Filipino Feature ‘Quezon’s Game’ Wins with Blackmagic

Blackmagic Design has announced that Matthew Rosen’s film “Quezon’s Game” was shot using Blackmagic Design cameras, with editing and color correction done in DaVinci Resolve Studio. The Philippine historical drama was released worldwide in May of 2019 and has received more than 20 international film awards.

The film, shot and directed by longtime filmmaker Matthew Rosen and produced by ABS-CBN Film Productions, tells the story of the Philippine President Manuel L. Quezon and his plan to shelter Jewish refugees fleeing from Nazi Germany. The film has won awards across the globe, including 4 at the WorldFest Houston International Film Festival and 12 at the Cinema World Festival in Canada, which included the Award of Merit for Color Treatment to colorist Toni Gozum.

To shoot “Quezon’s Game,” Rosen used a mix of Blackmagic Design cameras as the film’s main and action cameras. The Blackmagic camera’s compact size and high quality filmic images gave Rosen the ability to shoot anywhere he needed.

“I wanted ‘Quezon’s Game’ to look like ‘Casablanca’ or ‘Citizen Kane’ and other films of the era the movie is set in. However, I felt shooting a film in black and white that was aimed at mainstream cinema audiences would be limiting. This mindset really shaped the look of the film we ended up with,” said Rosen.

“Most of the interior shots were graded with the high contrast look of black and white film. We lowered the saturation of the colors in Resolve, which was aided by the art direction, which was kept as monochromatic as possible with no vibrant colors. Most of the sets were earth colors, woods and off whites. It really did feel like we were watching an old movie but it did not look black and white.”

Rosen added, “The cameras are incredibly lightweight and compact. We shot most of the movie in a tourist resort called Las Casas de Acuzar in Bataan, Philippines and were given the go ahead to shoot there when I gave my word we would not close down any roads or obstruct the guests in any way. And the rooms we were shooting in were also small and the Blackmagic Cinema Cameras allowed me to pull my cameras right up to the walls to get the most out of the limited depth we had.”

The film captures the Philippines of the late 1930s and 1940s, and includes both high drama and action scenes throughout.

“The two main factors that make me really very partial to this camera are its size and its image. Both factors really helped me capture the look I was after; its size because I could get the angles I wanted with ease and its look because it’s so filmic,” Rosen continued. “The cameras came in very useful when shooting traveling shots with the camera mounted on a bike. As the camera is light and compact, it works very well as an action camera and the shots fit perfectly between all other shots – as they are taken with the same camera.”

The film was graded at Manila’s Kinetek by Toni Gozum, an industry veteran who has provided post production for feature films, television shows and commercials for global brands.

She described the look and feel of the film: “We were aiming for a Casablanca feel but not entirely black and white. We still left a bit of color, especially because we wanted the outdoor scenes to show the vibrancy and freshness of a tropical country.”

To emphasise that the film was not black and white, Gozum isolated certain elements in each scene and increased the saturation using Davinci Resolve on that element only. One example, an important scene in the film, was a shot in a jazz club with a German SS officer. Gozum used Resolve to make sure that the swastika was emphasized but still keeping the mood of the film.

“Resolve helped me save a lot of time. There are a lot of talking scenes and the camera basically just goes back and forth between the two actors. These shots pretty much have the same grade, so being able to select multiple clips and then apply a grade with one click was a great convenience. Also, the track grading feature helps when we suddenly decide to slightly alter the look of the entire sequence. I don’t have to go and put on the extra adjustment to each clip,” she said.

The filmmakers also used DaVinci Resolve to prepare the film for its worldwide launch.

“Of course you can’t beat Resolve color for its flexibility and function. We graded the entire movie in 8 days. When you are dealing with multiple requirements for international cinema, TV and OTT deliverables can be a nightmare. Subtitles, closed captions, aspect ratios, bit rates and wraps are all complete and simple to set up with Resolve, and it was very effective in letting us meet deliverables,” Rosen said.

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