Lewis Cannon: Loose Cannon
Posted 15 November 2007 - 03:56 PM
The short is a spoof trailer of the buddy buddy cop action movies of the 1980s. The joke is that it's a cliched, American cop popcorn film, everyone has American accents, but it's blatantly filmed in Manchester, England!
Initially, I thought this could be a great idea to pull out grad filters, long lenses and get that classic early Bruckheimer look (think Tony Scott and Adrian Lynne). After talking with the director however, he said he really wanted to give the impression that LEWIS CANNON had probably been established as a TV show like MIAMI VICE, and the "feature" would be a continuation of that. No frills and flat. The look and feel had to ape that feeling that one foot was definitely in TV, the other for the big screen.
Generically speaking, cop movies in the 80s didn't really get flashy until after Robby Muller's evocative work on TO LIVE AND DIE IN LA, and as far as MIAMI VICE went, it wasn't really until the second season that production values skyrocketed to big steadicam shots, pretty composition and creative use of colour. So movies like COBRA and BEVERLY HILLS COP 2 were out.
My main sources of influence for LEWIS CANNON were the movies SUDDEN IMPACT, THIEF OF HEARTS and FLETCH and also more importantly, MIAMI VICE season one, particularly the pilot shot by Robert Collins. Other flatter looking 80s shows like STREETHAWK and THE A TEAM too. SUDDEN IMPACT and FLETCH tend towards a more compromised shooting approach, due to real locations, little money, and I find the same with season one of MIAMI VICE. It was also obvious on that early on with that TV show the standard was still routed in the way COLUMBO/QUINCY was shot in the 1970s. However, while the lighting in the MV pilot is often hard, often frontal and economically unadventurous (for reasons anyone can appreciate), you can see how Mr. Collins was compromising to get Michael Mann's preference for longer lenses in there, with lots of punched in compositions. Collins also rather admirably managed to get shadow and contrast into the mundane art direction during the famous IN THE AIR TONIGHT moment from the pilot. So there was new thinking happening within an old system of shooting TV cop shows.
I begged my friends to shoot S16, but out of their own pocket it was pretty impossible, especially as because the ambition of the short depended on all funds going on everything BUT the camera and stock. Having been assured that we'd have the DVX100B which I'd never worked with before, I read all the reviews online and did my homework. I'm pretty sure I stole all of Jon Fauer's advice in his review of the camera regarding the crushing of the blacks. I also knew that if we shot with hard light, used a net, and played with saturation in camera along with the crushed blacks we could get a kind of period "dupey", soft look that would suit the material. Soft light was prohibited, unless of course it was generated by existing architectural lighting or the overcast sky!
I wanted a degraded, 80s film to TV look, and we needed flat hard light to sell the joke, but I didn't want to just patronise everything for the sake of it. Everything had to be shot with sincerity, as if we were trapped in the sensibilities and politics of 80s TV/film cop stuff. It was the foundation for the physical humour.
The shoot was done mostly at an abandoned police station that a BBC drama had shot in previously. Alot of their sets were still up, but the show had been cancelled and the production company were hiring it out. Bizzarely, we shot on few of their sets as the existing areas not previously occupied by their shoot were more or less perfect for our needs.
Here's actual screengrabs and set photos of the inevitable "You're a loose cannon, Cannon!" scene in the police chief's office:
All the classic amateur level errors, such as dark skinned actress in all black outfit against a white wall, next to a pale man in a bright white shirt. Did I mention we couldn't afford a production meeting? Luckily I got away with it, and with only 2K blondes and open redheads, gripped with bits of cardboard, hardly any gels either.
Lewis Cannon, at the front desk of police house:
Cannon and sidekick raid a motel room:
Here's a screengrab of the coke snorting corrupt cop:
The villain, dressed in classic MIAMI VICE attire:
Posted 15 November 2007 - 03:59 PM
These are what I call the "Robert Collins MIAMI VICE" shots:
This shot was actually done on the BBC drama set - it was all still totally dressed and you could even see the focus marks on the floor! It was also designed for softlight (the chinese lantern was hung in the middle of the set ceiling so we chucked it), and with that was very brightly painted. I got around it, the begging was worth it!
Much to her annoyance, the love interest awakens to find Cannon has "gone to fight crime" again (another Beeb drama set):
And because we could, here's a shot of an 80s commercial/Knightrider style car chase from the trailer. This was white balanced on the day:
Unfortunately, due to the limited latitude of minidv and the British weather during January (and September) the exterior stuff is going to need a grade for consistency. We got the interior stuff, I think.
Not being a camera person or aspiring DP, just a big film geek, I think we got an appropriate look, especially as it was just me with Ed Lilley as my camera assistant/spark/grip.
As a funny aside- whe we shot this oriignally back in January, we'd all heard partly about HOT FUZZ and had assumed they were going to beat us to this. Thankfully they went a different route!
Posted 16 November 2007 - 11:54 AM