Spike Lee’s Da Sweet Blood of Jesus Gets Support from OConnor and Power from Anton/Bauer
Cinematographer Daniel Patterson Relies on Vitec Videocom to Tell Important Story
Da Sweet Blood of Jesus is director Spike Lee’s first Kickstarter feature project. He took to the crowd-sourcing site to launch and ultimately fund his low-budget thriller that explores addiction in an unusual way. Lee has been coy about the plot, but it involves a taste for blood. And, no, it is not about vampires.
Eleven years ago, on Lee’s feature 25th Hour, Daniel Patterson was but an intern. On Sweet Blood, Patterson served as Lee’s director of photography. The cinematographer started in theater at Morehouse College, earning a bachelor’s in drama, but turned his eye to filmmaking and entered NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts for graduate work. “The cinematographer’s influence in the process of filmmaking and film viewing drew me to becoming a cinematographer” Patterson says.
On this collaboration, shot over 16 days, Patterson and Lee chose the new Sony F55 camera for its 4K-resolution, full-frame sensor, along with Sony SCL series prime cinema lenses and Angenieux Optimo zooms. Two Sony F55’s were in action nearly at all times, powered by Anton/Bauer and supported by OConnor Ultimate 2575D fluid heads on OConnor Cine HD tripods.
“I went with OConnor because I knew it was a brand that I can rely on” says Patterson. “I like the control I get while operating on OConnor fluid head. The ability to easily adjust the tension of my pans and tilts was necessary and assisted in our ability to finish a day early, without any malfunctions. Designed and controlled camera movement was vital in our aesthetic, and OConnor helped me deliver because I was always able to go from one setup to another without equipment slowing us down.”
OConnor O-Grip handgrips were fitted to the camera rigs for quick conversion to handheld shots. “I thought they worked great” Patterson says. “I could leave them on the camera when on the tripod, so going back and forth from handheld to sticks was effortless. What determined when I went handheld was the moment in the story and how we wanted the energy at that particular moment.”
Each camera rig consisted of a Preston wireless follow focus (and Micro-Force zoom control when using the Optimo lenses) and Teradek Bolt wireless transmitter for picture back to monitors. Anton/Bauer Dionic HCX batteries provided power to the rigs. Also supplying power were Anton/Bauer’s Sci-Tech Award-winning Cine VCLX batteries.
“I knew Anton/Bauer could power the various accessories I needed to get the film done the way we planned,” Patterson says. “We needed a wireless follow focus, and Spike needed to see the image wirelessly on a monitor, and many of the shots required zoom control on the zoom lenses. I was confident in Anton/Bauer from years of working with the products, ever since I was in film school!”
Patterson describes Sweet Blood’s aesthetic as naturalistic. “I would light the set or environment and let the actors inhabit it” he says. “We used diffusion if the light was too hard, and we used practicals to add pops of light where we wanted them. My gaffer, Justyn Davis, always stayed three steps ahead of me and would set up options for me.
“Sweet Blood was challenging to shoot from the very first day”, Patterson adds. “The first scene we shot was a nighttime interior, and we had a lot of shots planned, very little time, and not a lot of space. Ninety-five percent of the film was shot with at least two cameras simultaneously, and they were never next to each other. Actually, they were usually basically shooting towards one another. We framed each other out, and we knew where we wanted to cut so we could cut around a brief moment of seeing each other in the shots. From that first day on, I got to see every department perform at a high level and keep our film schedule on track.”
Much of the time, Patterson had circular polarizers on the lenses. “That adds a nice contrast to the image, as well as allows you to manipulate highlights by rotating the filter” he explains. “Why save for post what you can do in camera?”
Nice Dissolve in Brooklyn handled the dailies as well as the final color grade for the film, which had a final 4K output.
“This was the best film experience I’ve ever had” Patterson concludes. “I got to collaborate with a brilliant, living legend of a film director, and we explored important subject matter in an engaging story.”