By Brendan Swift

Australia’s first Aboriginal musical Bran Nue Dae, which will premiere at the Melbourne International Film Festival in July, was shot on film.

“I was adamant that it should be on film because I’ve found that HD is not good with contrast and exteriors,” the film’s director Rachael Perkins says.

“With dark skins and big bright skies it hasn’t shown me that it can handle that sort of contrast.”

However, the filmmakers opted for the 2-perf (or techniscope) format rather than traditional 4-perf (with specially modified cameras from Arri Sydney) in an effort to stretch its $6.5 million budget.

Willie (Rocky McKenzie) leads a revolt in Bran Nue Dae.

It effectively halved the amount of Fujifilm Eterna 250T and 500T used. A 1,000 foot roll, which usually gives 10 minutes, now gives almost 21 minutes of footage, says director of photography Andrew Lesnie.

“[We] were keen to shoot this old fashioned romantic comedy in 35mm, and to preserve the landscapes on the finer grain and contrast of the 35mm gauge," he says.

“The initial budget was rather tight regarding shooting ratio, so it was fortunate that both Arriflex and Panavision had started offering 2 perf movements. Also called techniscope, this system photographed all the great spaghetti westerns and George Lucas used it for THX 1138 and American Graffiti, so I figured it had a pretty good pedigree.”

The Western Australian-based Bran Nue Dae stars Geoffrey Rush, Magda Szubanski and Deborah Mailman and is based on the musical written by Jimmy Chi.

Lesnie on set with operator Simon Harding, key grip Warren Grieef and focus puller Colin Deane.

Lesnie says shooting 2-perf allowed the team to use two cameras for several of the musical dance numbers, and to carry a steadicam fulltime.

“We shot the whole project with three Optimo zooms, which kept our lens kit very lean and efficient. We will still finish with a widescreen 2.35:1 film.”

One downside is that the smaller negative results in narrower frame lines, which increases the danger of hairs in the gate and lens flares along the gate line.

“We did have one issue with the gearing of some of the Arri magazines in relation to 2-perf. The speed through the camera is 45 feet per minute instead of 90. This was solved with a software download.”

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