Community Spotlight: Dan Banici, Independent Filmmaker

Dan Banici
Independent Filmmaker
Southington, Connecticut

About two years ago I was hired to get a company’s image out of the rut, and I made a video in a hurry, talking about paradigm shifts. A viewer criticized the work and his remarks hit hard. It pushed me to hire an actor, then to learn about cameras, lights, and as time passed, I now have literally studied over 20 essential books, invested half my income in equipment and courses, and I never looked back. As my friends say, ‘I’ve been bitten by the film bug.’

I shoot film with a Canon Rebel T3i with the Magic Lantern hack and a variety of vintage manual lenses. For example, I do indoor work with a Carl Zeiss Jena f1:1.8 and moderate lighting; needs very little light to work even in the darkest environments. I do outdoor work with a 75-210mm Yashica Yashinon with a Polaroid adjustable ND filter. Wide screen anamorphic work I do with two setups. For scheduled, blocked shots I put a Kollmorgen anamorphic lens at the end of the Yashinon lens and I use a diopter to focus on close shots. For quick on the go widescreen filming, I pack a Pentacon 135mm (in mint condition) with a Proskar 16mm anamorphic (a rare find) and together they give superb results. For aerial shots on the quad copter, I use the stock Canon 18-55mm lens for weight considerations.

For any work that ends up viewed on a TV, including interviews and documentaries, I use a shoulder-mount Panasonic AG-AC7. I know interlaced footage gets a bad rap; however, it has its place. If you do good work nobody will ever stop to ask what camera you used. This camera gives me excellent sound from the internal microphone, and I also keep a Sennheiser shotgun microphone on it for times when ambient sounds are too distracting. A 160 LED light also sits on it, and with a 4 hour battery and a spare, and a bag of sound toys, it is the quickest and most reliable workhorse to grab when I don’t want to spend time thinking what I’m going to need on site. Because it is a low price camera, possibly the cheapest shoulder mount out there, it is the kind of tool that I won’t have a heart attack if something accidentally happens to it; and when working in manual mode, the footage never disappoints me.

Dan's Canon T3i anamorphic lens setup.

Dan’s Canon T3i anamorphic lens setup.

I do a lot of interviews for local activists and businesses, and I have set up a large room in my house as a studio on one side and 26 foot green wall on the other. Over the last year I have collected countless bloopers from people who think they can say their lines without a teleprompter.

Just like any other passionate filmmaker, I have some ideas in the burner about work good enough to show at indie festivals, but it’s the small jobs that currently pay the bills. So I focus on local work and I use my recently acquired film knowledge as an extension of my marketing work. My most recent work was filming TV spots and other video work for a local senatorial candidate, as part of a more elaborate campaign.

Use your HDSLR every day and learn it well. Focus on what you find difficult until you resolve it, so you don’t botch a real job. For example, if you’re returning from night film trips with grainy footage, figure out why and resolve it. Don’t wait until you shoot a wedding to end up delivering mediocre work.

(2.) Have a decent low light prime lens for indoor work, and a decent prime telephoto for outdoor work. I am not saying a zoom lens is always bad, but less glass means more professional detail. Learn lighting because it’s important, but don’t think watts will compensate for F stops, because it’s not the same thing and it shows in the results.

(3.) Budget for decent sound equipment (wired, shotgun, lavalier), lights and backdrops, slider, crane, dollies, and a solid lightweight tripod. Learn everything you can get your hands on about proper shot composition, timing and cutting. Above all else, never stop learning.

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