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Sarah Adina Smith's "Midnight Swim"

Going From Faux Documentary to Cinematic Thriller With Blackmagic Cameras and DaVinci Resolve
For any filmmaker, switching genres between movies is always a tough task. But Sarah Adina Smith decided to switch between genres three times in the same film. "Midnight Swim" takes viewers from a faux documentary to a surreal thriller and then to a sweeping cinematic feature, all in the space of a single film.

The film focuses on three sisters and the mystery of Spirit Lake. After their mother disappeared during a deep water dive in the lake, the three sisters travel to the lake to settle their mother's affairs. Once there, they find themselves unable to let go of their mother and become drawn into the mysteries of the lake.

"Midnight Swim" starts with the sisters filming themselves as part of a documentary. The shots are shaky and made to feel gritty and raw, with the sisters as the filmmakers. As they begin to understand that there is more to their mother's death than a simple accident, the film moves from fake documentary to a surreal thriller, with images that are dark, dramatic and cinematic, as the camera eye moves away from a first person POV to third person. Finally, as the mystery unravels, the film takes on a sweeping cinematic look and feel.
To accomplish this, Sarah chose to shoot with Blackmagic Design cameras and grade the film using DaVinci Resolve.
Shooting Different Film Types
"We had two weeks to shoot Midnight Swim. This is not much time, especially with the ideas I had for how I wanted the film to look. The story was a natural progression from the sisters' point of view to a full blown cinematic film. A lot of what I had in mind was the type of look that films like "Picnic at Hanging Rock" gave, getting a balance of a naturalistic feel with sweeping cinematics," said Sarah. "The Blackmagic cameras and Resolve let me do this."

Sarah used Blackmagic Cinema Camera as the A camera for the film, and Pocket Cinema Cameras at the end of shooting for various up close shots and scenes shot in tight spaces, as well as to capture the film's final scene. Sarah liked the look of the cameras so much, she also included several of them as props during the fake documentary scenes.
"The Cinema Camera has a really nice range, and gives a natural look. It has a great sensor and let us do a lot of shooting in low light. We knew that we would get what we needed even in the worst natural lighting," she said.
"For the documentary scenes, we used the Blackmagic Cinema Camera to get a less pretty and more gritty look. And then we started to shoot in a way that gradually put color and vibrancy back in the film, so there is a real contrast from beginning to end," she continued.

Sarah shot in RAW, and gave the footage a quick first pass grade using DaVinci Resolve on set before passing the footage over for final grading.
"RAW gave us the most options later in post, which, with the way we were shooting, was something we had to have. The cameras gave us the leverage to get creative with our shots and take more risks to get the perfect angles and emotions. I could not have done this movie with any other camera. The picture quality was great, I could shoot quickly and it was affordable," Sarah said.
From Philosophy to Midnight Swim
"Midnight Swim" is the first feature film directed by Sarah, and has earned awards from some of the biggest film festivals in North America. The film is scheduled for theatrical distribution in the summer of 2015, and will go to VOD and streaming services in the fall. Sarah's previous film that she produced and co wrote, "Goodbye World," also gained international recognition and was picked up on NetFlix at the beginning of 2015.
Sarah's film career did not start in film school, however. She studied philosophy and art in college, and gradually moved to film after school.
"In the end, I wanted the paintings to move and decided I had to be a filmmaker. It was a long, hard road to get here, where I tried and failed a number of times to get big budgets for my films. So I decided to go out there and just start making micro budget films, and slowly worked my way to longer feature films," she said.

"One of the things that made this possible is the new technology from companies like Blackmagic Design. Blackmagic cameras and Resolve make it possible for me to shoot films that have the same quality as the biggest budget movies," she finished.

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Related Keywords:BlackMagic Design, DaVinci Resolve, Cinema Camera, Pocket Cinema Camera


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