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Filming Lucid is a dream come true

Filming Lucid is a dream come true

Cinematographers often eulogise about the alchemy of vintage optics combined with a high-end digital cine camera  but for most low budget features their use remains a distant dream.

For Lucid, the directorial feature debut of writer/director Adam Morse, DP Michel Dierickx put together a wish list knowing that with a tight budget of under half a million pounds the equipment would likely face compromise. 

The romantic drama focuses on lonely young introvert Zel (played by Laurie Calvert) who longs to overcome his anxieties. He has a chance of doing that when his enigmatic neighbour (Billy Zane) starts to show him what is possible via the art of lucid dreaming. 

“I was very sure I wanted to shoot with an ARRI Alexa but I wasn’t sure we could afford it,” says Dierickx, who shot Morse’s acclaimed short film Window. “VMI made it happen. They fully understood the story and the restrictions of our budget. It was very easy to have an educated conversation with VMI who understood exactly where we were coming from and what we needed.

“The obvious solution was to create different looks for both the main character’s dream world and the real world,” he explains. “Since Zel loses track of what is real and what is not we decided to keep one look throughout the film. In this way we keep the audience guessing by getting the audience closer to his mind space.” 

Alongside the Alexa Plus 4:3, Dierickx was able to select from a variety of KOWA anamorphic glass ranging from 40mm/T2.3, 50mm/T2.8 and 75mm/T2.8 to 100mm/T3.4 plus a 30mm wide angle aspheron.

“What I’m looking for in glass when shooting digital are those unique artefacts rather than having a transparent look,” he explains. “Personally, I dislike the sharpness of digital and prefer a softness to the image which old anamorphic glass brings.”

Much of the production was shot day for night over just 20 days on location in cafes, bars and flats across London last October, using very little lighting to keep costs down. 

Dierickx mostly shot handheld on 40mm to achieve a subjective point of view and help the audience identify with Zel’s journey. “The 2:1 squeeze offers a wider field of view that gave us more real estate,” he says. “We wanted to get as close as possible to discovering the world as Zel discovers it.”

He opted to record 2K in ProRes 4444 XQ to make file management easier on a shoot which left no room for error. “If you don’t get it on the day it won’t be in the movie,” he says.

Dierickx programmed a Look Up Table (LUT) to deliver dark visuals with deep colours  and worked with production designer Niina Top on the colour palette for each scene. 

“I’m a big fan of darkness - the less you show the more room you leave for the audience’s imagination,” he says. “The final grade will be very close to the LUT we captured on location.

“VMI’s support during the shoot was amazing,” he commends. “As a rental house it is on a level with ARRI or Panavision but still with a boutique feel. I had the phone numbers of three VMI personnel during the shoot each of whom I could call 24/7. They were always there for us. You don’t find that kind of one to one working relationship with other rental companies.” 

He adds, “I’m very excited and proud of what we achieved. We made a good film, may be even a great one.”

Lucid is produced by Adam Rose for Morse Rose Productions and Trigger Films.

Stills images by Gareth Gatrell.  Gaffer shown in images is Antti Janhunen.

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