DOP Dylan Bruce gets back to nature to shoot the story of one man and his vineyard for Cooke
Dylan Bruce spent the best part of his school years hoping to work in the fields of illustration or animation. However, after watching The Revenant (2016) on his 18th birthday, he ‘realised there was this magical thing called cinematography’ – even if he didn’t fully understand what it involved at that point.
Fast-forward to his final year at the University of Westminster and Bruce met some directors who had signed to Academy Films. They started working together; he would shoot a lot of their music promos.
“This was a very steep learning curve as I’d only just finished university and had to quickly start learning how to work with crews and productions,” Bruce explains. “It threw me into work and helped me build my confidence and industry connections.”
Now an established DOP, he’s just wrapped on Man of the Soil, a short documentary filmed at Tuffon Hall Vineyard in Essex to showcase Cooke’s Varotal/i FF lens range. The rationale behind the film is to showcase the kit in surroundings more creatively stimulating than a run-of-the-mill lens test. The focus of the documentary was Leslie, someone who’s been working the land his entire life and has wizard-like knowledge of the inner workings of the vineyard environment.
“Cooke got in touch with me through the recommendation of Mungo Penfold, Account Manager at CVP,” Bruce explains. “Mungo is someone who has helped me make many impossible jobs work, and I’m very grateful for this. After meeting with Cooke, we spoke about how to make a lens showcase both compelling and visually arresting. A documentary felt like a great way to test the Varotal glass, with rapid changes in lighting conditions and the need to be reactive.”
A TIGHT SCHEDULE
Adding the three Cooke Varotal/i FF Zooms and set of S8s to a camera supplied by 24/7 Kit, Bruce says that the whole package had to be easy to travel with around the vineyard, so he worked primarily with a slider, Easyrig and set of sticks. “Lighting was particularly minimal, with negative fill and bounce boards when necessary, and utilising high-power LED COBs to supplement daylight interiors,” he adds.
The biggest challenges Bruce faced were time constraints, owing to access to the main man and unpredictable conditions.
“We had Leslie for one day only and the weather was looking quite temperamental in the build-up to the shoot,” he continues. “This added some pressure – I wanted sunshine to bring some visual interest to the documentary and see how the lenses coped with contrast.”
A few weeks before, the team debated whether or not to sleep the crew on location to catch the sunrise over the vineyard. Having checked on the recce, it seemed the sunrise would be more powerful than the sunset, as there was a clear view of it over the vineyard’s saplings.
“Despite this being a larger pull on the budget, I’m glad we got it because the sunset was so cloudy and rainy that it was virtually non-existent. The sunrise, on the other hand, was beautiful,” says Bruce.
Cooke was also happy to give Bruce and director Dino Kazamia a lot of creative freedom for the documentary, which went down very well.
“Our main requirements were to portray the lens characteristics as well as possible,” Bruce claims. “The flare, lack of breathing, bokeh, etc. We planned some shooting environments where we could include these specific qualities, alongside shooting with them as normal.” A big visual influence for the documentary was The Truffle Hunters (2020), a documentary set in the forests of north-western Italy, co-directed by Michael Dweck and Gregory Kershaw.
Bruce loves the film ‘for its beautiful examination of the truffle hunters’ and their relationship with their dogs – and the environment more generally. “But the cinematography is particularly noteworthy, with beautifully composed frames allowing the viewer to breathe and carefully examine this relationship,” he adds.
Now, Bruce and Cooke have a film that can inspire others.
“A documentary felt like a great way to test the Varotal glass, with the need to be reactive”
TERROIR FIRMA A vineyard in England proved the perfect location for a Cooke lens showcase
THE COOKE LOOK The documentary played to the strengths of Cooke’s Varotal/i FF lens range
HOMAGE DOP Dylan Bruce (below) took visual inspiration from 2020 documentary The Truffle Hunters
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