BTS: Simpatica – Production



The day finally arrived, and we were ready to go with some minor last minute crew and gear chages. We arrived at noon and loaded in all the gear and started our lighting setup. Adam Belanger brought a nice new toy, a covered wagon light that he had just finished. This proved to be very useful, more to come on that later.

While we were getting setup Tasha Judson Zwickerhill and Allison Slattery went to work getting the actors into wardrobe and getting the hair and makeup done. When Dana, Jeff, Jennifer, and Kat arrived onset we were blown away.

Once the sun set, around 5pm we were ready to roll. Starting with the wide trailing shot, then to the balcony, and finally the dance sequence. Due to half of the extras having to leave at 7pm we had to move quickly to get the shots we needed.

The trailing shot we used the 24mm CP.2 on a steadirig, which gave us a huge field of view on the Mkii. It took a few takes, which were done at 30p and then slowed down in Twixtor. There were some leading shots, but were taken out of the edit later on.

We shot a few different scenes on the balcony, though one of them ended up being cut from the final edit. We had a great over the shoulder shot of Jennifer looking into a mirror, but it had to be taken out to keep the mystery of the woman in white. This shot and the hand sweeping along the railing were shot on a 35mm Zeiss ZE.

We really didn’t have time to plan out the dance sequence so Gary and I were relying on Dana and Jennifer as they have some dance experience. The extras were organized by Erin and Andrea Nilosek, and Gary and I quickly blocked out the dance sequence. The wides were shot on a steadirg, with Adam Belangier booming a china globe above them. We then moved in onto a dolly to capture the dialogue and broll. For this we brought the china globe up higher and boomed out to act as a key for Dana and Jennifer while we dollied along side of them. These shots, along with the details were done mostly on the 50mm and 85mm Zeiss ZE.

After Dinner we started on the medium shots where we were able to utilize Adam’s covered wagon which used unbleached muslin for the diffusion. This allowed us to get a nice warm key / fill on the talent.

We shot the entire conversation many times, to allow us enough coverage to craft the story. For this setup we turned around 2 of the 300’s and used them as a cross key. Due to the height it gave us a really nice backlight as well. We also dimmed down the lights in the background, and 4 tubes in one of the Image 80’s.

For the most part we shot static over the shoulders, with the exception of Jennifer describing how snow is formed. I decided to push in on her as it is the moment where she is bringing Dana’s character to her. This also allowed for us to get to the tights which we shot on an 85 Zeiss ZE. God I love that lens!

After many takes we finished all the shots with one left, the stairs. This is one of the shots I enjoy the most as it was all about mystery. We setup my 8′ Kessler Crane on a short dolly track. We did about 4 takes and that was it. A wrap for day 1.


We planed this day a week out, judging by the forecast for snow. As our stories central theme is snow we really needed shot either in the snow, or with a lot of snow in the frame. The previous weeks had been dry, with all remaining snowfall melted away.

The evening before, and that day it snowed… a lot. We were lucky that the trees were wet from the previous weather and made the snow stick to every limb and twig.

Our first exterior location was at the footsteps of Grace. Our crew was much less in numbers as was our gear. We set out with a basic Arri Kit, a Kino Flow, and a 3000 watt generator. As we setup the snow stopped and the town settled down, it was perfect besides the cold. We quickly moved through this scene as we knew the next location was going to take some time.

At arrival of Deering Oaks, we found the access road blocked due to a parking ban. Earlier that we we had received permission from the city to shoot in the park, as well as making sure the lights on the bridge were working. We were told that we could enter in the exit on the opposite side of the park if we found the first blocked. After shoveling out a small snow banking, I got a the rare opportunity to drive as fast as I could through the snow in the park… it’s the simple things really.

Stepping out of the car, we were welcomed with an amazing location that literally was breathtaking. The snow covering all the trees brought up the light level a bit which was a bonus. Nights before I had gone out and metered the light levels, which generally ran at around 800iso.

Considering the time crunch, the cold, greater noise, and how much we needed to cover we opted go with available light. Though a bit flat, it still was appealing so we ran with it. Again we started with the wides and moved it. As the night drew on we had to do some last minute script changes to wrap up at a reasonable time as the cast and crew were all donating their time.

Originally we had a sequence of Dana and Jennifer running through the park having a snowball fight, but due to the time and cold we changed it to a quick bit of snow thrown at Dana and a chase to the end of the bridge. In one of the takes Jennifer fell down, and it worked so well that we asked if they would mind doing it again. Jennifer was great, saying that she would be happy to. We did one take, and it was perfect.

Our last shot was of Jennifer and Dana laying down, which I decided we could keep rolling on to use for the credits. We put down some moving blankets for them to lay on, as well as covering the rest of them that wasn’t in frame.

Minutes later we were finished with principle photography!

Day 3

After reviewing footage Erin and I decided to do a quick pickup of the card laying in the snow, which definitely was more effective in the end. And that was it, all done!





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