Tuesday, 7 July 2009

Ellie Bunston

After shooting an impressive range of short films, cinematography graduate Ellie Bunston has developed a knack for capturing contrast lighting, imbuing her work with a sense of danger, thrill, and loss that would be otherwise imperceptible.

What or who inspires your work?
There is no particular cinematographer or director that inspires all my work; all my films have been so different. I really like to research each film differently - though there are the classics that first got me thinking about cinematography, films by Robert Yoeman, Bruno Delbonnel and Roger Deakins. I really like the more experimental filmmakers like Michael Gondry and Tacita Dean.

How did you find your time at the University College for Creative Arts?
UCA is one of a few Uni's that use 16mm film, a lot of Uni's now only use digital. The course is great for teaching you industry standard skills and using industry standard equipment such as Arri SR3's and Avid Media Composer.

Do you usually edit and direct your own films or do you collaborate with editors and directors?
I've done it on two films, but it's not my preferred field. Although, I'm really glad I have experienced other roles in filmmaking; it has made me appreciate other people and I think it has made me a much better filmmaker. I much preferred working with other people on their visions and stories. I like to read a script or synopsis and get inspired and excited when all the images pop into my head.

In the 'RSG-6' clip you have an interesting set up. It appears to have a sole light source: the partially open door on the right of the frame, which thrusts the rest of the frame into deep shadow in addition to casting interesting shadow patterns on the left side of the frame. How did you set up the angle and shot in order to capture enough light to distinguish the silhouettes but not enough to see much detail? Also, toward the end of the clip the edges of the frame appear rounded/ circular. Did you use a specific lens for that or was it part of the editing?
This is one of my favourite in the film. It was so simple to achieve, but created an awesome shot. We used a wide-angle 5.7mm lens, which created the curvature effect, but what was great about this shot was the location. We shot in a nuclear war bunker in a tunnel with great perforated metal walls, which gave the tunnel great texture. All we did was to put a 360 fresnel on the door so when it opened it spilled just enough light onto the characters and just enough on the wall behind to see that they were in a tunnel; we then tracked back using a trolley to get that sense of depth and danger to the scene.

'RSG-6' and 'Last Day at Work' use a lot of contrast lighting, is this a signature style for you or were those clips experiments in lighting?
For 'RSG-6' and 'Last Day at Work' both had a dark feel, especially 'Last Day at Work.' Contrast lighting really works well with this style. I don't like to over use it. It can be over done sometimes especially in black and white films. It's not really a signature style, just very effective and fits in with a lot of the scenes that I've worked on. The shot at the beginning of 'Last Day at Work' was a director's choice; we wanted to create the sense of curiosity and the sense of being lost and confused. The character in the story was a man suffering from dementia who kept going to work thinking his work place still existed and so this shot of him walking into darkness really embraced that theme of loss.

Have you made much animation besides 'Floods Today?'
With animation I'm very much an amateur. I enjoy drawing and although I'm not that good at it I would definitely like to do more in the future. I have done bits on bobs experimenting with mostly drawn or stop animation with my digital SLR and super 8mm camera, but for my last film, the music video for A Lilly, I used green screen animation for the first time, but I much prefer drawn or stop motion.

What is your favourite shot/ angle/ lighting to shoot?
I really enjoyed the lighting set ups for the Bachelor Tree, I had a lot of pre production time and a lot of research. I especially like the more contrasty shots, which have a slight German expressionism feel - this really suited this style of story. I really enjoy the tracking shots too; it helped with the flow and rhythm of the story, which was really important as there was a narrated rhyme voice over.

If you would like to see Ellie's films, go to her jotta profile.

By Emily Thomas

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