To make a film that engages, provokes and leaves you wanting more is every filmmaker’s goal. Stigma Films, the team behind 20-minute short film Stump, knew they had to work smart to succeed.
Stump is a powerful short film shot on the Canon EOS C700 that covers the troubled relationship between two brothers: one wheelchair-bound, having lost both legs to an IED, and his able-bodied, running-obsessed brother, who is struggling with social anxiety.
“In tackling any non-fiction filmmaking, it’s important to have a subject that the audience finds intriguing, that reveals the subject in an interesting structure or way, and honestly reflects the source material,” says Stump’s Producer, Matthew James Wilkinson.
With most of the filming taking place in a small flat in South East London, it was important that the equipment used was adaptable, flexible and able to perform in low light. The solution was to shoot the film with the EOS C700, for its 15-stop dynamic range, and a selection of Cinema EOS lenses, including the CN-E30-300mm T2.95-3.7 L SP, CN-E30-105mm T2.8 L S/SP and CN-E85mm T1.3 L F prime.
“I went to creative agency OTM because I knew one of the designers there, Ben Parker,” says Matthew, regarding Stump’s conception. “I pitched a few ideas and it came up that Canon were looking to do a series of projects around DoPs.” Matthew proposed Stump as one of them, and using Laura Bellingham – a member of the all-female filming group Illuminatrix – as the Director of Photography. OTM and Canon were both keen on the project and so he was able to secure the funding he needed to pull a team together.
“The film portrays an obvious disability and a hidden disability,” he continues. “We were filming for intimacy and naturalism and definitely got both of those things thanks to the cameras. Laura’s eye and references, as well as Director Tommy Boulding’s ability to prep the storyboard and the sequences were just as important.”
“I’ve always had a Canon DSLR, and the EOS 5D Mark II changed the game for everyone, including me,” says Tommy, in reference to how accessible the Mark II made high-quality filmmaking for a generation of creatives with its 1080p HD video recording. “I’m very much a one-brand guy and I’ve edited footage from the EOS C300 in the past, so I knew the quality from the EOS C700 would be good. But it was better than good – it was stunning. The colours were amazing and even in low light it had a lovely filmic quality to it.”
During the pre-production process, Laura and her focus puller Kieron Jansch spent a day getting familiar with the Canon system. “A DoP is, in part, a technician,” she says. “If the production is interested in a new camera, it’s your job to go out there and test it to make sure you’re familiar with it.”
Using the manoeuvrable EOS C200 and 4K professional camcorder, the Canon XC15, Ben Parker was responsible for producing a behind-the-scenes documentary that focused on the shoot. “It was important to clearly communicate the process the filmmakers employed to tell the story, and this involved making sure we recorded everything the production crew did on set,” says Ben.
When shooting behind the scenes, you need to get your footage without interrupting the filmmakers. “We operated with a small team that could shrink if needed,” says Ben. “We could go down to just one camera shooting and recording sound.”
“Shooting in 4K Cinema RAW Light really allowed us to do a lot in post-production to balance the lighting,” continues Ben. “We had to operate in a mixture of dark and bright conditions, so more manoeuvrability in the grade was vital. We were using the EOS C200 for A cam and the XC15 for B cam. Because the two cameras have differing picture and colour profiles, the RAW footage from the EOS C200 allowed us to balance the footage from the two cameras seamlessly.”
Stump premiered earlier this month at Cameraimage, the international cinemaphotography festival that takes place in Poland each year. The film has also been put forward for consideration at the Sundance Film Festival in Utah, which takes place in January 2018. It's here that the teams behind the production hope the intriguing story and stunning imagery excite the judges as much as it did them. We'll keep you posted.