The American Society of Cinematographers

Loyalty • Progress • Artistry
Return to Table of Contents
Return to Table of Contents May 2015 Return to Table of Contents
Presidents Desk
The Water Diviner
Page 2
Page 3
The Thing
ASC Close-Up

We had great assistance from the Turkish crew, who made very active contributions to the shoot. Local camera assistants Tayman Tekin and Seda Kisacik on occasion ended up manning another camera as operator and focus. Australian camera assistant Scott Wood also joined us.

Because the Turkish government viewed our script as evenhanded, we were the first Western production allowed to film inside Istanbul’s Blue Mosque, one of the most popular tourist attractions in the world. The mosque holds several prayer meetings and is visited by thousands of people every day. We filmed in the vast open courtyard early, during the dawn prayers, and went inside afterwards. We had to be gone before the midday prayers. We went with mainly available light (a mix of daylight and tungsten), while Reg and Turkish gaffer Ali Salim Yasar placed some small HMI units around the perimeter to accentuate the architecture and highlight the stunning mosaics in the roof. The moment we got inside, Scott and I set up a long lens and started shooting detail, while Peter, Dave, Turkish key grip Hasan Ormanlar and Colin set up a crane shot. The tsunami of tourists kept coming, so we had to point away from the public area while the poor PAs pleaded with people not to use flashes!

Scott and I did quite a bit of research regarding filming in the Turkish baths. When I scouted the place, my glasses fogged up the moment the door opened — and stayed that way. After our Outback experience, the Alexa had no problem withstanding the heat, but the 100-percent humidity concerned me. The location was a communal Turkish bath in Istanbul that is warmed by an underground furnace that heats a huge marble slab. The ceiling is a large dome covered with small, circular windows. Scott and I looked at everything from acclimatizing the cameras to underwater housings to air-conditioned camera suits! The problem was resolved by turning the furnace off, removing some windows, and putting the gear in a warm anteroom the night before. Reg and Ali pre-rigged a circular truss around the dome and placed Par cans all around, with everything run into a dimmer board. That gave us more flexibility with the limited floor space.

The Haydarpasa Terminal in Istanbul was a major transport hub for a century but is now disused. We used it to film Connor’s arrival in Turkey; it stood in for the exterior Galata wharf and interior immigration hall. We put three 18Ks in small cherry pickers outside three huge stained-glass windows, hazed in some atmosphere and let the architecture and the extras do the rest.

We caught a ferry at the end of that day to try and get Connor’s POV of Constantinople when he first arrives. On the scout, I’d worked out where the sun set over the old city and gambled that the silhouettes of two huge mosques would be a good sell while the darkness would disguise the modern freeway below them. We set out in less-than-stellar conditions, but were rewarded with a break in the weather and a beautiful natural shot of “period” Constantinople.

Although it’s a popular tourist attraction, Topkapi Palace is closed one day a week, and that was our day. The palace became British headquarters at the end of World War I. We used the inner and outer walls, staged the Red Cross evacuation in an empty church (employing a nicely executed crane-shot master), and filmed in the scenic gardens. The Red Cross burned all their files in furnaces, so we had to mimic a fire effect with two Maxis on a chase pattern.

The Water Diviner sets a very personal journey against an expansive backdrop, but that’s just one reason I was attracted to it. It’s about a time when many young men departed for what they thought would be a grand adventure, only to run headlong into the brutality of modern warfare. It’s a period story that still feels timely a century later.




Digital Capture

Arri Alexa XT and Red Epic

Panavision and Canon lenses

<< previous || next >>