Dead Queen Emerges From Watery Grave

ASMP South Florida member George Kamper is a native of New York City, and has been working in Florida for several years. He shoots fashion, lifestyle, tourism and sports and works with motion creating TV advertisements. The following is adapted from his blog.

Presented with a wonderful challenge and having a can do attitude,  I was recently tapped to produce the 30 second video spot for the Queen Mary “Dark Harbor” Campaign as well as simultaneously creating the outdoor billboard and web banner images.

View the 30 second Queen Mary’s Dark Harbor spot on Vimeo.

From the high tide and full moon to the underwater lighting, every detail had to be planned in advance.

From start to finish this project had an open dialogue with the executive creative director Rob DeLuke of the Y Partnership. Utilizing Rob’s and my point of view and eagerness to create something fresh and new, the sky – and the depths – had no limits.

Believe it or not, this actually evolved from a predominantly studio shoot utilizing stop motion, to a full blown outdoor, nighttime, on the water production utilizing the Canon 5D MkII.

The project was taken on because it was a challenge and Rob kept saying he wanted our input and vision. He wanted it to be super cool and scary, and not the least bit canned.

I should mention that this project had a pretty challenging budget.  Which is one of the reasons I took it on. If this was a full blown Hollywood production, we probably wouldn’t have come out with something as fresh and raw. Our motto is less money, more freedom!

We love the idea that we had to do everything ourselves, produce, scout, direct, light, camera operate, right down to providing the bug spray on site. That’s not to say that we didn’t have a wonderful crew,  everyone contributed in a big way because we all saw this as a portfolio piece.

The first challenge was finding a location on the water where we could control the environment, didn’t have to fight the waves,- remember the movie “Water World” – and could have some power availability and necessary shelter, rest rooms, food availability on site. There was no budget for a RV

We also wanted to shoot in an isolated area so we didn’t have to fight off onlookers, other people’s flash cameras, potential theft and the like. And it was sea turtle nesting season, another challenge because you can’t shoot on the beach in Florida at night, as any light would confuse the hatchlings.

Lighting is the key to my work. I love it. When it works it can bring magic to a shoot! In this case, we knew the look we were trying to achieve and the key light had to come from underwater.

A tidal creek became the perfect location, located at John U. Lloyd State Park in Fort Lauderdale, and at night the creek was the perfect eerie location.

One of our greatest challenges was finding an actress who would be willing and strong enough to stand in water on cinder blocks in five feet of water, for five hours, at night, wearing a tattered ball gown, prostheses glued to her face and hands, blood dripping from her eyes, with seaweed entwined in her hair with a crown on her head.

We must give credit to Ashley DeLuke, Rob’s daughter, who models and is a budding actress. She swam a marathon for us and was willing to go the extra mile.

We could see fish and crab moving around in the water. Ashley didn’t know this, but part of the diver’s job, armed with a spear behind her in the water, was to fend off any sea creatures that got too close.

Under the watchful eye of a helpful park ranger, we were a little nervous we might get stopped after the first take lighting on fire the Queen Mary life preserver ring floating in the creek. Everything went smoothly with several takes of flames in the water.

Many people contributed to the success of the project:

We talked with Robert Carmichael, Brownie Marine Group’s CEO, who volunteered his services and equipment along with Mikkel Pitzner. They became our underwater diver and lighting solution. Brownie Marine is known for it’s depth of knowledge regarding anything that has to do with diving and being around the water. They also work closely with Halcyon and the EUE, and hold several patents for diving solutions.

One of the first phone calls I made was to makeup artist June Ellis who does wonderful work and was up for the challenge of working with prostheses, blood, seaweed and water! In addition to all the research and testing she did, she was a great presence on set, and constantly checked in with Ashley to insure she was doing OK. In all makeup took five hours in studio and then five hours standing in the water. You gotta love crew that loves their job!

The wardrobe and jewelry were handled by stylist Melanie Whittle.  I’ve got to say, from all the research she did identifying just the right style and fabrics, to personally sandpapering and distressing the gown, she’s become one of my new heroes.

Peggy Chase Jordao, one of my go to people, handled props for me and made arrangements with Melanie and June to work on this production.

Gearing up for this shoot took me a couple of weeks since I hadn’t fully made the transition to shooting video on my 5D’s from motion picture 16mm and 35mm film. Chris King, who helped guide us through outfitting our 5D and was on set.

Special thanks has to go to my first assistant Jim Wenger who through thick and thin, was right beside me in five feet of water managing the dry ice. We had three different devices for managing the “smoke” on the water, and in the end, it was Jim’s ability to use a gloved hand that made the photo. Even though the dry ice burned his hand, he just kept taking it for the team.

The sound on the project had everything to do with setting the mood and making it interesting.  Mark Sunderland composed and engineered the sound as well as voice over talent Zach Miller and Danielle Lillig. Lillig also wrote the spot with just the right amount of cleverness and restraint and we love her for it.

Every film maker knows it’s not only what’s in the can that counts, but how it’s cut together. I’ve got to give super special thanks to the tech and editor, Zach Scheffer, who had the vision to put the spot together with the effects that really push it up a notch.

 We wouldn’t have those hands on that shot of the Queen for the billboard if it wasn’t for fantastic retoucher and budding editor Christine Craig. She did a fab job on the Queen’s skin and interpreting the lighting.

And lastly the person that deserves the most credit for this project is Rob DeLuke. He has a great eye, is always willing to go to battle for a great idea, who is willing to step out of a comfortable zone and back us up all the way.

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