Going Behind The Scenes on Wolves of War

Wolves of War has just been released in cinemas, and the director (and host of The Filmmakers Podcast), Giles Alderson chatted with DOP Stuart White and some of the cast – Matt Willis, Jackson Bews, Anastasia Martin and Rupert Graves.

Stuart, who had been working on a TV pilot at the time, remembers Giles’ call about Wolves of War. ‘It was exactly the right time.

I feel, as a cinematographer, you learn more on a low-budget feature film. It’s probably the most educational battleground for a DP; because if you have money, then you just say I need a grip and a dolly and a bit of this and a bit of that. And they go, all right, cool.

Whereas when you go into a low-budget, high-schedule feature film, there’s no bit of kit you don’t use. There are more often than not, never enough hours in the day. It’s a constant reshuffling of the Rubik’s cube to try and make things work. Every day.’

Creating the Look and Feel of the Film

‘I remember your mood board being rather colourful. And I actually came back to you and said I think it might be better to go the other way, drain the colour out a bit.

I’m personally not a big fan of glamorising war and violence. And it’s easy to do that with crane shots and score, and all of a sudden war is this romantic notion. But when I read the script, I didn’t see much of that in it. This was a down and dirty, get in there with them while they dodge bullets.’

Stuart thought that it was better to create a more ‘documentary film’ feel, allowing the audience to be taken on a ‘journey with them. Staying on their shoulder and getting in there for moments of pause and reflection. We grounded the camera and used the slider and we have these moments where we observed rather than witnessed.’

His Filmmaking Process

His process changes with every film, ‘because of the visual language, and what you put inside the frame. And the aesthetic of that.’ It is important for him to work out how he will achieve the aesthetic that’s right for the project.

The aesthetic has to fit not only what the director wants and what the production budget will allow, but also the genre and for the audience to go along with it. So the process shifts with each one. It’s about authenticity and naturalism and making it feel real.’

Working with The Director

‘You have to be open to changing your own desires in accordance with the strength of the director’s vision more often than not. You start the process as a facilitator for the director and then once you’ve done those meetings, once you’ve read the script and can see the colours, shapes, movements and camera moves.’

Everything is planned in your head until you share your vision with the director and ‘you realize the director wants something completely different.’ Stuart says it’s not often like that, but after you’ve worked out the logistics, you can start chatting about kit and crew and working as a united front.

‘You have to be a real friend to the director. I enjoy working with a director that is open to suggestions, open to collaboration and open to ideas.’

His Last Words of Advice

‘There are quite a few tips, to be honest:

  • Shoot as much as you can. 
  • Use the light and get to know the camera sensors.
  • Protect your director, and get the story that the director wants.
  • Listen to the crew. Don’t be afraid of other people’s opinions.
  • Start with one light and if it’s good, shoot.’
  • Enjoy the ride. Enjoy the process.

Actors Working Together

After the first part of this episode with Stuart, Giles chatted with some of the super-talented cast. All of them mentioned the invaluable bonds that they formed on set.

From making new friends, and connecting with old friends, the cast mentioned that staying together felt like ‘a holiday with your mates, but doing this awesome job at the same time. 

That fed into the whole bonding thing. We really did bond because we were with each other after filming as well. It helped all being together in that place.’

What Jackson Learnt on Set from Rupert

‘I always try and take away things from the different people I work with. There was a day where we were chatting together before the scene and you (Rupert) were quite childlike playing around in the grass and that really helped to break the tension a bit.

And that’s what I tried to carry with myself.’

How Anastasia Brings Her Personality into Her Acting

One of her acting friends believes that the reason Anastasia is an actor is that she keeps her feelings contained but close to the surface.

‘I find it quite easy, the empathy thing. That’s just a personality thing, but (it’s helped) the work that I do beforehand.’ Her empathetic nature and connection to the reality of the characters allow her to quickly change her emotions to suit how the character is feeling.

It’s All About Confidence

Rupert believes that you need to be relaxed and confident. He didn’t train but came up in the industry through hard grafting, focused on his hopes and dreams and read biographies.

‘I was in Weston-super-Mare, which didn’t have a theatre scene. So I felt really provincial and uneducated and had slight imposter syndrome. 

It’s lovely to start with a very broad palette and trust that something evolves.’

Matt’s Still Learning

‘I have a tendency to really overthink everything. It’s about being open, taking on the other people and what they say, and reacting and responding to that rather than just going in with your agenda.’

For more from the Wolves of War cast and DOP, listen here. And tune in to tomorrow’s episode with the composer and editor, wherever you get your podcasts.

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