Documentary 'After The Swill' - Filming Rock Royalty and Cocktails

I've been shooting a feature documentary for over a year about the pub and bar culture in Australia since "The 6 O'Clock Swill' - a slang term from the 60's for the last-minute rush to buy drinks at a bar before it closed. The tradition stems from WWII when pubs would close at 6pm in respect of those fighting the war. Men would come straight after work (no women were allowed in pubs at that time) and hammer as many drinks as possible before the pub closed. The results were debaucherous and are thought to be the reason for Australia's drinking culture as we know it.

THE BRIEF - The director would send me a brief explaining what he wanted each interview to feel like, how he wanted the subjects to be presented and characterised and how it fell within the story. Not having been raised in Australia I didn't know many of the subjects so I'd research and then formulate an approach to bring to the table.

SCOUT - We'd take this info into the scout. As we'd only have a total of about 3 hours to set up and interview, we needed to nut out our approach exactly while scouting. Especially with choosing gear that could fit and work in such small locations which were:

LOCATIONS - almost every iconic pub and bar in Australia, and the odd music studio and parliament house. So you can see the challenge there..

APPROACH -  I would need to decide on all of the gear, and quickly, so my producer could wrangle. Frugality was especially the name of the game. The gear had to:

  • fit into a small rental car
  • fit into a tight set up time
  • fit into the tight physical spaces
  • fit the aesthetic 
  • be handle-able by the minimal crew we had under my sole instruction. (I was my own Gaffer ;) )

CREW -  Myself, the director, the producer, sound recordist, the rare assistant to slate and carry gear. I pulled my own focus.

CAMERA - Canon 5D Mk2 and the Sony A7 series for the later 2nd Unit footage of the bars at night, for their low light capability. Canon 24-70mm and 70-200mm - one for the wider, one for the tighter shot.

SUBJECTS - Australian Rock royalty, crowned best bartenders in the world, famous publicans with the odd politician and critic.

Next Time - Would I use the same lighting approach if I was to do this again? I got great results at a quick pace and will continue to use some of my techniques. However, the experience opened me up to a more efficient way to light. It all depends on the budget and gear available, of course, but I will be applying what I've gained on the next project that calls for this. 

The doco is in post-production but here are some <ungraded> snippets :

BRIEF - The Angels videos and posters have always had a low key look splashed with red. Try and emulate this idea in a grungy dive bar, two old rockers sitting in a booth reminiscing about the old days.
© After The Swill 2015

© After The Swill 2015

BRIEF - It's got to be dark and shady, low key. Emphasise Angry's toughness.
© After The Swill 2015

© After The Swill 2015

BRIEF - The lighting and the look of their videos are all have a distinct look of black with a cold blue light. Let's see if this will work in the studio.
© After The Swill 2015

© After The Swill 2015

Give it an industrial feel.
© After The Swill 2015

© After The Swill 2015

BRIEF - Bring out the warm tones and feel as if we are talking to him in a quiet bar at the end of a long night.
© After The Swill 2015

© After The Swill 2015

and the many other renowned bartenders and publicans..