How do you make a short film in just six days? That was the challenge of The Shoot, a competition run by Samsung that gave ten young people the opportunity to showcase their film skills.
Oran Yota, 24, was one of the ten winners chosen to make the short film. Born and raised in Canberra, he and his friends grew up making movies. "Throughout high school, we made films for assignments when we were allowed and learnt from our mistakes, and it just kept growing," he said.
In conjunction with mentors from the National Institute of Dramatic Arts (NIDA) and acclaimed Australian director Baz Luhrmann, Yota and the team were in pre-production for The Pilgrim Report for just three days before the shoot, which also took three days.
As the director of photography, Yota was responsible for the camera work and crafting the overall look of the film in conjunction with the director and designers. Being on a professional movie set was intimidating at first for Yota, who was used to making films on a smaller scale.
"Luckily, all the young film-makers got along really well with each other and the crew, and most importantly, I had a wonderful mentor (Nicola Daley) who was supporting me throughout," he said.
As The Shoot was sponsored by Samsung, Yota and the team had the opportunity to integrate tools such as the Galaxy Note 3 and Galaxy Gear watch with the rest of the production process. Though the film wasn't shot on a Note 3, Yota said that he was able to use both tools extensively to help his creative thinking.
"There were some apps that I used extensively; one could replicate the field of view with the correct aspect ratio and lens length so I could compose shots before setting up the main camera," he said. "I could use the S Pen to annotate photos that I took and show my mentor what I had in mind and share it with others really easily."
Is the smartphone ready to take a starring role in the film production process? Yota is optimistic about using one to shoot a film and would definitely consider editing a film in phone as well. "I've also been using phones in actors' pockets as a cheap alternative to lapel mics," he said.
Currently, Yota's go-to equipment includes a Galaxy NX, a Panasonic Lumix GH2, 20mm f/1.7, older Nikon prime lenses, LEDs and a tripod. He hopes to pick up a Rode Videomic, a fluid head and some extra lenses to experiment with over summer.
One of the biggest challenges that Yota faced on set was learning how to use professional movie-making equipment, including the film's main camera, an Arri Alexa. In one of the behind-the-scenes videos from The Pilgrim Report, Yota said that he was nervous because he had never operated a camera before. He admitted that the long hours took their toll, and he accidentally said "a camera" rather than "this camera" in the video. "But at least I can say Baz Luhrmann made fun of me at the Sydney Opera House now."
As well as a spot of light-hearted ribbing on stage, Luhrmann also provided Yota with plenty of invaluable advice on film-making — and that was to "just go out there and do it". He also said that everyone should try every different role in the film-making process "because it is a collaborative effort".
Yota studied dentistry at university, which at first, might not seem like the perfect match for a career in film-making. However, as Yota rightly points out, dentists have other hobbies too. "All my colleagues, lecturers and dental heroes are well-rounded people and are often very talented and creative individuals," he said.
"I wouldn't say film-making is a 'career' for me; I would rather keep calling it a hobby because it's still something I just do for fun to make others laugh, and I would hate to lose that element. But who knows, I mean, Sir Peter Jackson made his first film for fun with his mates on weekends (Bad Taste)."
Watch The Pilgrim Report below: