The Importance of Filming Whenever You Can

June 7, 2020
3 mins read

Although many regions are starting to ease covid-19 lockdown protocols, for the time being here in Wales, local beauty spots are still off-limits. So while I wait for the chance to wander along the coastal cliffs, photographing and filming local scenery simply because it’s therapeutic, I’m reminded of the importance of filming and photographing wherever and whenever possible.

Summer 2013 and The Heavy Cinema Camera

I can reluctantly recall the summer of 2013, and the day I decided to walk five miles to the beach with 30kg of cinema camera equipment. It was a blistering hot day, and I had no work nor social plans, and I was determined that I would not waste the day sitting at the house. In my closet, I had a ready-to-shoot RED ONE, and although it cost a small fortune, it had not been used much because of one glaring omission in my toolset; a vehicle.

Handheld operating a rigged RED ONE MX is not a duty to be undertaken for lengthy intervals due to its weight, and carrying a RED ONE plus the varying accessories is an even more tedious task. Yet, with the sun still high in the sky, no vehicle, and no money for a taxi, I took it upon myself to carry the RED ONE in a heavy-duty Pelican case, with the needed batteries media storage, and cables in one rucksack, another rucksack filled with lenses, and then a tripod, to the local beach.

By the time I arrived, I was exhausted, and with 10-15-minute setup time (and let’s not forget how much the Red one hates the heat), I was not in the mood for filming the local landscape. I filmed two, maybe three, shots of the oceanic scenery, and I decided to pack everything away and run through my entire contacts list, looking for someone who could give me a lift home.

In the back of my friend’s car, I also firmly remember two other thoughts, one being that I should have stayed home, and the second; thinking that if they ever make a cinema camera that has the power of a RED ONE MX that can fit into a backpack, I’d never stop filming.

Comes 2019, and we have the likes of the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema 4k & 6k, and both that cost less than $2000.

Summer 2019 and the Portable Cinema Camera

The Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4k landed in my hands in late May of 2019, and after the initial excitement of buying a new toy, for most days, the camera would sit idly on my shelf. Even when the setting sun painted sky a peach-pink, a sky you would pray for on designated photography days, I would murmur, ‘I’ll go out tomorrow.’ Tomorrow never happened.

However, several weeks into owning the BMPCC4k, I caught this Instagram post from Ryan Booth. DP turned director, Ryan often posts stills and short sequences to Instagram simply because the moment caught his eye. The quality of the clip and the related stills truly promoted the essence of the BMPCC4k; A portable cine camera, to be used whenever and wherever that will capture cinematic images.

At one time, I had clamored for the chance to film cinematic footage on a whim, and now, with the option both figuratively and literally in my hands, I was squandering it. The next night, and for many more nights to come, I would take my BMPCC4k to the local coast, and film whatever was available. This then extended to filming random moments wherever; a man painting the garage, my dog under a pink sky, a van pulling into a car park clouded by stormy weather; anything.

Shot of neighbours laundry under a pink sky.

A shot of my neighbor’s laundry under a pink sky, while random, this made it into a short film. 

In turn, I built up a selection of 4k RAW cinema files to be used as needed—my own stock library. The library was promptly put into practice for the 2019 RODE Reel competition. A filmmaking content created by Australian microphone company RODE, in which users are to submit a three-minute short film. The only problem was that I had learned of the competition late, and there was just a week between the deadline and the proposed shooting days that both actors were free. Couple that with my own work deadlines and commitments, and there wasn’t going to be a lot of time for editing and grading. Everything had to be perfectly smooth to enter the contest in time.

Instead of trying to write a short film that would need new shots from various locations,  I decided to look through my library and write the short around the material that already existed. Living close to a fairground, I had an abundance of fairground clips mixed in with the coastal scenery. One night, under a purple sky, I filmed a garbage truck pulling out of a fairground, and as the shot was filmed just after closing hours, it almost looked like the workers were dismantling the fairground equipment.

That moment alone sparked the idea of a couple reminiscing over fond memories, and how their initial romantic locations had vanished, one being the Ferris wheel.

You can watch the completed short film here:

Ultimately, this film would never have been produced if I hadn’t spent those nights walking about with my camera seeking picturesque elements. And more importantly, in a time like the Covid-19 pandemic, where many are unable to film, and agencies have relied on stock footage, it highlights the importance of having your own library of footage. Unfortunately, we have no notion as to how long this time of uncertainty will last, and if another similar circumstance will appear in the future. The next time you’re heading out, and you debate on whether you should take your camera or not, take it.

Cover image via Bronze Bow Media/Shutterstock

Lewis McGregor

Lewis McGregor is a filmmaker, photographer and online content creator from Wales.