Indie Cinematographer: Beautiful Sketches

American film director Ernest Worthing (also of this parish’s ‘Dissecting Directors’ series) has put together a short film that is startling and fascinating, nor least because of its technical accomplishment but because of its daring scope.

‘Beautiful Sketches’ will, inevitably, elicit a variety of responses- is it about relationships? Death? Urban expansion? Ice-skating? For me, and the director has been coy on this subject, the film is about imagination versus reality. Our heroine can escape (and, indeed, embrace) her current circumstances through the sketches that become, in themselves, a beautiful reality.

For technical buffs the film is an orgy of indie filmmaking techniques. Worthing shot using the Canon 7D, a DSLR camera much favoured by indie cinematographers. The timelapses and colour sequences tended to be shot with a 10-22mm lens whilst the 85mm and wider (50mm and 22mm) where used for the bulk of skating and B&W scenes.

On the subject of shooting timelapses, Worthing is keen to point out that it is a filmmaking method rife with difficulty. ‘First and foremost, weather’ he replies, when probed on the problems, ‘It can really upset and change things.’ But the other problems stretch to ‘raccoons’, ‘mosquitos’ and condensation. ‘It’s easy to fall in love with the timelapses that you shoot,’ he says, ‘but you can’t throw them in just because they look good. Put them in and keep the length of the cut to whatever is appropriate in order to give the right feeling and atmosphere that the story warrants.’ Caution, in other words.

Worthing’s film has an elegiac nature that leads me to compare it to Terrence Malick’s 2011 offering, The Tree of Life. Like the supernova shots that intersperse that cryptic narrative, Beautiful Sketches is punctuated with the night sky- a universal and timeless theme. Whatever conclusions you might come to about the director’s intentions, there’s no doubting that this three minute epic is a thing of rare beauty.

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