Filming ‘The Reckoning’ down under.
The film industry is an amazing family to be a part of. You’d be hard pressed to list many careers that allow frequent travel to so many locations all over this big blue sphere. But it’s something extra special when a project arises which allows you to return to your home town for work.
Born and raised in Perth Western Australia, I’ve been fortunate enough in my early career as a film maker to have work opportunities pull me to the mecca of the Film & Television industry; Hollywood, California where I now live. So when John V. Soto called to ask if I would head back to Australia for 5 weeks and come on board his latest crime thriller The Reckoning as 2nd Unit Director, I had re-arranged scheduled projects in L.A and booked my flight back to Perth before he had even finished his sentence.
The Reckoning stars Jonathan LaPaglia, Luke Hemsworth, Hanna Mangan Lawrence and Viva Bianca. It’s a crime thriller revolving around a detective who discovers footage at a murder scene, shot by two teenagers, that provides clues to the identity of a killer. The teens have since gone missing, and as the detective retraces their journey, he soon uncovers a trail of deceit and murder. It’s the latest work from Filmscope Entertainment’s writer/director John V. Soto and producer Deidre Kitcher whom were responsible for Crush, and the globally distributed horror film ‘Needle’ which won a multitude of festival awards.
The story is set in and around Perth, Western Australia, paying homage to local suburbs and landmarks. It was fantastic to work with local Perth crew again, several of which had also worked on a short film I shot down under called Ronan’s Escape. It was more of a filming reunion than anything, and many down times in between takes were spent catching up and telling stories with the crew. It was reuniting with the Perth film production family and sharing our stories and passion for film making that highlighted how important it is for films such as The Reckoning to have the support of government bodies such as ScreenWest.
We shot in the tail end of summer, and over the 5 week filming period, mother nature threw all it had at us. Gale force winds, thunderstorms and torrential rains made an appearance on set.. and surprisingly conveniently on cue. The majority of times when weather arrives on a film set it usually postpones or even cancels shoot days, but we were simply graced with some free production value. I remember one day in particular shooting on the beautiful W.A coast just south of Fremantle, the rain was falling sideways. Normally this would be call for cancellation, but we had scheduled a dark, gloomy crime scene that evening so the weather added the perfect essence to the story. So the crew battened down the hatches, pushed forward and completed the scenes on time.
As 2nd Unit Director on this particular film, I also spent a good amount of time working with the stunts unit lead by Stunt Coordinator John Walton and Sam Elia. Most of the time rehearsing and shooting was done at the RAC training center by the Perth Airport on a closed racetrack. Together we worked on choreographing, blocking, and shooting the more intricate stunt scenes. The extensive rehearsal period provided a great opportunity for me to produce some live storyboards too. Director of Photography, Jason Thomas was very collaborative and gave me free reign on where to put the lens which was very refreshing for a director with a background behind the camera.
For one particular stunt scene involving a high powered sports car, the team and I rehearsed for 3 days in preparation for the final shoot day. During the final stages of rehearsals I filmed the sequence from 5 different angles with a Canon 5Dmkiii digital SLR and a few lens options. When I had all the angles I wanted in the bag, I went back to the main set and spent a few hours on the laptop during lunch editing the sequence together and produced a moving storyboard. It was a hybrid between a still image cartoon storyboard and the final action sequence that would make it into the film. It consisted of not only the vision I had shot, but on screen text stating what lens I had used for each shot.
I cut 4 different versions of the action sequence at varying speeds and angles for John to view so he could pick and choose which angles he liked best, and for Jason to have an advanced look into which angles would be dramatic and powerful and which would not. The stunt team also found the sequences invaluable in validating their choreography and how it would translate to the screen. Producing this pre-visualization sequence also enabled me to identify and solve potential logistical problems that would have arisen when it came to filming the sequence for real.
When the time came to film the high powered car scene, it was just after 2am when the cameras began rolling. Because of the vigilant rehearsal time and moving storyboard sequence we produced, the final stunt sequence went off without a hitch and the sequence in the film only lasts momentarily, but it looks amazing.
With the short shooting schedule, unpredictable weather, and logistical challenges of shooting in the most remote capital city in the world, the producers at Filmscope and crew ran a tight ship and solidified an on-schedule completion of principal filming. It was a fantastic experience flying back to my home town to work with the Filmscope team, and a great opportunity to spend time with family and friends in between shoot days.
Sales Agency outfit, Lightning Entertainment, have acquired worldwide sales rights and will be representing the film at the Berlin Film Festival/EFM and other major markets around the world. I’ll be sure to drop a quick blog post on its release and where you can see it.
Writer / Director