Seattle-native and recent Los Angeles transplant via Brooklyn, DP Sean C. Porter had his fair share of challenges shooting The Zellner Brothers’ Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter.
The film centers around the character of Kumiko who lives in a cluttered, cramped apartment in Tokyo with her pet rabbit, Bunzo. She then sets out on an adventure to the United States in search of a buried treasure in which she discovered from a fictional film she watched on a VHS Tape.
They shot two weeks in Japan and four weeks in Minnesota on the ARRI Alexa Plus and 4:3 Plus with two sets of lenses – in Japan they used Cooke Speed Panchros and in Minnesota the JDC Cooke Xtals (Cooke Speed Panchros converted to Anamorphic) – and a Cooke MK2 25-250 Zoom throughout.
“In Japan the climate was lovely,” says Porter, “but often we had to work without a permit. Getting one in Japan is apparently no easy feat. So we'd find ourselves sneaking loads of camera gear into crowded subways, always trying to get at least one take before getting kicked out and moving to the next station. And most of those sequences are all done with single takes.
“In Minnesota,” he continues, “we had much more control over our locations, but temperatures averaged well below zero, often in the negative teens and as cold as negative 30 degrees. In those situations you're lucky to get half a day's worth of work done. Everything is more complicated –strategically planning when to bring lenses up or down to temperature, trucking our gear into remote locations via sleds, and just trying to avoid frostbite all added to an already pretty involved shoot.”
Porter had no issues with the gear at all, even given the extreme weather. “Lenses got sticky on occasion but nothing we couldn't work around,” he says.