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Production Diary: ‘Swipe Right’ Documentary

Updated: May 24, 2020

‘Swipe Right’ Documentary by Milly Greenslade

Roles: DOP/1st AD/Camera Operator

Filming Dates: 9-20th March

Location: Dev’s house, Josh’s house 9th (8-6pm), 10th (9-5pm)

Location: The Admiral Pub 11th (12-5pm)

12th: TV Studio with the psychologist (called due to covid-19/Skype instead)

13th/20th: B-roll around the city

The most prominent and successful production I have worked on this year is ‘Swipe Right’ by Milly Greenslade. This short reality-documentary follows the life of 25-year old amateur dater Dev and 20-year-old serial dater Josh both on a quest to find ‘true love’. Along the way we speak to psychologist Khanya Price-Evans who reveals the dark side of dating applications.

I worked very closely with Milly as First AD, DOP and Primary Camera Operator. In the pre-production stages, we spent a few days setting up the Black Magic Production and Pocket cameras; testing shots in the different locations, formulating a shoot list/schedule for production and ensuring I was confident with operating both differing cameras, the lenses we had chosen and which we would use to reach our cinematic aspirations.

Ultimately, we decided to use two static shots for the interviewees; close up to reflect the emotion in the protagonist’s faces, mid shot slightly off centre and b-roll of both locations that identified the characteristics of each participant - i.e. exterior of both houses and personal items.

On production day as DOP I framed both shots on the cameras guarantying the kelvin temperatures matched and re-set the white balance, making it easier for the editor to colour grade in post-production. In set-up we noticed there was a lot of blank space/white wall behind Dev. As a solution we re-set the scene and used plants, a painting and personal décor/items to make the background more aesthetically pleasing. Ed was my main camera assistant, having worked together on a music video previously, things clicked back into place quickly this time and ran smoothly. To communicate between camera and sound, Ed and I would put our hands each side of our bodies and push them up to indicate none-verbally to Jake that the boom had come into shot.

It was a small production, so as director of photography I also had to operate one of the cameras. We used LCD external monitors for Milly to oversee the shot at a comfortable distance, this also enabled me to communicate with 2nd camera operator non-verbally and monitor the second camera without moving while we were rolling.

Our biggest complication during pre-production was achieving a three-point lighting set-up with the Ari Kit 800W, the room was very small with a crew of eight and the interviewee. Post-filming as DOP, I worked very closely with the director and the grip to achieve the best lighting and create the atmosphere required for the visuals/shot. We had issues with natural light leaking through the blinds and too much shadow behind Dev as we didn’t have the space we needed between our subject and background, in addition to the distance from the camera. To resolve this, we triangulated the key light, backlight and fill light until we achieved the most visually pleasing shot. As a collective we underestimated how much time we would need to allow for this before the interview commenced. We left plenty of time for the second location to set-up the lighting for the following interview which ran a lot more smoothly as a result and no issues with natural light leaking through the blinds. The small room with a large crew was challenging to work in as we were all fairly close to the lights, we had to take regular breaks to ensure the talent was comfortable, to get make-up re-applied and to keep hydrated as a crew.

Ultimately, I feel I contributed a lot to the production overall and gained a very strong, communicative working relationship with Milly. After the first full day of shooting I was asked if I would work with her as first AD in addition to DOP/Camera as she was impressed with the support I had provided her, my ability to bounce ideas and had demonstrated I was reliable and could successfully achieve her vision. It was an absolute delight to have had a hand in bringing her vision to life, it is a shame we had only had the opportunity to work together in the final year and I hope our paths will cross again.

Behind the scenes...

Watch the documentary here:

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