Posts Tagged ‘theatre’

Black Swan 2014 Programme

Peter Rowsthorn

It’s been four years, a long term relationship in this biz, and we feel dead cosy working as part of WA’s crack black ops theatre promotion team. Geoff and Esther of Dessein go in hard on behalf of design cred, Nancy and Kate from Black Swan State Theatre Company provide the best support and occasional loud “hurrahs!”

Last Monday the ‘Swan launched their 2014 programme. Next year will see Ben Elton, old Bill Shakespeare, Checkov and Tennessee Williams rub shoulders with (comparatively) new talent Chris Isaacs and fresh work from Aidan Fennessy.

Programme photography never begins until casting is over, and as a consequence, the shoots take place back to back; in most cases we shoot two plays to a day. The leads in the plays are a mix of new talent and faces familiar to anyone who hasn’t had their head under a rock for the past thirty years. Peter Rowsthorn (Brett of Kath and Kim fame) was first cab off the rank this year, yanking his amzingingly mobile features into line as the complex Max Prince character in Neil Simon’s “Laughter on the 23rd Floor”.

Hot on Peter’s heels was Sigrid Thornton, switching rapidly between her chatty, cheery self and the intense, anxious Blanche Dubois of “Streetcar”.

Black Swan State Theatre Co

The bulk of the posters were concepted around the idea of magazine covers with bold colourful backgrounds. They were all shot on colours as close as possible to the finished poster to minimise mucking about in post with awkward chroma casts in hair and shadows. This approach also makes it much easier for all involved in the shoot to visualise the finished result. Don’t we all get sick of explaining that “it will look different when the retoucher is done with it, a lot different”? Ultimately shooting on the right colour speeds the whole gig up immensely. Authenticity baby, it’s what we’re about.

The two studio plays, “Flood” and “The House on the Lake”, presented the biggest challenges, one calling for a partially submerged actress and the other a man wreathed in smoke. Adriane Daff drew the short straw for mid winter submersible duties in our indoor pool facility. Stylist Rachel Ciccarelli, makeup artists Jo Buswell and Virginia Hawdon, put their all into the transformation of actors into characters and Kailis Pearls did the jewellery honours for Streetcar.


2012 Black Swan Programme

Dog knows why but we’ve been a bit slow off the mark mentioning this work. It’s the second year we’ve been involved with Black Swan State Theatre Company. Once again we worked with the crack team; Geoff Bickford and Ester Lee from Dessein and Nancy Hackett from Black Swan.
As per, the work presented us with plenty of creative and technical challenges. Challenges we rrrrrrelish!
Tom O'€™Sullivan and Yutaka Izumihara in the play White Divers
Dessein and the Swan get us involved us early in peace so we had plenty of input into locations and timing. Pre-visualisation of the images and superb (yes!) forward planning meant that all of the shoots were completed in under two hours.David Williamson’s new play, “Managing Carmen”, a comedy about a cross dressing footballer, is premiering in Perth late 2012. Actor Michael Drysdale Managing Carmen, a comedy by David Williamson about a cross dressing footblaller  2012
Tim Winton’s second play, “Signs of Life” starring Helen Morse is being premiered by Black Swan. We love working with daylight and other existing and unpredictable sources. Four of the six images were shot under daylight, ranging from “White Divers'” hard sunlight to dusk supplemented by a single battery powered flash and stairway lighting for “Boy Meets Girl”Signs of life was shot in the few minutes following sunset. Skylight is again supplemented by a single portable flash. Helen Morse George Shevtsov and Pauline Whyman Signs of Life
Life can be hard for photogs on the 32nd parrallel – the magic hour lasts a scant 10-20 minutes! Stoppard’s Arcadia was the toughest shoot. With a location that was an hour and a bit out of town and, prior to shoot day, had only been scouted by the producer we didn’t have much contingency. So some major league nail-biting was in order when the car carrying actor Andrew McFarlane and Black Swan’s Kate Cherry broke down en-route. This image was nailed only a few minutes before the sun crashed to the deck. Rebecca Davis Andrew McFarlane Whitney Richards in ARCADIA
“Boy Gets Girl”. Boy of the title is a stalker. This was shot round dusk at the State Theatre Centre (the stairs are the way to Black Swan’s front door). Boy meets Girl
Aidan Fennessey’s National Interest,  re-examines the events of October 1975 that saw five Australian journalists killed in Balibo. The play is set in a kitchen as June, a mother of one of the Balibo 5, and her daughter Jane, re-open some old wounds.We invaded the kitchen at Dessein for this shot. The single light source for this image is the graphics projector set a little off camera to create some shadow and texture. Julia Blake as June in Black Swan State Theatre Company's 2012 production of National Interest

State Theatre Centre of WA

A mind-numbingly intense start to 2011 has been offset by the great projects we’ve been involved in. New client Kerry Hill Architects kicked off our relationship with a fantastic commission, photographing the new and entirely spectacular State Theatre Centre of Western Australia. This new building is the cornerstone of the state government’s makeover of the Perth Cultural Centre precinct. Kerry with colleagues Patrick Kosky and Simon Cundy have created a bit of a Tardis on an awkward “J” shaped site that connects Roe Street with the Cultural Centre. Their masterstroke according to Phil Goldswain in the March/April 2011 edition of Architecture Australia was the stacking of the main 575 seat theatre and the smaller Studio Underground theatre one on top of the other.

The building presents beautifully from the street, that however is only the beginning of the journey. The ground floor lobby is at once cavernous and intimate. Jewel-like focus is counterpointed with grand vistas that wouldn’t be out of place in a Kubrick film. Shifting scale runs through the entire complex; the staircase to the Heath Ledger Theatre lobby stretches out forever thanks to generous landings every seven steps, once at the top a low dark ceiling gives way dramatically to a three story high void in which sits the imposing drum that houses the theatre. There’s more. Much more. More than you, dear reader, could bear to have us write about. Best thing you can do is get down there and have a look. Book a show, it really doesn’t matter which one ’cause the building could well be the main act on your first visit.

WA State Theatre Centre

Black Swan 2011 Season Programme

The funnest shoot I’ve done all year is how I’ve been characterising the work we’ve just finished for Black Swan State Theatre Company. The whole thing was a gas from start to finish. I really loved working with Geoff Bickford and Esther Lee from Dessein again and meeting new clients Nancy and Kate from Black Swan.
Geoff and Esther had visualised concepts for six of the seven plays that form a part of the programme. The seventh, “Ninety”, a play by Joanna Murray Smith about a woman given 90 minutes by her ex-husband, to persuade him to come back to her instead of marrying a younger woman, had been making one direct hit after another in the too hard basket.
As always good pre-production pays real dividends on shoot day, especially when you’re dealing with interstate stars like James Morrison and Cheree Cassidy. Aside from performing in Boundary Street Morrison (right) is its composer and musical director. He’s also a jolly nice fellow and a real pleasure to work with!
The shoot was chock full of technical challenges including flying fairies from Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” and an underwater shoot for Tim Winton’s first play Rising Water. I asked Clay Bryce of Precision Images to handle the subsurface side of the Rising Water shoot. Since I had asked him politely he agreed. Just goes to show.
The Damned is the only piece that was executed with available light only.

Leederville Skate Park.


Goth chicks.

Does it get any better?

The greatest creative challenge was “Ninety” (right). With no actors cast we were unable to show faces, and as the play is dialogue driven we didn’t have any key scenes we could lift and illustrate. The final image captures the emotional distance between the couple. Geoff and I agreed that a sense of urgency was important and that we needed to tie the image back to the element of time that is central to the play. This was the last image of the shoot and, with no location set until late in the day preceding the shoot, I was feeling tense and nervous, finding it hard to relax…. the shoot went quickly though; working on the south side of a massive glass wall we needed just one battery powered light inside the location to give us a bit of the old rim light to lift and separate our actors. We disguised them with sunglasses for the ex-wife (model’s own I think) and a generous dose of out of focus-ness for the ex-hubbie.
Cat on a Hot Tin Roof was the first cab off the rank. We shot this in an event hire shop, fair bit of furniture got moved.
Picture this though – the art director shows you a few pics that set the mood they’re chasing, OK, that’s they way we collaborate and establish a shared visual language. Except, what if the pics are stills of Elizabeth Taylor from the film with Paul Newman and of Kate Moss with a couple of fey fellows in a hotel room. Talk about raising the bar.
Cheree Cassidy was wonderful and patient. And importantly, able to re-conjure a fleeting moment again and again while we fiddled with our miriad gobos and flags positioned in front of the single light source we used for this shot.
After an initial pre-pro meeting the bulk of the pre-production hard yards were shouldered by Black Swan’s unstoppable Nancy Hackett. Geoff from Dessein handled all the image post-production for all the shots – any photoshop junkie would be in a rapture over his endless carefully labelled layers!
A Midsummer Night’s Dream was the most complex shoot we did. Shot entirely in our Subiaco studio we had the tortured actors limping out the door by lunchtime. Think I heard one of them muttering on the phone to their chiropractor as they left…
Steve Turner is a God! The water we poured over him was warm and the A/C was set to compete with the heart of the sun. Evaporation is a powerful thang though and he was getting cold. This studio shoot was very componenty. There’s a dry umbrella shot. There’s Steve wet through holding a fish while someone empties a watering can overhead shot. A skirting board shot, clouds and a light switch.
Just to be sure we stood Steve back in the pool and shot a few more of him getting rained on.
And then a few more after that.
Then just one more.
Then we treated him for hypothermia.