83 Days, a shattering narrative short about racial injustice, which was shot with Panasonic cinema cameras, has been named an Official Selection of the 2018 Tampa Bay Underground Film Festival. The film has already received several best of festival nominations, including Best Short Film, Best Drama Film, Best Short Film Director and Best Short Screenplay.
83 Days has also been named an official Selection of the 2019 International Houston Black Film Festival, where it will screen in March.
Director/director of photography Andrew Paul Howell chose the VariCam LT and AU-EVA1 for the production, which was shot on location in Eatonton, Georgia earlier this year. With a screenplay by Ray Lënard Brown and Summer Michele Howell, 83 Days adapts the true story of a 14-year-old African-American boy, George Stinney Jr., who in June of 1944, in a miscarriage of justice, was arrested for the murder of two white girls. He was arrested, tried, convicted and put to death within the film’s eponymous 83 days, Junior at 14 years remains the youngest person ever to be executed by electric chair in the U.S. He was exonerated in 2014.
Howell, a veteran DP of many period television dramas, had a proof-of-concept for a mini-series lined up when he met Brown, who told him about Stinney’s short and blighted life. Compelled to tell that story first, Brown, executive producer and screenwriter, signed Howell on as director/DP. Howell undertook the 83 Days short as a proof-of-concept for a full-length feature. Principal photography on the 29-minute short was completed in three and a half days last June. This is Howell’s directorial debut.
Howell operated the VariCam LT with his longtime collaborator Brian Murie as camera operator/2nd unit DP shooting with the EVA1. Howell had worked (as the DP) with the VariCam LT on the upcoming feature film, Freedom on our Mind. “We were working with a predominantly African-American cast in lower light conditions on that project,” he said. “The LT was simply amazing.”
“We really exploited the full scale of the LT’s potential on 83 Days,” Howell continued. “We made liberal use of the camera’s native ISO5000, sometimes shooting 2K at 120fps. That was an approach I used to get high-speed inserts for tight shots, for instance, with the execution scene, where we were trying to depict, non-gratuitously, the violent death of a child.”
The director/DP recorded 4K AVC-Intra 4:2:2 on the VariCam LT, shooting in V-Log. “ There is roughly 18 percent additional data recorded on the right and left of the 2:39 anamorphic frame; this additional data allowed us to record tracking marks for VFX or kept that area clear for horizontal frame adjustments—this was really helpful for left to right stabilization,” he said.
Howell and Murie both cited the EVA1’s small size and form factor as making it ideal for second unit work. For instance, Murie shot with the EVA1 on a Wooden Camera PL mount rigged inside a 1940s vintage sheriff’s car to capture the film’s opening sequence, where Junior’s father chases after the car that was taking his son away.
The EVA1 recording format was 4K Long GOP 10-bit 4:2:2. Both the LT and EVA1 were outfitted with Cooke anamorphic primes. 83 Days was edited in 4K in Adobe Premiere Pro.
“The VariCam LT/EVA1 combo on this shoot was proof positive that these cameras represent an excellent and affordable platform for indie filmmakers,” Howell said.
View the 83 Days trailer at https://vimeo.com/299350431
83 Days www.83daysfilm.com.