FILMMAKING

Fighting talk: two new directors take us behind the scenes on their powerful shorts

Directors Jade Ang Jackman and Samona Olanipekun discuss working with Lammas Park and Canon kit to bring their compelling cinematic visions to life.

Fighting talk: two new directors take us behind the scenes on their powerful shorts

A woman holds up a clapperboard labelled "SUFFRAJITSU", and showing Scene 3, Slate 1 and Take 3.

"It's a film with limited resources so you have to work with what you have," says renowned DoP Fabian Wagner, who teamed up with director Jade Ang Jackman to produce Young Hot Bloods, a short about suffragettes who learn jiu-jitsu to better protect themselves. "We had frosted windows, which we couldn't change, but we just made it work. Colours make a huge impact with the wooden details and tiles, which the art department worked on to inform the look." © Lammas Park Productions / Photographer: Rekha Garton

When Lammas Park – the film production company founded by Oscar-winning British artist and director Sir Steve McQueen – teamed up with Canon to make two short films, Jade Ang Jackman and Samona Olanipekun were selected from the roster of fledgling directors to bring their visions to life.

Mia Powell, business director at Lammas Park, says it was important that those working on the projects had "creative freedom to tell powerful stories". Loglines (one-sentence descriptions of a film) were created, ideas were proposed to McQueen, and the directors were matched with writers and crew to start the full process.

Samona's film, i and i, depicts an internal mental struggle where the protagonist fights with himself on his 30th birthday, while Jade saw "a gap to be filled" in the retelling of women's history. Her film, Young Hot Bloods, is about a suffragette jiu-jitsu self-defence group which formed to counter police violence.

What lies at the core of these directors' approaches to filmmaking? And what happened on set? Here, the duo and their respective crews offer insight into the making of their films.

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Filmmaker Samona Olanipekuna, wearing a black and white hat, and DoP Korsshan Schlauer.

i and i director Samona Olanipekuna explains the organic process of working with DoP Korsshan Schlauer. "We built a really simple visual language. We had lots of discussions before we started filming about the vision – but details such as what aspect ratio came later on, and some decisions were made on the morning of the first shoot day." © Lammas Park Productions / Photographer: Rekha Garton

A close-up of feet peeking out of the bottom of a dress. The dress is a lime green, and the boots have black and white vertical stripes.

Colour and style are an important factor in Jade's visual language and filmic style; she wanted to challenge the expectations of filming a period drama. "I wanted to create this powerful and iconic 'dress moment'," she explains of this scene. © Lammas Park Productions / Photographer: Rekha Garton

Setting the tone

"Working with Lammas Park started with a lot of conversations," says Samona. "I wanted to challenge the stigma around male mental health. I also wanted to illustrate this internal struggle with two characters."

The film takes place on the protagonist's birthday, which happens to fall on a Sunday. Samona says that often around birthdays, "You start to think about the direction of your own life, or lack of it." There's also a symbolism to birthdays, marking the end of a year, as well as to Sundays, marking the end of the week.

Meanwhile Jade saw her film, a period movie set in Edwardian Britain, as an opportunity to not only direct an action film with a stunt team, but also to channel her research into the politics around women's bodies. "The women's suffrage movement was pivotal in women's fight for equality," she says. In 2021, Jade also began martial arts training, affording her a deeper understanding of the sport, which would later help when it came to directing fight scenes.

For Jade, when developing her narrative it was important to steer clear of the clichéd Edwardian villain, and along with stylist Mia Maxwell, she researched supervillains through film archives. "For Sullivan's character, played by Alfie Allen, we took inspiration from Gary Oldman in Leon, as well as Alex DeLarge in [Stanley Kubrick's] A Clockwork Orange. We included different elements in his outfit."

Jade also wanted to bring in touches of her playful and bold aesthetic. "The character played by Ayesha Hussain wears a lime green dress, paired with period boxing boots with green laces," she says.

Samona, meanwhile, avoided bright colours and wanted the lighting to look very natural. "The Canon EOS C300 Mark III was mostly used handheld, letting the camera follow the action," he says. "We decided early on to root the camera in a naturalistic world."

DoP Fabian Wagner films inside an Edwardian dressmaking shop with a Canon EOS C500 Mark II on his shoulder. A man wearing smart black clothes stands just in front of the camera.

"We knew we wanted to make this as cinematic as possible, so we went with the Canon EOS C500 Mark II and Sumire Prime lenses, starting wider, observing characters, then moving closer and closer," explains Fabian. "We shot in 6K (5.9K) as we wanted to test the camera, we shot RAW and as high res as possible. We thought: let's go all the way and get as much on film as possible." © Lammas Park Productions / Photographer: Rekha Garton

Filmmaker Samona Olanipekuna, wearing a black and white hat, laughs as he holds the shoulders of a man sitting inside a barber's shop. A third man in a yellow jacket is stood behind them holding an electric razor.

"We didn't really use any lighting equipment for the film," explains Korsshan. "We let the weather rule the lighting, as we wanted it to feel rooted in reality. We relied on available light, outside and inside. In the barber shop, we just moved a few existing lamps or changed the angles slightly, but that's it." © Lammas Park Productions / Photographer: Rekha Garton

Where fact meets fiction

Samona believes the line between fact and fiction in filmmaking is precarious. As a director, you can hugely influence an audience in documentaries, he says, "from who you choose to interview to the camera angles used". For him, it's about connecting with his audience and fiction offers more freedom. "Fiction is where projects take a life of their own," he concludes.

For Jade, her film is a continuation and exploration of the adversity and abuse women have faced throughout history. It's also about reimagining the characters beyond what we might read in history books.

She is particularly interested in how these women fought back. "I like imagining the motivations for retaliation. One character uses her body whereas another fashions glass bombs in an Edwardian dress shop. There are so many tropes in film and TV where women have to be strong and powerful, but they also have to be good," says Jade. "I'm excited about creating characters that are nuanced, complicated and sometimes not very nice."

Filmmaker Samona Olanipekuna drinks a small coffee and chats to crew members while taking a break during the filming of i and i.

"We were shooting for only three days and we were building up to this fight," says Samona. "There was this tension rising and the actors threw everything at it. It almost felt like they weren't acting. It was like watching real people going through real things." © Lammas Park Productions / Photographer: Rekha Garton

Perfect casting

Jade is always part of the casting process, and because of her earlier work in journalism and documentaries with Vice and The Guardian, she's built up a pool of acting and sporting contacts. "For a film to be good, every single character needs to be nuanced," she says. "The actors breathe life into what everyone else has created around them."

Samona, however, was quite new to the experience. "The casting director, Coralie Rose, guided me through it," he says. "Seeing the artistry that goes into acting was such an eye opener for me. The two actors, Samuel Adewunmi and Jonathan Ajayi, elevated the film to new heights. Just before the final tape, someone passing by saw what was happening and called the police, thinking it was a real fight."

Lammas Park's ethos is to champion diversity, inclusion and representation, and it encompasses everything they do. "It was a colourblind casting," says Jade of her film. "I wanted to challenge audience expectations, that it's perhaps not two white women playing these characters."

A large cinema camera is set up in the corner of an old-fashioned dressmaking shop.

Fabian enjoyed setting up the shoot using Canon Sumire Prime lenses. "The lenses stood out to me straight away – they were lovely," he says. "Nice atmosphere, skin tones, colour, bokeh." © Lammas Park Productions / Photographer: Rekha Garton

Using the cameras to tell a story

There is one section in the middle of Samona's film which stands out from the other scenes, due to its dramatically different tone. "The lead is walking along the high street with headphones on, but you don't know what he's listening to," Samona says. "It's a joyful scene and acts as a bridge. It is also a relief for the audience." The scene was shot with a Canon CN20x50 IAS H E1/P1 ultra-telephoto Cine Servo lens. "We wanted to convey a voyeuristic feel as though we were watching from a distance."

Samona put his trust in DoP Korsshan Schlauer who has shot films for Netflix, Channel 4, Apple TV and more. Korsshan said: "We had a full set of Sumire Prime lenses, which are gorgeous. What we really loved and what was key to several shots was the 50-1000mm Canon CN20x50 IAS H E1/P1 lens. It was just amazing; there's nothing like that lens because it has such a huge range.

"It not only isolates the characters fully when you go to these extreme lengths, it completely compresses the space," he continues. "You can pan the camera 30cm and that movement feels so big – that can add a sense of chaos, and for certain scenes that's just what we wanted, to match how the character feels."

Jade worked with DoP Fabian Wagner, known for his work on Game of Thrones and fortunately for Jade, a lover of fight scenes. "I felt like I had the best team around," she says.

"We decided to go handheld to get gritty fight scenes, plus the space was relatively small. We only had two days, so using the camera handheld meant we could move faster and get more action." A multi-cam approach allowed the crew to capture as much action as possible. "Another consideration was that the stunt team were hitting cobbled ground a lot and we couldn't repeat that too often."

Three young women stand close together, smiling at the camera. There is a cobbled and brickwork street behind them, and the middle woman is holding a clapperboard labelled "SUFFRAJITSU".

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"We also used a body rig to capture one of the characters running, so we went for the lighter camera," Jade adds. A Canon EOS R5 C was mounted to the body rig and paired with a Canon RF 24mm F1.8 MACRO IS STM lens, which meant it was still lightweight, but capable of wide-angle shooting in low light.

Fabian, who shot the majority of the film on the Canon EOS C500 Mark II, says he pushed the kit as much as he could. "The location offered a huge amount of interesting angles," he explains. "It was really about building it out visually – starting wider, observing the characters, how they react to each other, and then continuously getting closer with the tension that was transpiring throughout."

Sustainable decisions on set

Mia Powell at Lammas Park was determined to champion sustainability throughout the filming process. She worked with AdGreen, a company that offers training and resources around the negative environmental impacts of productions.

"Productions are often carbon-heavy by nature – the lights, the generators and so on," she says. "I made sure we were sourcing everything as locally as possible and the majority of the crew used public transport. Food was delivered on a tricycle and all packaging was recyclable. We encouraged everyone to bring water bottles. Small things really do add up.

"Fabian only had about two lights for the whole day," Mia adds. "It was great to have a DoP who was able to do that."

Cinematographer Korsshan Schlauer looks intently at a man in front of him who has his back to the camera.

Korsshan chose to shoot the film at a relatively high ISO 3200. "Increasing the ISO boosts the exposure, so you see more in the dark, which helps us as we were shooting with available light," he explains. "The more you push the ISO and under and over expose, you can start to see texture and grain. I did one shot at ISO 6400, where we really pushed the camera and the results were amazing. The image really holds up." © Lammas Park Productions / Photographer: Rekha Garton

Choose what to fight for

Both Jade and Samona have learned to manage the balance between protecting their ideas, and allowing others to interpret and expand them.

For Jade, it's about choosing when to make a stand. "Pick your battles, don't be immovable," she says. "One of the most beautiful things has been working with such amazing actors, writers and crew."

Samona believes "an idea is fragile in the early stages, so you have to be protective". But, he adds, "You need to trust your co-workers too. It was important for me to invite and empower everybody on set to offer suggestions. It was an honour to have so many people supporting my idea."

For Mia, Paida Mutonono (Head of Development) and Anna Smith Tenser (Executive Producer) the experience has been overwhelmingly positive, and one they are all keen to repeat. "Our ethos at Lammas Park is to represent the underrepresented, and tell socially and culturally transformative narratives," explains Mia. "To give space and platforms to voices like Jade and Sam is our mission. And for Canon Europe to take a leap of faith to work with us – as a newly formed division of the company – is a testament to their understanding that great things can happen with amazing people, if you just give them the opportunity to flourish. So yes, it's been incredible to be on this journey with everyone."

Natalya Paul

Jade Ang Jackman and Samona Olanipekun's kitbags

The key kit that the pros use to make their films

Cameras

Canon EOS C300 Mark III

Incorporates Canon's 4K Super 35mm DGO sensor, with 4K 120p slow motion, High Dynamic Range and Dual Pixel CMOS AF into the same body as the EOS C500 Mark II. Samona used this camera to shoot his short film, i and i.

Canon EOS C500 Mark II

A 5.9K full-frame sensor packed into a newly developed compact and reliable Cinema EOS body, this camera provides new inspiration and great flexibility for all cinematographers. "A high-end camera that produces a very nice image," says Jade's DoP Fabian Wagner, who used two of these during the shoot for Young Hot Bloods.

Canon EOS R5 C

Capture breathtaking 8K video and 45MP stills with Canon's smallest Cinema EOS camera that's ready for anything. Jade also used this lightweight camera with a body rig for certain scenes.

Lenses

Canon Sumire Prime Series

Both Samona and Jade used this range of full-frame cinema prime lenses, with a specially designed 'cinematic look' and interchangeable PL mount. "We had a full set of Sumire lenses which are gorgeous" says Samona's cinematographer Korsshan Schlauer. "We shot with pretty much all of the focal lengths."

Canon CN-E45-135MM T2.4 L F / FP

Available in EF and PL mount and designed for use on full-frame 35mm and Super 35mm cameras, this high-end cinema lens offers a constant maximum T-stop value of 2.4 across the zoom range. Samona and Korsshan used this for the i and i shoot.

Canon CN20x50 IAS H E1/P1

This ultra-telephoto Cine Servo lens offers stunning 4K performance, 20x zoom and a 1.5x built-in extender for an unrivalled 50-1000mm focal length (75-1500mm with extender). "What I liked most about this lens is the way it isolates the characters when you go to those extreme lengths, such as 700, 800mm," says Korsshan. "It completely compresses the space."

Canon RF 16mm F2.8 STM

For crisp, clear ultra-wide views this lightweight and super compact full-frame 16mm prime will transform your images and videos, inspiring creativity at every opportunity. Jade used this lens for the Young Hot Bloods filming.

Accessories

Canon DP-V2410

Ideal for on-set quality control and colour management, this lightweight and robust 24-inch, 4K reference display offers superb image quality with HDR capability and fits seamlessly into 4K production workflows. Both Samona and Jade used this professional monitor when making their films.

Canon DP-V1830

With a compact and lightweight design for either studio or on-set environments, the DP-V1830 Professional Monitor provides exceptional 4K HDR imaging performance. Samona also used this display when making i and i.

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