that it was the last time I would be around everyone.

Editing the film has bought me more time to be around the crew, but I can’t help thinking, what’s going to happen once these films are done?

For the documentary, we were asked about images that were burned in our minds. For one reason or another, the following moments were never documented. They are burned in my mind, when I think of the crew.

Edgar: Trying to kick the soccer ball, missing completely, then falling.
Nick: “What if Jacobo jumps”
Robby: First one to throw up…..I had money on Grace
Shawn: Also going down while playing soccer…at least he kicked the ball!
Mike: Giggling like a 12yr. old boy at Christmas
Jacob: For building the Flintstones-cam
Jared: Smacking his head everywhere, it sounded like a bell.
Heath: Karaoke nights
Alec: Dancing with the people from the bus – but you pulled a Robby
Pam: BA...enough said
Jeniece: Scene 89. I am shocked Jeniece was not holding her camera while working the slate
M.K.: Screaming like crazy over a spider…. as well as screaming while cheating at speed.
Cyndi: Falling down in Livingstone - sorry Cyndi
And myself...falling down while pushing a car; hey I was laughing so it was all good.

There are also those moments when I hear, see, feel something that takes me back to Lusaka. I was at the doctor’s office the other day, waiting for my name to be called. I sat in this uncomfortable chair and began to fall asleep. At some point, I thought I was back in Lusaka, sleeping on the bus; I was brought into reality when the nurse called me in.

I will never forget my time in Lusaka, even though it was hard, stressful and at times I wanted to pull my hair out. The payoff that I took was so much greater than everything combined. I can’t thank everyone enough for the experience they gave me.

September 08, 2006

Production Crew Slideshow


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September 07, 2006

The real world

oss1.jpgBY CARLOS "SHAKE SHAKE" ESPINOSA, MESA, AZ, USA - So apparently we traveled 33 hours back to Phoenix. My body is telling me the flights took about 4 days, but my mind is telling me that they only took a couple hours. One minute we were paying our fee to leave Zambia, the next I see Mike having trouble in Johannesburg with his ticket and his camera bag. Another minute later, I am walking the streets of London thinking about the rich history of its country and by then I was listening to the pilot tell us, "we will be landing in Sky Harbor in 20 minutes."

As I was leaving the airport on Monday night, I could remember the day I was getting dropped off to fly to Lusaka, the very beginning of it all. Little did I know how the next 27 days would unfold to be one of the most extraordinary times I have experienced. Flying home had its funny events, like being woken up by an old man kicking me over and over, and M.K. spilling a full cup of water on me and my seat, very early on in the trip. The stories and memories did not stop when we arrived in Phoenix. I hope that they don't and that this is the beginning of great things to come.

WaterSpot.jpgThings are out of place at the moment. I drove back from the airport and once I got home, felt like I was missing luggage. I started looking for the Sony bag, but remembered that I relinquished my duties of taking care of my "baby" once we arrived in Phoenix. I did not eat like I had planned; yet, did take a long warm shower and then went to sleep. It was odd waking up to different sounds, different smells and a different place. I woke up looking for the couch that was in our room at Kwazulu Kraal, to see who slept on it (Mike or Shawn) but there was no couch. I opened the door to my room and did not see Heath outside, waiting for everybody to wake up. There was no more pool table or chairs waiting for people to debrief the activities of the day. Even though I am home, I feel out of place and I miss the place we called home for a month. Being here feels good, but this cannot replace the void and sadness of leaving the people I knew as my family….the crew.

During this experience, I got to meet great people and I know everybody worked so hard to get this project accomplished. I know I learned and took something valuable from each crew member. During our stay, we encountered many setbacks and, at times, it felt like there was something that was preventing us from completing the project. However, at the end of the day, the crew came together and we took care of business. My roommates Mike and Shawn made my stay more tolerable. On and off the set we always had fun…thanks guys. I cannot say enough of or to every single person on the crew, other than THANKS for the great memories and I hope we can all work together in the next project. Cyndi, thanks for providing me with this great opportunity and putting your trust in me. I learned a lot during this project and I hope to work by your side in future projects.


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September 02, 2006

Get to the Chopper ... Quick!

goToTheChopper.jpgBY CARLOS "SHAKE SHAKE" ESPINOSA, LUSAKA, ZAMBIA, AFRICA - These last couple days have been … rather amazing, kind of hard to describe them. This past weekend we traveled down to Livingstone; the ride was a little long but we once we arrived, it was well worth it. The next day we went to Victoria Falls. I am glad that I got the opportunity to see one of the natural wonders of the world. I got to capture footage from the falls but it was a litte difficult and frustrating to shoot since the mist of the falling water spray the path. I was trying to avoid getting the camera wet and I used my sweater to protect the gear. At that point, I finally realized what I had in front of me, and stopped to enjoy the beauty and power of the falls. I was not able to take any still photos but Shawn came through and took some great ones for me.

Later that day, we got a bigger surprise when we found out that we where going to be capturing some aerial footage by helicopter. Once we got to the charter site, things moved quickly and the next thing I knew I was asking the person who assists on the heli-pad to double check my seat belt. Shooting out of a helicopter with the door open was unreal; the view was amazing. At times, I felt like yelling but I don’t think everybody would have enjoyed that since we all had headsets on for communication. I don’t think I have ever held a camera like that before. I remember thinking, “Don’t drop the camera. Don't drop the camera.”

One thing I have learned about shooting a film is that you have to be on your toes and ready for everything - we did everything from push-starting a bus to shooting out of a helicopter. The feeling I have about the experience will last a lifetime and I know when I look back at this I will always have a smile on my face. The people from Zambia and the crew have had a great impact on me and I will hope to use this experience down the road.

August 27, 2006

Last one

carlos_mk_jeniece_pam.jpgBY CARLOS ESPINOSA, LUSAKA, ZAMBIA, AFRICA - This is our last week, time has gone by so quickly; I can’t believe this is our last week in Zambia. Part of me is ready to go home but at the same time I do wish to stay longer in this country. Since I don’t use a computer on a regular basis, or cellphone, I don’t have any sense of time; I am frequently corrected by somebody letting me know that it is not the day I think it is. I feel a little disconnected.

This last week was a little tough on me. I started my week a little tired from the previous week. Shooting the film has been very challenging and demanding. I had a difficult day this last week where things were just not falling into place; I was getting frustrated and I felt like just going back to the room and calling it a day. However, we had a small meeting where we regrouped and went back to work. At the end of the day, I felt better about the work we accomplished. I have learned that once you begin shooting a film, there is NO stopping it. Everybody depends on each other to keep pushing the shooting.

This Friday and Saturday, we blew some steam out. On Friday we went out for dinner and karaoke. Then we went out dancing at a Zambian club. We had a lot of fun, the group has bonded really well and I know I am going to miss everybody. Saturday we got to play Soccer with a team from Zambia, it was fun to go out there to break some sweat, but of course we got creamed.

So, I am going into this last week with mixed emotions, this has been an amazing experience and in a sense I don’t want it to end. However, I will return home with a sense of accomplishment and pride in the work we have done here in Zambia - it's been worth it all.

August 19, 2006

One Down

CARLOS ESPINOSA - LUSAKA, ZAMBIA, AFRICA - Well the first week is over; all I can say is that I am very exhausted. We finally got our lighting issues resolved and we are moving along. This week was very tough, we have been working very hard to keep up with our schedule and complete the shoot. I think I am not the only one to say this, while changing to a different scene, I can see everybody trying to catch a breather and even caught some sleeping.

bad_timing_crew.jpgI can’t say enough of how hard the crew has worked, I think everybody knows our roles and as soon as we hear “set up”, you see everybody doing their own thing to begin shooting. I have learned so much this week, mainly to adapt to different situations, this being a tight room to shoot, light, power source, but we have overcome every single obstacle so far. The last two days, we got to shoot with the glidecam, dolly and the steadicam, even though it is a little more complicated, I am enjoying every minute of it, we are capturing some great shots.

This week, we got to shoot in ZNBC and yesterday we got to see Cyndi get interviewed live on the ZNBC “Better TV” show. It was fun seeing the camera people work and see the different techniques they use to shoot live TV, as well as the live editing. We also got to come out and introduce ourselves on live TV.
I am looking forward for week two to continue with the shooting; hopefully we won’t have a lot of surprises like we did the first week.

August 14, 2006


carlosVillage.jpgBY CARLOS ESPINOSA, LUSAKA, ZAMBIA, AFRICA | It’s hard to believe that we are finally in Zambia. The flight was an adventure of its own; it was not real fun. I think I only got a total of three hours of sleep in our long two days of international travel. However once we got here, those hardships seemed well worth it. Dr. Angoma has been very kind, providing every accommodation for the crew; he is very nice and giving person.

We had an opportunity to go to a village yesterday to watch the N’goni warriors dance. I cannot adequately describe this experience with words; it left me virtually speechless. I was a little shocked when we got there since it was almost sunset and we needed to shoot the dance. I was able to get in the mix with the warriors and get some close-ups. It was not hard to feel the energy from the warriors; at times I was almost dancing with them while shooting. It was not until we got back to the resort and went over the footage that I realized the number of people that were there to greet us and be part of the event -- it was amazing.

Today was the first day to shoot the feature film, but we had some technical difficulties with the electricity. On location, we blew light bulbs and a transformer. It was a bummer since we were primed to begin shooting. We think we have the technical problems ironed out now (keep your fingers crossed!) and are looking forward to Day 2 when we can really begin shooting BAD T!IMING.

August 01, 2006

Film Zambia Crew


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July 23, 2006

Taking Notes and Visualizing the Films

notes.jpg BY CARLOS ESPINOSA, MESA, ARIZONA, USA - I think I am a very visual person. If somebody is telling me a story or how their day went, at times, I can’t help but visualize the events that they are describing. The first time I was reading the script, it was hard for me to stay focused because I was envisioning all of the characters and the buildings. I have been taking lots of notes lately between reading books and watching movies. I have been exploring what I think is great cinematography and I have gathered a few films to study and take some notes on BAD T!MING.

I read Cinematography Screencraft. The book has a compilation from several great cinematographers and how they have found success. Janusz Kaminski (who did the cinematography for SCHINDLER'S LIST, AMISTAD, SAVING PRIVATE RYAN and HOW TO MAKE AN AMERICAN QUILT to name a few) believes using minimal light gives directors and actors more freedom and allows them to be more creative. I believe this could be beneficial to our crew since we are working in an unfamiliar environment; however, he does believe lighting should support the characters throughout the story. Kaminski believes it is important for the actors to know where the light is coming from and what the camera is doing. In SAVING PRIVATE RYAN, the camera was hand held 50 to 60% of the time which gave it a raw feeling.

I just saw a great film, AMORES PERROS, by Alejandro Gonzales. I think it is one of the best films to come out of Mexico. In this film, a lot of Kaminski's principles are used; most of the film was shot hand held which goes great with the story. Dogs are used in this film, and the animal factor carries to the main characters, where they fight like animals. It was important for the characters to know what the camera was doing since the camera was always behind the action, either running behind them or in front of them or following them up the stairs. I have seen this film many times, but this time I took a good 4 to 6 hours studying it. I was watching how the shots were composed, how they managed the color to help the story and support the characters. I noticed a lot of red was used ... maybe to carry the love-hate relationships between many of the characters. I noticed how even normal household items helped set the mood and described the characters. If that sort of information is put into dialogue, it's tedious and boring. When it is in the visuals, it deepens our subconscious understanding of the characters and enriches the film. This is what makes film unique as a storytelling form. There is so much carried in the visual and auditory elements.

One thing that has not been discussed greatly has been the audio. I watched AMORES PERROS with and without sound. There were parts of the film where the characters did not have lines but the camera work and the music allowed the viewer follow along and feel what the character was going through.

When I think about what we are up against — going to a foreign country, working with a cast that is mostly unfamiliar with filmmaking, a student crew — there are feelings of anxiety that creep in. I think that once we arrive and we begin shooting, many of these feelings will probably go away. I hope our training, practicing and preparation kick in and guide us through. I know that I will learn a lot from this project that would be impossible to learn in a classroom or even reading books. I'm going to learn so much and try to give back as much or more than I am gaining from the experience. I am very thankful and honored to be a part of this.

July 07, 2006

Fun ... Zambian Style

jparty.jpg BY CARLOS ESPINOSA, MESA, ARIZONA, USA - Another fun meeting took place last Saturday, in which Jabbes and his friends were in attendance as part of the crew. One thing that sticks out is the people of Zambia like to get together and have a superb time. We had another opportunity to eat Zambian food, but since I was behind the camera, the food ran out quickly and I did not get to try any. Since I do not eat fish, I did not try the Nemo plate (according to Jeniece). I did try “Samosa” which reminded me of a Mexican pastry called 'empanadas', only they have meat. Even though they were a little spicy, they were very good.

This last Wednesday we had a meeting/training session, which was good since the Arizona Republic was out to interview the crew and learn more about the project. Afterward, we reviewed footage we had captured a couple weeks ago. We got some taste of how the team is working together and recognized the areas of opportunity we have as a crew.

After the meeting, I drove Jabbes home and we were talking about how we are around the corner from beginning the shoot of the film. The pressure is building quickly since we want to help Jabbes tell his story and make an excellent film. We have been blessed with great support and I think the film is getting a lot of attention and we want to live up to the expectations. We are only shooting for 3-4 weeks, and from what I have been reading, a feature film takes about 9 weeks to shoot. We need to understand that the time we have is precious and we have to be on top of our game to accomplish a great film.

June 29, 2006

Like Family

carloschillin.jpgBY CARLOS ESPINOSA, MESA, ARIZONA, USA - This last weekend, we met with Jabbes to give emotional support for the loss of his son. We also had the opportunity to meet some of Jabbes' friends and learn more about their culture and food. Going into this project, I had little knowledge about the people from Zambia. Based on my experience with Jabbes, the one thing I came to belief is the people from Zambia try to make the most out of a situation.

I think the group felt welcomed by the people of Zambia and they were very happy to learn all of the crew was heading back to their home, to Zambia. While going around and speaking with Jabbes’ friends, there were a few comments that stuck in my head.

Currently the World Cup is taking place in Germany and the people from Zambia love soccer; it was easy to make conversation since I enjoy soccer as well. Brazil is projected to win the world cup, Ghana played against Brazil in the best of 16. When I asked them who they thought was going to win, one of the responses that I got was: “I know Brazil is going to win since they are a superior team, but I know the team of Ghana feels privileged to play against one of the best teams in the world. I know the team of Ghana will be going back home very happy."

I was also told by one of Jabbes’ friends that they were very happy to have their country of Zambia chosen as the location to shoot the movie. I am very excited and happy to be heading to Zambia everybody told me I will like their country and from what I saw on Saturday, I think we will be treated like family once we arrive.

June 24, 2006

Who We Are

BY THE AFRICAN VOICE DOCUMENTARY FILM CREW, MESA, AZ, USA - The last week, we worked on a short video to give people a sense of who we are and why we're doing what we're doing. Three of the editors put together versions of varying length.

WhoWeAreSm.jpg SHAWN DOWNS put together the Who We Are in Two Minutes movie. Shawn recently graduated from Arcadia High School and will be going to the LA Film School upon his return from Zambia. Shawn is an excellent cinematographer, gaffer and all-round crew member. Shawn had a short film in the PHOENIX FILM FESTIVAL 2006. I'd count on seeing great things from him in the future.

WhoWeAreMed.jpg LINDSEY BLACK crafted the Who We Are in Five Minutes. Lindsey graduated from Mesa Community College. She has made numerous short films and is looking to build a career in the independent film industry. Lindsey enjoys acting, editing and producing. Already a Sundance veteran, Lindsey is looking forward the 2007 festival. She learned a great deal about networking at the last festival from actor, Adam Scarimbolo.

WhoWeAreLong.jpg MICHAEL MONTESA completed the Who We Are in 17 Minutes. Another Sundance veteran with a commitment to work in the independent film world, Mike is a respiratory therapist by vocation and photographer/cinematographer by avocation. Mike has won several awards at the annual Mesa Community College Art Show. In addition to being a great on-set photographer, Mike loves designing movie poster and DVD case covers. His designs are terrific.

May 29, 2006

Capturing Better Skin Tones

hvx200.jpgBY CARLOS ESPINOZA, MESA, USA - Preparing to shoot in Zambia has made very nervous. This project is very different from the ones I have been involved with up until now. Thus far, I have mainly shot people with light skin. Going to Africa; we will be shooting predominantly people with dark skin. One of the challenges we are going to encounter will be lighting these people to look their best. I have been researching and obtaining information to make sure we get the very best images possible. We don’t want poor cinematography to get in the way of Jabbes’ telling a good story. We want the Zambian feature to be very successful.

Surprisingly, one aspect I read is that there is a large range of dark skin tones. Most digital video cameras are made to emphasize the tonal range of light (Caucasian and Asian tones.) Many cameras do not emphasize the range of darker tones by default. They can, however, be used to capture more subtle dark tones. Cyndi, Mike, Lindsey, Alec, Jeanette and Gina had been to Sundance and they were very excited about the Sony HVR-Z1U. Mike Curtis, HDforIndies suggested we look at the Panasonic cameras if we were shooting predominantly darker skin tones. At the end of the test, we all agreed that the Panasonic did a better job. At the school, we have the DVX-100A and it out-performed the Z1U. I can only guess how awesome the Panasonic HVX-200 must be. I hope we're able to get two of those before we go.

Of course, we had always been taught that the specific lighting set up that works well for one person may not may not work as well on another person. Lighting a brunette woman with olive skin tone is not the same as lighting a bald northern European. In the same way, lighting a southern Tongan man may be quite different from a lighter-toned Ngonia warrior in full dress. Our way to approach this is to test, test, test and test before we start shooting, even before we go to Africa.

There are other tips that I found helpful:

Don’t underexpose: In fact, slightly overexposing will help retain some detail; As long as you don’t expose them so that they look Caucasian. Mark Schlicher, a cinematographer from Nashville, TN, states in his experience, “dark tone skins benefit from about 2/3 to a full stop more light than the average Caucasian skin.”

Larger soft lights tend to work better than harder lights. A good example is when lighting a black car; if you point a hard light (point source) at a black car, you get a hot spot where the light is reflected. If you point a large soft light (broad source) at the black car, the surface of the car will reflect the large soft source. Using soft edge lights (kickers) also works well, even if they are not that bright, because you can get a nice reflective glare over the skin.

Typically, there is a large amount of blue in dark skin tones. It's possible to compensate for the blue by adding a warmer light. Jacques Nortier, an Environmental and Wildlife cameraman from South Africa has found great success with a gel called “Bastard Amber” to color the diffuser/light to provide warm tones and have a less milky projections.

Of course, this tips are not set in stone and will not work for everybody, one way we are getting ready is by testing beforehand to see what the camera is capable of doing with different types of lights and gels.

May 21, 2006

Carlos Espinosa :: Cinematographer

carlos.jpg BY CARLOS ESPINOSA, MESA, USA - When I first heard about this project, I was excited to be a part of it. However, it wasn't until the last few weeks that I realized the magnitude of it. Right around the time I was introduced to the project, I was offered a promotion at my current job. It was very hard for me to speak to my boss about leaving work for a full month. When I finally spoke with her, we talked about how this is such a great opportunity for me. After I was done explaining it to her, she was excited for me, and this was the first time that it actually hit me and I realized how high the stakes are.

I am very thankful to be considered for this project. I am a little afraid of the pressure we have to make something well, but at the same time, I know that I will put the very best of me into this project. I can now grasp the big picture - to know how this project can change people's views of Africans, to know that this project is going to carry the voice of millions of people, and to be a part of the crew that will make the very first feature film in Zambia is just exhilarating.

I think we have a great group of people who are motivated and excited to participate in this project. The stakes are high, but as long as we stay motivated and focused, our goal of making a great film will be accomplished. I cannot wait to start working and to hear that very first “action!".