Asude: Welcome Garth, we’ve been following your adventures as a director of photography for such a long time. That’s why we, as edelkrone would like to thank you for taking the time to speak with us! We all wonder where you are from and how did you get started with filmmaking?
Garth: In 1989, I was born in a small country town called Nelspruit in South Africa. Nelspruit is now the main hub for tourists visiting the famous Kruger National Park. So, I was very fortunate to grow up with amazing scenery and animals at my doorstep. In my teens, my family immigrated to Perth, Western Australia which also gave me another chance to develop my filmmaking as the environment was completely different to that of the Lowveld in South Africa. From a young age, I was always filming short fun movies with my friends (whether it was horror or ninja films). Thinking back, I started playing with my parents PowerShot camera at around the age of 10-11 and I think for me, it gave a great basis for the love of filmmaking as it wasn’t about the best camera gear, it was solely because I had a passion for creating. A camera became a tool or an outlet for me to develop my creativity which eventually led me down the path of becoming a director of photography.
A: I agree that cameras, gears and technology in general should only support creating something, not the other way around like you’ve stressed out. But, what about the video project you earned your first money, how did that happen?
G: I earned my first money from a marketing video for my father’s company. Fortunately, I had amazing parents that supported my passion for filmmaking which meant that I was able to pursue this career and get my foot in the door earlier and start earning money from it. I think I speak for many filmmakers when I say that earning your first money as a filmmaker is the hardest money you’ll ever earn!
A: You are so lucky that you got to grow up in such environment and have supportive parents! And, apart from your passion for videomaking, what is your background in videography?
G: When I finished high school, I did one year at a small film school in Western Australia but soon figured out that learning in a classroom wasn’t for me. After that year, I ended up moving back to Nelspruit, South Africa where I worked with a director called Jim Murray, who became a mentor. What I learnt from Jim was real world work, practical knowledge that I still use to this day. From there, I did a mix of marketing, wedding and music videos just to gain experience and earn a living. After a few years, I started developing my style and I was asked to be the DP for a proof of concept short film called the ‘Life of Cardboard.’ This was a turning point in my career as it was the first time that I worked with a entire film crew, from set design, lighting, costumes, scripts and storyboards.
A: Having both attended a film school and worked in the industry, what kind of a videography style have you acquired or how would you describe your filmmaking style now?
G: I try as much as possible to light in a natural way but it all depends on the project and the director that I work with, as they often have their own style in mind. However, when it’s my own projects I mostly go for a cinematic, natural look with a shallow depth of field and this is because I like to control what the audience sees and what they focus on. And, with this look comes the need to control your focus incredibly accurately and so for the past 4 years, i’ve been using the edelkrone FocusONE on every project of mine. It has given me the precision and ease of use for my run and gun style of filmmaking. I chose the edelkrone FocusONE for its build quality, precision and price, but the cherry on top was the ability to go between different lenses that focus in different directions. With a quick adjustment of the gears I will always throw forward and pull back.
It’s only a mistake if you don’t learn from it.
A: As a run and gun filmmaker, could you please tell us about the preparations you make before you begin filming?
G: For documentary work, I strip the camera to pack it in my Lowepro Whistler BP 450 backpack, everything including my edelkrone FocusONE fits in the backpack and within a minute, I can build the camera and get to work. For scripted work with bigger crews, I build the cameras the night before, test them to make sure there are no technical issues, I check that the cards are working and of course, all the batteries are charged. Basically prep the cameras for the scenes we are shooting the next day.
Once the filming day is done, especially for documentary filming in Africa, I clean my camera with wet wipes, microfibre cloths and a lens cleaning kit. I’ve found that the sensitive, scentless wet wipes are best for getting rid of dust on the surface of the camera. Working in remote locations in Africa, you learn pretty quickly to take care of your gear because if it breaks there is no where that you can get it fixed! This is another reason I chose the edelkrone FocusONE, because of its solid build it can handle the rough documentary lifestyle and it’s the one piece of gear I can always truly rely on.
A: It’s so obvious that you don’t leave it to luck and put so much effort in this. It’s admirable. So, could you share the best advice you've ever been given with us?
G: The best advice i’ve ever been given is to focus first and foremost on story, and remember that every piece of gear you have is there to help you tell that story.
A: Speaking of gears, do you prefer buying or renting your filmmaking equipment?
G: For the last 2 years, I’ve solely been working on my feature documentary called ‘Disunity’ which is on the horrific rhino poaching crisis. For this particular project, I wanted to buy all the gear I needed as it obviously worked out to be significantly cheaper than renting. It also means that when I film other projects, I can charge for gear rental and earn an extra income.
A: So, it must be very important that you invest in the right equipment. Could you please give us a more detail about the gears you use? What’s the equipment you generally bring to a set?
G: For this example i’ll choose the gear I use for a documentary interview. My go to kit, is my Manfrotto 546B tripod with a 504HD fluid head, my Blackmagic URSA Mini Pro camera, the Sigma 18-35mm f1.8 lens, my edelkrone FocusONE, Rode NTG-1 microphone and a portable softbox on a light stand. As a documentary filmmaker you really have to strip it down to the basics and make situations work, which is why these items are in my go to kit.
A: After filming, what software do you use for post-production?
G: When i’m doing DIT work after a day of filming, I use ShotPut Pro for safe and reliable data transfer, because it verifies that your files have no errors. Then, when it comes to post-production work, I do everything in Blackmagic’s Davinci Resolve, which is an all in one system for editing, grading, audio and VFX.
A: That seams brief and to the point! So, what is the best piece of advice you could give to other filmmakers?
G: My best piece of advice would be not to get bogged down in the tech-specs of the newest cameras. Find a camera within your budget that will do the job for you and then learn the capabilities of that camera so you can push it to its limits. Oh - and of course don’t forget that story is King!
A: You were the 2nd director of photography and the camera operator of the award winning web series “Greenfields”, right?
G: Yes,I was a DP on “Greenfields” that won 2 awards at the WASA’s (Western Australian Screen Awards) in 2015.
A: Congratulations! What are your thoughts about the future of filmmaking with the technology advancing so fast?
G: Personally, i’m excited for the new technology in filmmaking! As the prices have come down on camera gear it’s allowed the industry to become far more egalitarian, meaning everybody has the chance to buy gear and create films. With this increased interest in filmmaking, out of the box ideas and innovative solutions to everyday indie filmmaker problems, like edelkrone’s Wing sliders, are the outcome. I think it’s a win-win situation for both filmmakers and companies in the creative industries!
A: And, last but not least, what’s your biggest ambition for the future?
G: Obviously, I want to keep making films but most of all I hope that I’m always open to learning, testing and trying out new ways to film and get stories across to an audience.