InCinematographer - Issue 3 - 39
www.incinematographer.com | Issue 3
Behind the Scenes:
When Cinematographer Michael Latham got the opportunity to again work with Sundance
award-winning Director Kitty Green he jumped at the chance...
hen Cinematographer Michael Latham
realized the size and scope of the documentary
Director Kitty Green was planning he also knew his
ALEXA Mini would be perfect for the shoot.
Latham explained: "The first major shoot I used the
ALEXA Mini on was the feature hybrid documentary
Casting JonBenet about the death of JonBenét
Ramsey, directed by Kitty Green.
"She is an exciting director who I have collaborated
with over the last few years. The feature film is based
on a similar style to Kitty's short documentary The
Face of Ukraine: Casting Oksana Baiul which won
Sundance in 2015. That film was a very low budget
project, very contained, shot in two days with help
from some friends.
"Casting JonBenet was a very different animal,
with a much larger budget, hundreds of interviews,
large cinematic scenes, full crews and eight months
of work. During this time we were lucky to have the
guidance of our producers Scott Macaulay and James
Schamus who are amazing at what they do and
between them have created some wonderful films
including Jullian Donkey Boy, Gummo, Brokeback
Mountain and Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon."
The size and scope of the shoot combined with
some challenging logistics created some early
hurdles for Latham which he and the crew had to
work quickly to overcome.
"When the project started I didn't have my ALEXA
Mini so a lot of the interview was shot on multiple
Blackmagic 4K cameras which are OK under
controlled studio environments but quite difficult to
use in the real world.
"We shot in two blocks and the second block was
much more like a full narrative shoot with a full cast
and crew. For these scenes we wanted to it to feel
as cinematic as possible so it would feel like a film
and not a documentary so the Mini was perfect. We
with his ALEXA Mini
had always planned to shoot the narrative scenes
on an ALEXA as I feel like it produces the most filmic
The shoot consisted of everything from studio
scenes with set builds to real life locations, day and
night interiors and exteriors, car rigging, VFX scenes,
drone aerials and vista landscapes and some extreme
Latham added, "We were shooting in the middle
of winter so some days were minus 10 degrees with
heavy snow which always makes for fun times. I used
Zeiss Superspeeds for more of a vintage look along
with Hollywood Blackmagic filters.
"My camera kit is as small and lightweight and as
free and wireless as possible as I think being nimble
Scene from Casting JonBenet
is important in making your day. The ALEXA Mini is
great if you need to scale up as it is very easy to do
so. I like that it is very capable as an A-Camera on
everything from documentary content to large-scale
features and commercials.
"You can also break it down to fit it into tight
spaces with no trouble and yet you can build it
up to fit every accessory you can think of. I have
customized my Mini with the accessories I prefer
and so it's tailored to my needs but as those needs
change it's very easy to add or takeaway whatever is
required for the job."
Latham, the Director and the Producers were all
extremely happy with the images and results he got
shooting Casting JonBenet with his ALEXA Mini so for
him his decision to purchase one was validated in the
best possible way.
He concluded: "The great thing about owning
a camera is having access to being able to test
anything you are unsure about - everything from
lenses, exposures and lighting to paint colors and
"If someone asks you a question the answer is
ten minutes away. Ultimately for me owning an
ALEXA Mini wasn't a money-making decision but it
was about investing in myself and my career. It was
definitely a big investment for me but it is worth it as
it gives me access to, in my opinion, the best image