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Award-winning cinematographer Josh Ausley looks back at a year of production during the pandemic

07/04/2021

Award-winning cinematographer Josh Ausley looks back at a year of production during the pandemic

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Brie Clayton April 6, 2021

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The cinematographer explains why smaller, more agile crews ruled the year, gives his predictions for the future, and shares his experience with Cartoni tripods.

Last March, the Los Angeles area, one of the sparkling gems of the Hollywood entertainment empire, joined the rest of the world when the pandemic forced everyone in the region to stay-at-home. The stay-at-home order and subsequent industry shutdown sent the entire production world into a tailspin, with the Los Angeles area estimated to have lost nearly one million jobs. Film crews were sent home, and many independent cinematographers faced an uncertain future.

We caught up with international award-winning cinematographer Joshua Ausley, who splits his time between Los Angeles and Atlanta, to get his thoughts on the last year. Ausley has worked on feature films and projects for Marvel, HBO, and Netflix, among others. He takes a look back at the year, his thoughts on the future, and shares his experience using Cartoni tripods.

data-src=https://gcs.creativecow.net/wp-content/uploads/2021/04/06172528/BTS-Bud-2.jpg alt= class=lazyload wp-image-2407537/>Film and video production is finally ramping back up following COVID and staying at home orders, but you have been pretty busy. Can you tell me about some of the projects you have been working on?

I shot a commercial for XFINITY, followed by a documentary feature that involved a lot of time on the road. Virtually everything has been remote to client, meaning the agency and producers stay at home in LA or the UK (or wherever they are) and view or direct the shoot via streaming services.

Diversification has been the key to keep the work flowing. When the usual commercial jobs dried up, we were able to quickly pivot and start doing remote shoots, such as TV documentaries, to help us get by until things ramped back up.

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XFINITY Spot

One of your early pandemic shoots was the Budweiser Memorial Day Take Two-Minutes commercial. What was it like working on that commercial at the height of the pandemic?

We were approached by the agency, DAVID, to be part of a multi-city campaign honoring both veterans and frontline healthcare workers for a Memorial Day spot by Budweiser. The various locations would have needed different crews since travel was restricted. However, as the course of the creative changed, we had the opportunity to produce the whole spot ourselves. I brought on an experienced producer, Liz Stovall of Fenton Pictures, to help me make the commercial so I could focus on directing the photography. The spot tells the story of a military service member and a medical worker, juxtaposing them by shooting parallel scenes that were then shown in a split-screen fashion. We had less than a week to put it together, which included sourcing talent and locations. Keeping everything small due to Covid at the agency's request, we assembled a lean team of less than ten and shot everything in one day. The spot was on the air less than a week later!

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Budweiser Commercial

Can you explain how this experience was different than a typical production?

This shoot was right as the pandemic was ramping up here in the US. At the time, there were a lot of unknowns and no widely accepted protocol, so we had to do everything we could [to stay safe]. All crew members wore PPE and stayed six feet apart at all times. Temperature checks were done in the morning. Lunch was taken outside and separated with individually-boxed items. This was slightly before real-time Zoom feedback became the norm. As a result, we sent photos and screenshots back to the client to get their feedback and approval. And we still had to work fast!

data-src=https://gcs.creativecow.net/wp-content/uploads/2021/04/06172548/BTS-Bud-3.jpg alt= class=lazyload wp-image-2407538/>Can you talk about the gear you used for the shoot?

We shot on my Arri Alexa Mini, paired with Zeiss mk3 Super Speeds. For support, we used my Focus 22 Cartoni tripod and an EasyRig for handheld shots. I had to pull my focus since I didn't have a 1st AC for the shoot.

Because the crew was minimal, we used a lean lighting package consisting mainly of an 800-watt Joker HMI, a Litepanels Gemini panel, and a pair of Kino Flo Select 30 LEDs.

With a smaller crew, how important was it to have a small, lightweight, reliable fluid head like your Cartoni?

Smaller crews mean fewer hands to help move gear. People are wearing multiple hats now, and the heavier the gear, the slower you can move. Having a lightweight tripod head helped me tremendously as I didn't have an AC for the shoot. I was able to pick up the sticks and the camera all at once to move between setups and make small adjustments to the camera position as needed.

Have you worked on any other shoots during the pandemic (you were in Mexico recently for a
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