This post was written by Julian Terry.
When it comes to the practice of filmmaking one could ask, "What do you do when you’re not shooting?" I am currently in development with two features set to shoot next year. During this time, I read film books and watch classic movies for inspiration—but there’s something else. There’s something missing after staring through scripts all day.
I miss directing actors. I miss holding the camera and feeling the moment when a take is just right.
In the end, it’s a way of expression. When you’re not expressing yourself, are you really living? I can’t think of anything more exhilarating than holding a camera with a few minutes left to get the shot and the actor finds something in them that silences the air. I love that feeling when the emotion has shifted the room, and I don’t wanna say “cut.”
This feeling is what I live for. Filmmaking is an interesting art form, it’s so new that we keep getting radical changes in our tools. (I like calling film gear “tools.”)
Credit: Julian Terry
Experimentation with new gear
I want to constantly better myself and explore myself as an artist. The best way to do that is to experiment with different tools. I recently spoke at NAB for Blackmagic about how short films can lead to studio films. It was a blast and I had a great time catching up with filmmakers at the event. When I went around the different booths and geeked out over lens prototypes, I ran across the B7C accent lights at Aputure and fell in love with them. I love working with practicals on set and the idea of moving a lamp last minute or changing its color any way I wanted excited me. I put that on my list to try out.
The next thing that shocked me was something called Invizigrain by the company InviziPro. It completely floored me. It was something so new. Not some typical film grain overlay. It breaks apart the image and builds it up in very convincing film grain! I love the look of film and have been dying to find a way to bring it back.
Credit: Julian TerryI met with the founder, Brendan Bellomo, and he showed me how easy it was to monitor it on set! He had it running from a Blackmagic Pocket 6K to DaVinci live on a computer. I was blown away. I knew I wanted to use it on an upcoming feature, but it was something I wanted to try out.
Instead of performing a regular boring camera test, I thought I would make it a little more fun. I wanted to work with actors and make it something bigger.
So as October came around I met with the monster maker himself, Mario Torres, and he showed me this fantastic mask. I got chills staring at this thing and thought it would be fun to shoot with! He introduced me to his friend, Kevin Keppy, who recently starred as the final creature in SMILE. I knew we had to make something happen with all of these elements.
There was only one thing missing.
Credit: Julian Terry
Experimenting with vertical formats
Now, I love shooting short films, but I hate how people view them. I remember working at Buzzfeed and learning that most of the YouTube audience watches the whole video vertically and some don’t even listen with the volume on! What is this? Do we have to go back to silent filmmaking? I was also bummed when I glanced on TikTok and saw all my shorts had been ripped and put on in different channels.
It wasn’t the stealing that got me, it was the aspect ratio that horrified me. I shoot everything in 2:35 scope. When someone throws that on vertical, 80% of the screen is black. I was mortified. I saw one of my old shorts, Whisper, that had 2 million likes, and I couldn’t stop thinking about millions that saw this poor version of what we poured our hearts into.
So I decided to turn my new horror short film into a vertical TikTok, and what better camera to try it out with than the Blackmagic Pocket 6K!
Blackmagic graciously gave me their Pocket 6K this summer, and I’ve been dying to do a proper shoot with it. I love these cameras. The Pocket 4K is cheaper than my iPhone 14.
Credit: Julian TerryWhen our last short, Don’t Peek, went to SXSW, everyone thought we shot on Alexa. We are getting to a point where the cameras are becoming indistinguishable. Now, we can make something with nearly no budget and make something that looks truly cinematic.
When I went to mount the camera on its side, I noticed an insane amount of wobble. I decided to Frankenstein my camera a bit with a small rig cage and two cheese plates mounted together. This gave it a way sturdier frame. My producer for all my horror shorts (also my best friend) Alexander Anderson had his trusty Sigma 18-35mm. I like to shoot wider so I opted to rent a Sigma 14mm off Sharegrid. It was the perfect amount of wide with just the right amount of distortion. It really gives each shot a fun look!
Since I wanted to make the short live off the small Aputure lights in our lamps, it also meant shooting in near dark! Thankfully, the Blackmagic Pocket 6K allows us a clean 1250 ISO. It allows us to get truly dark shadows and makes for a fun shooting environment. Not to mention the small form factor also allows us to get into the main character’s POV and see her hands at times. Can’t really get that shot with a bigger camera easily.
I don’t think I’ve seen a vertical horror short done this way before and I really love that! Breaking out of making a safe test and making a fun no-budget short with a few friends takes it back to high school filmmaking. There is a sense of excitement and wonder on set. I love playing loud music on set and feeling like we’re getting away with making something before our parents get home.
I’m so excited to share our final results with you!