Lights Film School Online recently had the opportunity to chat with Ash Bolland, the filmmaker behind the popular skate video “Burn”. The interview along with the short film can be seen below.
Hello Ash and thank you for taking the time to sit down and discuss your film work with the Lights Film School blog readers. I want to start by congratulating you on an incredibly well crafted short film. Burn was an inspiration to watch from start to finish. Before we jump into the rest of the interview let’s give our readers 4 minutes to watch the clip (see below).
First of all, what inspired you to make this film? How did it all begin?
Well Firstly, as you know at the end of the day it’s a commercial so the ad agency Publicist Mojo Italy reached out to director’s around the globe to do a treatment – for a short film for Coke’s, energy drink ‘Burn” and it must use their skate team. The brief was very open, it mentioned the idea of a storm, but it was very vague.
Which I found very exciting as I come from a background of skateboarding wanting to be pro growing up – not that I ever came close! My first love was writing and film making… So I wrote a script and a treatment, which I presented the idea of shooting in Argentina, Buenos Aires, following a skate crew on tour and then their battle with a storm. To me its a metaphor for life, our hero skater throws his board into the storm, a motif of saying – you can’t hold us back etc (classic punk/ youth angst) then the storm lights up into a fire ball.. that was the basic idea. Which won the project with the Agency and Client.
Can you tell me a little bit more about the partnership between you and Burn?
I did not work with anybody from Burn – apart from signing off the creative, agency was on set, they were great and very supportive, making sure we kept it grounded and real. Which was quite important to me. I knew going in we were not going to get game changing skateboarding – it takes weeks, months to build those reels together, we had 4 days shooting, and these guys have never skated these spots before, I wanted it to just have a good honest tone.
So let’s look at your film. We’ll begin with your first shot (above). You have nice angled lighting coming in and hitting the buildings on the left side. But not only does the time of day lend itself wall to the creating of beautiful shadows, you also have an incredible amount of atmosphere in this shot. It appears to be smog, but it gives the image an incredibly dusty and grimy feel. In fact, this atmosphere stayed through the film from the first shot to the last shot. I noticed in some shots it was added in post, but how many of these shots didn’t have any atmosphere added in post? How did you plan this?’
Thanks I’m really glad you dig the opening shot, they are all in camera, it just so happens Buenos Aires gets very foggy in the mornings due to the river…they were the first shots of the shoot – and from that moment me and Lachlan Milne (dop) knew we had the look of the film, so yes shots later in the film, that were shot later in day – were matched to look like the opening shot.
How did you add atmosphere in your other shots?
Oh computers! Comped in Flame.
Last questions about your first shot. Are the clouds real? I know the clouds in some of the other shots are added in post but I’m wondering if you based those later shots off of an in-camera shot?
None of the clouds are real, well they are real but comped in from stuff we shot. Its funny that, as we cut the offline, I really didn’t want to put clouds in, but I knew we had too, as it felt like we where messing with something so great we got all in-camera. But I had to let it go to get the story across.
Also, knowing you were going to be replacing the sky in the scenes later on… how did you go about shooting your exterior shots? Where there things (telephone poles, cluttered horizons etc) you needed to avoid knowing that you were going to be adding your own sky later on?
I never worried about that to be honest, maybe I should have, some shots look better than others – but I knew they would be ok, of course I check that stuff, but there was nothing that was going to be of great concern.
How did you go about switching out skies?
mixture of roto and key etc.. the guys worked very hard on it.
Also, throughout the film you have some great movement. What are you stabilizing your camera on for the first handful of shots? There seems to be a nice feathered look to the edges of the frame. Are you on a shoulder mount?
Ok, We shot on the back four wheelers for a lot of the city traveling shots. The shot when Danny slams hard was on back of a truck. But yes, most of it was on the shoulder and some basic bungie stabilizing on tracking bikes, or the truck. We shot with three camera at all times: Two 7d’s and one 5d. oh and one gopro for under the board shot in the bowl.
Can you tell me a little bit more about how you set up the shot at 0:21 (above)?
That was shot on the roof of amazing housing complex in Piedrabuena, a struggling social area of Buenos Aires. I’ve been told its quite a dangerous area to live in. The front end of the film is shoot there, is such a amazing concrete jungle suited for skateboarding. Maybe not the best place to skate due to the surface, but a great symbol for it.
I love the natural and gritty outdoor shots. For example, the kids looking back at :52, :54, 1:46 (above). How did you get these shots? Are these actors or did you find these people on the street and involve them in the project?
These are locals from the area of Piedrabuena that came out to watch us shoot the skaters. We shot so much of this, such amazing place, I felt very lucky to be shooting there.
Your location scouting is fantastic. All of the buildings have a very strong design behind them, which makes them interesting to shoot, yet they all have this worn out look to them. Tell me a little bit more about your location scouting process.
Well I received photos from all over the city, but this locations really stood out to me. I had to fight for this location, I was told it was too dangerous and / or maybe too run down… but we were looked after well there and I think this location is the hero of the film.
Let’s look at the shot at 2:11 (above). You’ve added a lot of wind, dust, papers flying through the air etc. How did you achieve this effect?
Big wind fans! ( see pics ) and the spx crew throwing dust and dirt into them! much fun!
Let’s look at the shot at 2:42 (above) – How much of these fire effects are real vs. built in post production? How did you achieve this effect?
All of the fire is real, the fire tornado is cg – which u can tell.
Let’s look at the shot at 3:07 (above)- The tornado effect is fantastic. What program did you use to achieve this effect?
What camera did you shoot on?
We shoot on 7d’s with master primes and 5d’s with canon L’s using the Technicolor Cinestyle camera profile.
What lenses did you use?
Master primes, Canon L’s
Thank you Ash for sharing your thoughts and insights with our Lights Film School Online blog readers. We really appreciate you taking the time to sit down and allow us to pick your brain. The short film Burn is an inspirational accomplishment. We’ll be sure to be following your work in the future!
Thank you so much, so happy this film touched you in some level. Until next time!