I was filming a GAP commercial in Paris and it was just about lifestyle, interesting people hanging out, flirting, laughing, being rejected. FROG FILMS had us booked to film at La Closerie des Lilas. We arrived early in the morning with the crew and a bunch of actor/models and the owner took one look at us and refused.
There were about twenty of us so I said to Vincent, Let’s go to Coupole and book the corner of the restaurant. I’ll order several magnums of champagne. Put the actors into proper tables, just them, and tell them just to get along.
How will we film?
Let me think.
As we make our way to Coupole, I tell Vincent to have Olivier put the short magazine on the BL and bring the fifty and eighty-five Zeiss primes in his pocket. Hang outside around the corner so they don’t see the truck. It will look like a bunch of people just having a good time. Have Olivier hang back until things settle and have the grips have lunch somewhere else.
We take over a corner of the place an start quaffing champagne from the magnum. After we order Vincent asks the maître d’ if we can take a few pictures of our friends.
Of course!!! Three or four magnums of champagne speak. The actor/models are happy.
Then Olivier arrives with the small BL and I sneak a few pictures of the actors/models and the moment is saved.
Afterwards, Olivier says if I want to shoot like that I should use the Aaton.
The Aaton is a tiny camera beautifully designed and resembling a VHS video camera, so it calls little attention to itself. It’s extremely light, so light that it causes a few problems easily overcome. Godard wanted it so that he could keep it in the glovebox of his car to film anything at any time. He worked with Jean-Pierre Beauviala in Grenoble, right across the border from his home in Switzerland in developing the camera. It’s amazing that a filmmaker cared so much about film to develop his own camera. I was curious why the Arri BL took a turn for the worse in its development. The original had soft edges that made it user friendly when being hand held. In later iterations, the edges became sharp and unfriendly. Because of my initial experience in documentaries, I’ve always operated the camera, so the aesthetics have been important.
There is a funny story that Godard is supposed to have told about conventional filmmaking.
THE DIRECTOR SEES A FLOWER IN A FIELD. HE NEEDS A CAMERA, THEN THE ASSISTANTS. AFTER EVERYONE ARRIVES THE FLOWER HAS BEEN TRAMPLED BY THE CREW.
Vive la France.