For writer/producer/director Robert Palmer, the idea behind I Am Alone, starring Gareth David Lloyd, began as a simple horror film video diary, but as the story developed, Palmer and partner Michael A. Weiss realized that the concept behind this project would allow them to push the boundaries of both reality TV and horror films.
A mention in Entertainment Weekly discussing their Kickstarter campaign gave them a boost, a promotion party in Montrose, Colorado gave them visibility and they raised the modest budget they required. Going in, however, they knew their package had to be minimal, not only because of budget but also due to the hard to get to locations in the wilds of Colorado. That’s where Litepanels Sola 4 and Inca 6 LEDs came in.
“I Am Alone wasn’t going to be shot as a standard narrative film but fell into the found footage genre,” explains Palmer. “The style required a special eye. And, we were lucky to land Adrian Sierkowski as our DP, a fellow Philadelphian. He understood exactly what we wanted – hand held, and lots of security cameras. The town’s cameras would be telling the story as our cameras. We shot on a Panasonic GH2 as our reality show camera, a Canon XA-20 as our primary wilderness camera, and GoPros and cell phones.”
The story is about a nature survival reality host who gets lost in the Colorado wilderness and gets bitten by a zombie. Most of the story takes place in the wild, alone. “We were given 3000 acres on Cerro Summit for the duration of the shoot, an amazing distinctly Colorado location,” Palmer explains. “That’s 10,500 feet above sea level. The base camp was about a thousand feet below. Once we got to the top, there was no going back after each day of shooting. We had to get everything up that day.”
“We knew one of the hardest parts was bringing power everywhere we went,” adds Weiss. Cerro Summit was a major challenge since the road to the cabin was literally 15 minutes up a mountain road to a man-made cabin that ran off a generator. We needed lights and gear that pulled as little power as they could. Not huge HMIs –this was an intimate film with limited resources.”
Litepanels were just those lights. “Adrian and I knew the Solas and Incas were the perfect fit for the limited power, location and cameras,” says Palmer. “Typically, when you’re dealing with LEDs, you are dealing with broad softer sources, which are very hard to control and cut. However, since the Incas and Solas are Fresnel units, we had no problem modeling them as needed. Even something as simple as spot and flood control on a single unit proved very helpful, when you’re trying to move quickly with limited resources.
“We had some big set ups that on a standard film would need lots of power,” he adds. “So, we needed strong, durable lights but also soft at the same time. That was so our smaller, more intimate scenes wouldn’t have to be over lit. The Sola 4 allowed for both.”
“We used the Sola and Inca on almost every night scene,” adds Sierkowski. “And, when we weren’t using one of the Fresnels, I often would grab for a Chroma which has the benefit of outputting either daylight or tungsten color. The Sola and Inca LEDs set for either Daylight [Sola] or Tungsten [Inca] and, on this production, we would often be throwing a CTO or CTB to balance one or the other for the scene at hand. I don’t know of many other lights that I can power all night off of just one block battery!”
Heat was anther concern Palmer did not have to worry about. “Shooting deep in the Colorado wilderness meant fire dangers and other hazards and the Litepanels Fresnels emitted so little heat it was one less worry we had on a daily basis.” And given that we were deep in the woods, often on roads where 4x4s were required, we couldn’t conceivably lug generators and gas up and down,” explains Sierkowski. “Not to mention the audio problems a genny can cause when it starts echoing around. So, for almost every scene, when we needed light, we looked towards our Litepanels.
“It was great because we could use them as a hard kicker, or throw them through a silk to get the soft ambience for keys,” Sierkowski continues. “The built-in dimmers also saved us from having to carry scrims. And, all without color shifts like you would get when dimming a tungsten unit. The lightweight housings, too, meant when we were deep in the woods and mountains, we could carry less grip rigging and literally just screw a Baby plate to rig an Inca.”
Although the lighting package was compact, there was no shortage of dynamic effects. Weiss recalls when lead actor Gareth David Lloyd (Dr. Who/Torchwood) was involved in an important attack scene, “It was the character’s first night in the wild. We had a beautiful set up, and the Inca and Sola Litepanels gave us the exact amount of light we needed for the campfire and tent interiors.”
“We also had a big Barn Scene where Litepanels were amazing,” adds Palmer. “It was about 25 zombies, and our lead actor, Gunner Wright (J. Edgar) and lots of fog. The Litepanels coming through the fog created our surreal set up – and made all the difference. It was truly an epic horror scene.”
“We also used the Litepanels for our largest set up – a gun range, where we played them as spotlights, which is simply something you can’t do unless you have some sort of lens, Fresnel or parabolic in front of the source,” adds Sierkowski. “And the Inca really shined when we wanted to fake a very bright flashlight. And in the wilds with battery power, we could just hand it to an actor to use and shine. I would not want to try that with an HMI.”
The team plans to roll out I Am Alone at various film festivals across the globe. Then they hope for a theatrical run before going to DV, Blu-ray, VOD and streaming sites like Hulu, Netflix, Lovefilm and Blinkbox.