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September / 2002

FOCUS ON EDUCATION
From Classroom to Reality: The Amazing Creation of an IMAX Short

by Kalpesh Patel

“All you need is a dream, because films are dreams come true”

Affiliate member Kalpesh Patel of Toronto dared to dream big — in large screen format no less. From classroom inspiration at Sheridan College’s acclaimed Sheridan Centre for Animation and Emerging Technologies (SCAET) in Oakville, Patel, a native of India, took an improbable idea to make his own IMAX short film and turned it into fact — with a lot of help along the way. Here is his story.

It all started with a weekend module called “Introduction to the Large Screen Format” at SCAET, conducted by professors Richard Leiterman csc and Gordon Harris. I am an aspiring cinematographer/director and a post-graduate student of Mr. Leiterman’s camera and lighting class. This module was my first look at the technical aspects of the 15 perf/70mm format.

We saw some films and had brief Q & A sessions on various factors to be considered for filming large screen that differ from the regular 35mm film format. I thought that since this medium is too specialized it would take me at least 10 years before I ever touched it. However, as I was discussing this with some fellow classmates, saying that “it’s a DOP’s dream to work on this giant film format,” professors Leiterman and Harris overheard me. They told us, “Don’t stop dreaming!”

These words reminded me of my mentors in India, who always encouraged me to keep dreaming. I took it to heart.

I started thinking that if I got a chance to shoot IMAX, what would it be? We had a brief discussion in class about how IMAX has always been considered an amazing documentary filmmaking medium, while there has also been an argument for how powerful IMAX is for fiction.

DREAM TEAM: The crew of the student IMAX short One Night in My Dreams . . . on set at Sheridan College.
DREAM TEAM: The crew of the student IMAX short One Night in My Dreams . . . on set at Sheridan College.
I love fiction, especially thrillers, and I love to know the rules and then break them. My mind started to wander. Most IMAX films are shot outdoors, with wide-angle lenses with large depth of field, focus locked on one thing, not many complex camera movements, and with voice-over narration. I told myself to think just the opposite.

I believed that since IMAX is beyond the peripheral range of human vision, it could be used as a tool to take viewers into a dream world. I challenged my mind to think of a concept with interior shots and events that involved shift of focus in shallow depth of field. I came up with an idea of experimenting with a short psychological thriller that I entitled One Night in My Dreams . . .

When I started inquiring about the raw stock, processing, equipment, and the total cost to make the short film, I soon realized this was an expensive dream. The biggest hurdle was that processing 65mm film is not possible in Canada. So I contacted the owner of the IMAX Dome theatre in my native town of Mumbai, India — he also owns a film laboratory — and asked him if he could help with the processing problem. His lab does not handle 65mm film processing, he said, but he would be happy to screen my film in his theatre. I smiled to myself. At least I had a place to show my film!

Next I contacted Consolidated Film Industries (CFI) in London and Gulliver Laboratories in Paris, and Andrew Oran of Lynbrook Productions in Paris, associated with Gulliver for their 65mm processing, sent me a surprising e-mail. Lynbrook would love to help me and asked for the script and the details of the project. I replied that I was planning a two-minute psychological thriller with perhaps a shooting ratio of 1:3. He wrote back that they would support me on my experimental project by providing the processing and laboratory facilities for my film for FREE.

‘We can’t stop you from dreaming’

The ball had started rolling, and the next person to help was Graeme Parcher, sales manager of motion picture products for Fuji Photo Film Canada. He called to say he had found two cans of 65mm film (125 tungsten and 250 daylight) that he could offer me for FREE.

So now I had the stock, the lab for processing, the studio space and equipment from the college, and a place to screen the film. All I needed was the IMAX camera. I told Claude Richard of Imax Corporation in Mississauga about my experimental project and the support I was getting, and he said, “We can’t stop you from dreaming.” Imax would lend me their high-speed MK2 camera — for FREE.

The dream was becoming a reality. I told the good news to my teachers and they were happy to provide me with information and technical support. Prof. Harris gave me contacts and literature on the IMAX medium, while Prof. Leiterman nurtured me with his practical experience in this format. I now decided to tell my fellow classmates and get my team ready to shoot on May 4 and 5, 2002. From now on, this IMAX project was no longer just my dream, but the dream of my entire team.

Ron Hurst of Imax extended technical support on the lenses by providing us with the depth-of-field chart on every lens I intended to use, with its angular field of vision. This helped me and my focus puller, Marc Brenzil, who confidently pulled focus on four to five inches of depth of field. With the help of my classmates and professors, I photographed and directed the film with two cans (three minutes each) of 65mm negative stock.

We shot inside a small bedroom of a residence on Sheridan College’s Trafalgar campus and in one of the SCAET studios. We had to accommodate the giant IMAX camera on tracks in the cramped bedroom location, and pump in lots of light to get our exposures. We even shot at 40 fps on the 125T and 250D stock provided by Fuji, and used a Michelle soft filter.

I tried to shoot as one would a regular fiction film, with real locations, common practical lighting, etc., while following certain specifications for the IMAX film format — horizon issues and framing, etc.

The film negatives were sent to Paris for processing, and Andrew Oran provided me with a 35mm pulldown print for editing and post-production. We saw the rushes projected at our college screening room and they looked fine. The rough-cut of the film was edited at Sheridan College, thanks to our post-grad ATVF program director, Vladimir Kabelik.

FILMMAKER Kalpesh Patel
FILMMAKER Kalpesh Patel
The six-channel, surround-sound mix was completed at Master’s Workshop, for FREE, thanks to Tim Archer at the Toronto sound-studio facilty. The pulldown 35mm final-picture lock print was sent to Gulliver Labs to make the 65mm print, and by the time you read this I hope to have screened One Night in My Dreams . . . somewhere. Meanwhile, the Giant Screen Theatres Association’s 2002 annual conference has accepted the film in the category of new short films, and it will be screened at the Ontario Place Cinesphere sometime between Sept. 30 and Oct. 3.

Who says you need money to make a film? All you need is a dream, because films are dreams come true. And what’s life without an impossible dream?

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