The Hallmark Movies & Mysteries modern day TV western JL Ranch spent this past winter shooting on location in Kentucky presenting director Charles Robert Carner and DP Kris Kimlin with an array of often-unexpected challenges. Facing snow, rain, mud, and temperatures ranging from -11°F to +50°F Kimlin relied heavily on his Cooke S4/i lens package consisting of 18mm, 25mm, 35mm, 50mm, 75mm, and 100mm focal lengths on an Alexa digital camera. “We didn’t expect the elements, so we had to embrace them,” said Kimlin.
“Our first AC made sure that the lenses would all be perfect by keeping them as warm as possible with heat guns and pads. All of the Cooke primes performed flawlessly, while our zoom lenses from another company kept fogging up. I wish the Cooke anamorphic zoom [announced in April with the 4x shipping this summer and the 9x shipping in 2017] was available last winter.”
Kimlin is no stranger to Cooke lenses, having used a variety of Cooke Anamorphic/i lenses on two features, plus a number of other Cooke lenses in a host of television commercials. He is so confident of the performance and look of Cooke lenses, that a formal lens test was not conducted.
“I showed Charlie [Carner] a number of frames shot with different lenses, and he immediately selected the Cookes,” said Kimlin. “Then we looked at features and commercials I had shot with Cooke lenses and he loved the look. We even thought about using vintage lenses for that old time western look, but Charlie just loved the look of the Cooke lenses, and that was that.”
Kimlin considers Kentucky in winter a shooting paradise, where the sun sits low in the sky. For exterior scenes, he used lots of bounced lighting instead of exterior lights. Even interior night scenes used small 2Ks, muslin bounces and many practicals for a more natural look.
“The Cooke lenses allowed me to shoot wide open at 2 or 2.8 as the sun sets quickly in Kentucky, without any distortion, giving a crisp image with texture and warmth that other lenses don’t have,” added Kimlin. “Whether shooting wide open or closed, Cookes hold their value, giving a dimensionality to the face like no other lenses do – and I depend on that.
“Cookes are my go-to lens. I feel comfortable and relaxed when the lens is on the camera because I know it’s going to perform,” concluded Kimlin.
JL Ranch stars Jon Voight, Melanie Griffith, Teri Polo, and James Caan, and is scheduled to premiere on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries in August. The Crystal Sky Pictures production follows veteran rancher and former sheriff John Landsburg (Voight), who is forced to face federal bureaucracy when an old enemy, seeking revenge over a decades-old grudge, falsifies documents and alleges Landsburg doesn’t actually own his beloved family ranch.