Once Chris Del Moro and I decided to make Bella Vita, the first call I made was to my old friend Scott Kassenoff. Scott has shot with me on Singlefin: yellow & One California Day. He specializes in shooting from the water and loves to shoot film. We discussed our desire to visually "raise the bar" with Bella Vita and a big part of my focus was telling the story from "in" the water. I wanted the audience to really feel like they were with the surfers. Obviously, there are many fantastic digital cinema options these days. (I'm currently testing the RED Dragon for #REDirectsurf and I am very impressed by it's ability to handle light, dark and shoot slow motion, all very important things for capturing surfing)
But with Bella Vita, Scott and I wanted to pay homage to our previous work (shot on 16mm and super 16mm), yet explore it on a more cinematic scale. So he suggested shooting 35mm Film in the wide-screen format. For those who don't know, 35mm was the staple for Hollywood for many years and although filmmakers like Steven Spielberg, Christopher Nolan and Quinten Tarantino still use film, many have switched to digital. Note: there is an interesting documentary on the subject of digital & film in Hollywood on Netflix called, "Side by Side".
I loved Scott's idea. It was bold, 35mm is a larger format film negative so the equipment is larger. With a big Hollywood crew, the larger gear is just part of the machine but on a small independent Documentary, the endeavor was monumental.
We were able to find scott one of Don King's old surf-housings for an ARRI film cam and it was off to the races. Scotty, Myself and our assistant Johnathon Taylor shlepped two 35mm camera bodies, batteries, lenses, film-magazines, raw film stock and peripherals along with two super 16mm film cams and 3 small digital cinema units all over Italy. The gear filled up two Jeeps. That's a lot of stuff for 3 guys guys to handle... but I'm so proud of the accomplishment. Below is a short video with a few of Scott's water clips, truly beautiful imagery!
Bella Vita's Water Cinematography from jason baffa films on Vimeo.