Love and War trench camera

Here’s an old one, but a good one. A year or two ago we were approached to do a short film, Love and War, with Gabe Gonda. The film was shot by dual DP team Connor Hair and Alex Meader. The story followed a soldier in WWI and his relationships with various women after his time in the war. Our main character, played by Bjorn Whitney, had to endure being yelled at by many women. This project was remarkable in Fifth Door’s history in which it started a close working relationship with the film’s creative and leadership teams. It led to a number of projects that solidified Fifth Door’s capability.

Fifth Door was contacted to handle the lighting and rigging, which presented some unique challenges. One undeniable challenge in indy filmmaking was that there wasn’t much of a budget, and thus we didn’t have much resources to work with. This usually means you do less, but Gabe, Connor and Alex wanted to do more, and we were happy to get creative and dive head in. In one scene we wanted a super smooth shot in a WWI trench, without putting track in the trench. Meanwhile, we had fog, explosions, and actors running around the camera. We did not have a steady cam, so what to do? Our resources included a doorway dolly, track, a few crossbar (polecat) extension arms, clamps, and steel (cheese) plates. We also had a 8-ft camera crane (jib) which unfortunately was not the sturdiest, and would not reach into the trench at the height we needed. This is what we came up with.

We placed the track on the side of the trench, clamping two polecat arms two keep it sturdy, and reaching down to a steel (cheese) plate. We attached a Canon 5D and tripod head hanging upside down. In post-production you can flip the image to get it right side up. With the floating jib and tripod head, Connor was able to guide his camera through the trench comfortably. Up top we dolly back, but using the arm as a guide to which Connor is controlling. The result looks like this.

I do personally like when there’s a challenge with a set goal that we can really sink our teeth into. The opportunity to try something new. Now of course our way isn’t the only way, but we felt it was the best way at the time, place, and with the resources we had at hand.

More on the movie Love and War can be found here