FILMS@59 PROVIDES ARRI ALEXA AND POST FACILITIES FOR BBC’S INSPIRATIONAL DRAMA THE BEST OF MEN10 Aug 2012
Award-winning pre and post production facility Films@59 has provided all camera kit and post production services for BBC Two’s 90-minute drama, The Best of Men. The true story, based on the birth of the Paralympic Games and its visionary creator Dr Ludwig Guttmann, will air on 16th August at 9pm as part of the channel’s Cultural Olympiad 2012 season.
Written by Lucy Gannon, produced by Harriet Davison and directed by Tim Whitby, The Best of Men stars Eddie Marsan (Dr Guttmann), Rob Brydon (Sergeant Wynne Bowen) and Niamh Cusack (Sister Edwards). It tells the story of neurologist Guttmann’s arrival at Stoke Mandeville Hospital and his transformation of the spinal unit using sport as an inspiration for patients. Harriet says, “Within six months of the arrival of Dr Guttmann, Stoke Mandeville really became known locally as the place of miracles and the film really embodies that spirit. It’s about breaking down prejudice and not being constrained by physical circumstances.”
Shot on location at Bristol University’s Wills Hall and Manor Hall, DoP Matt Gray used Arri’s Alexa digital camera for the majority of the shoot interlaced with Canon 5D Mark II shots for intimate macro close ups. Harriet explains, “The Alexa was an invaluable investment and one of the smartest decisions that we made. It enabled us to shoot in the tight time constraints that we had and also allowed us to use the beautiful natural light conditions at Wills Hall and Manor Hall with outstanding results.”
Matt worked closely with Films@59 Colourist Tony Osborne who used Digital Vision’s Nucoda Film Master to conform and grade the piece. Matt says, “When you’re shooting a period drama digitally, one of the things at the top of your list is to try and take the audience back in time photographically and sometimes that requires taking the edge off the digital element. We also wanted to get away from the sepia look that traditional period drama has addressing the 1940s time frame in the costumes and the sets, not in the grade.”
Tony adds, “To achieve this, in the test shots we introduced little hints of colour to the shadow areas and to the highlights. We didn’t want the slightly de-saturated and bleached look that favours the warmer brown colour palette and so we created a blue element in the shadows and a flesh tone range that was very natural, with a slightly warm almost creamy look to the highlights.” Matt says, “The Nucoda Film Master is impressive. It has a number of different tricks with the high dynamic range toolset to deal with highlights and pulling back highlight detail, which you think may have been lost during filming.”
The Best of Men is an uplifting drama that examines the human spirit and man’s ability to triumph over adversity. The opening sequence sees one of the soldiers facing the reality that he’s paralysed from the waist down. He’s being given morphine and experiences flashbacks to happier times dancing on a hillside with his girlfriend. Gray explains, “We played off these two visual approaches in the shoot and in the grade. We used some defocus and tried to find an identity for the flashback, which was a little warmer and a bit more romantic but still routed in the sense of reality. At that point the audience isn’t sure which story is being told so we didn’t want that to be too heightened. Tony did a really good job of creating the look for this scene.”
Harriet concludes, “Matt was an incredibly organised DoP and he worked really well with Tony; it was a very good collaboration. It’s been great working with Films@59, the whole project has been highly successful.”
In the summer of 1948, Guttmann held the first national athletic event for disabled athletes, which took place on the same day as the opening ceremony for the 1948 London Games. As The Best of Men documents his legacy to medicine and sport continues to this day.