Director of Photography's Statement

We shot Charlotte using motion picture stock. We felt that imagery exposed on an emulsion-based medium would best capture the natural feel of sculpted wood grain, the artistry of the builders and the details of their environs.  Film feels like a natural product.  It is visually organic – and, yes, I know the stock originates from a lot of chemistry in Rochester, NY! The film medium helped guide my own art as a cinematographer: The exposure range combined with the depth of field of super 16mm film aided me in staying flexible and in the moment. With no added production lights I had to depend on the expansiveness of the medium along with the mechanics of my camera.

Shooting vérité

There is something about the commitment a shipwright makes when cutting wood into shape.  You can’t go back.  A tight fitting plank is cut just so – it has to fit or the boat will leak forever. The commitment is similar with shooting film.  A shot has to be timely and correct. There is little margin for error. A missed shot is simply missed.

Like the choice of film, the decision to shoot vérité was also deliberate.  We did not want to direct the boat builders to work for us.  From the outset, we made an agreement with Nat Benjamin and Ross Gannon that we would not interrupt their process or their daily lives.  Shooting this way is demanding.  It requires constant attention to what is in front of you while always keeping an eye open to anticipate what is about to happen as the “story” unfolds. 

Vérité shooting is also about hand holding the camera--it is a dance with your subject. I had to move with Nat and Ross, and the other builders, while not being in their way. One of the great challenges is to be in the middle of everything with a minimal presence.  My goal was simple--I try to make their world visible while remaining as invisible as possible. In this kind of  film-making dance, experience and instinct ultimately take over.