Adam Beck is absolutely devoted to cinematography. This year alone, he’s shot three indie features: Camp Twilight, Killer Rose and Booze, Broads and Blackjack (which is in the final stages of post-production). He also shoots commercials, music videos and documentaries. He spoke with ProductionHUB exclusively about his work on Booze, Broads and Blackjack, the equipment he trusts and some of the challenges he overcame working on the film.
PH: Can you describe Booze, Broads and Blackjack and how you got involved?
The director Rickey Bird and I had previously worked on a few projects together before Booze, Broads and Blackjack. The film was a good project to collaborate on because Rickey comes from the indie film world of making do with what you have. While I’m of the attitude of trying anything if it will help the director tell the story. The scope of the film had some good size to it.
We needed to come up with some creative solutions to try and maintain a certain level of quality and size to the project, even though we were not given the budget to match our aspirations. The film stars Joe Raffa as Jack King, an amateur poker player whose uncle is a gangster starring Vincent Pastore. Jack is tasked to retrieve a briefcase while in Las Vegas from a mobster played by James Duval.
Joe Raffa as Jack King
PH: What types of equipment did you rely on to shoot and why?
The feature was shot on RED. The “A” cam was a RED Epic Dragon and the seldom-used “B” cam was a Scarlet. The “B” cam was strategically used to grab coverage when we did not have a lot of time in a location. Most of the film was shot with Schneider Xenon FF Prime lenses, while a few shots we used a zoom. We pushed to always have some type of movement to help with the pacing of the film. Since our shooting speed was critical, we elected to use a Dana Dolly to help achieve those dolly shots, while not spending a lot time setting up the shots.
A monitor shot of Alicia Gonzalvo visiting Jack King at his hotel with the briefcase.
PH: Can you talk about the pre-production process?
It was a smaller budgeted film that had 58 locations with only 22 principle photography days. Location scouting was important, but it wasn’t just about finding the right casino. It was also about how we could use one location for one scene and repurpose it for something else. We looked at how can we make it look good, but also be very quick and nimble when filming.
PH: What shots are you extremely proud of and why?
On a project like this where we’re having to creatively solve many issues of telling the story in a believable fashion, it’s not always about a beautiful composition that you find you have the most pride. Sometimes it’s a series of shots or a scene that took a creative solution to make the scene work. Whether it was seamlessly shooting a scene which was shot in two different states or having to make exteriors of Bakersfield, California seem like Syracuse, New York. We did not have an endless supply of money to throw at our problems therefore the story depended on us having creative solutions for many of the issues that arose.
PH: What were some of the challenges you had to overcome for this project? How did you overcome them?
We were averaging 2-3 company moves per day which eats up a lot of time. There were times we only had a couple of hours in a location and there was no going back. It makes it easy not to overshoot, but you still must get the coverage you need for that scene. There was a delicate balance we wanted to achieve with coverage.
PH: What was it like working on this film?
Physically demanding with a lot of long days. We started the movie behind the 8 ball with the scope of the story compared to the size of the budget. It was creatively very challenging, and it tested our limits, but with all tests you find out what you did well and the areas that you need to improve on. Overall is was a good experience.
James Duval as Oscar Chavez
PH: Who are some of your biggest inspirations in the industry and how has their influence impacted you?
I draw inspiration from a lot of different source, but a major source for me is the work of other cinematographers and directors that I greatly admire. The work of Toland in Citizen Kane, to Krasker in the The Third Man, and Cortex in The Magnificent Ambersons. Today’s masters of light and shadow are no slouches either. Cundey’s work alone on Back to the Future franchise has forever left a huge impression on me.
PH: Is there anything else you'd like to touch on? Please share!
A new year is quickly approaching and I’m exciting to get started on another feature. I’m unable say too much about the project, except that Jennifer is a very talented director and I can not wait to see what we create together. 2020 looks to be an amazing year with new opportunities and relationships.
Main image photo credit: EJ Medellin
Photo credit: Film Regions International (FRI) and Hectic Films