ACS WA eNews ~ MARCH 2019



MEMBER SPOTLIGHT ~ Claire Leach on shooting for ABC drama The Heights
CINEKIDS WA ~ Latest developments


Dear Fellow ACS WA branch members,

As the first quarter of the year rapidly ends and our eyes firmly set on the cooler nights lets take a moment to reflect on the unprecedented amount of projects this last 6 months or so have seen come to WA which have included many of our members in various roles Go-Karts, The Heights, About a Girl, Dust Walker, Dirt music, H is for Happiness, Below and now most recently Itch. Well done to our WA branch members securing gamely employment on those projects and not only the money remuneration which is important but also the experience and networking with people from other states is invaluable.

This leads me on to the recent meetings I have been having with Screenwest representing the ACS at the industry round tables. A lot of interesting thoughts and information gets brandished at these events and I can say that Screenwest have some existing initiatives they are introducing in the coming months aimed at encouraging more work for WA practitioners so lets hope more of our ACS members can get involved. Rest assured at these meetings I always let everyone Producers, Directors, CEO’s and the like know we are here and have a voice of some 70 odd members!

Lastly I would like to mention that Panavision Australia plan on bringing a workshop to WA very soon, the WA ACS branch will actively facilitate this event with dates shortly to follow. Panavision have some of the best lenses and kit ever made and is very keen to show some of it off to us, it’s a long way to come so please support this event as soon as we publish the date.

As I draw this to a close I would like to mention some behind the scenes several of our WA Branch members have been actively engaging on bringing several extremely high profile DOP’s to Perth, discussions pertaining to Master Classes and Q&A style events have begun and we hope to be able to have some news for you soon.

Awards how could I leave that to last you ask?!

Yes we have the National ACS awards for Excellence in Cinematography kicking off in May and tickets available for purchase now. We have 3 WA cinematographers eligible for the nationals this round; Denson Baker ACS NZCS, Torstein Dyrting ACS and Ross Metcalf, who all produced some stunning work picking up Golds at this years SA/WA State ACS Awards. This year the ACS National Awards will be hosted in Melbourne, I firmly encourage our members to get over, I know it’s a long way but it is such a wonderful evening celebrating our craft and skills, master classes, networking and seeing the incredible standard of our fellow ACS cinematographers is inspiring! Hope to see you there.

Happy Storytelling!

Dave Le May ACS
ACS WA Branch President


The ACS WA Branch are excited to announce they will be teaming up with Panavision Australia and Screenwest to produce a series of workshops over 2 days in early May this year.

ACS members are going to have an amazing opportunity to learn from one of the world's leading camera houses, in both theory and practice. The team at Panavision Australia will be bringing over their flagship camera the mighty Millennium DXL2, some very rare large format lenses as well a good array of modern and vintage, spherical and anamorphic lenses. This will be the first time the DXL2 camera will be in WA so you won't want to miss out on this one.

Panavision have supplied equipment to many of the world's greatest productions throughout history and are particularly sort after for their beautiful sets of spherical and anamorphic both modern and vintage. Recent productions using Panavision include "Go-Karts" shot on anamorphics and "H is for Happiness" shot on the spherical close focus series.

Hopefully this will be a good opportunity for cinematographers to network with some talented screen industry practitioners and gain hands on knowledge of this amazing gear for your next production.

Stay tuned for email and social media updates soon to come with all the details you'll need to get involved.


Claire Leach on shooting for ABC drama The Heights

The Heights is the latest 30 Episode serial drama series produced by Matchbox Pictures for ABC TV and iView. Shot exclusively in WA, combining studio work based in ABC studios in East Perth and on location around Perth's various localities. We spoke to local member Claire Leach about her experiences shooting 3rd Camera and gives insight into multi-camera coverage, completing heavy shooting schedules, shooting quick and capturing the moment.

When I got the phone call from Jim Frater ASC asking me to be a camera operator on the new ABC Drama ‘The Heights’ in 2018, I asked him if he was sure? I’ve come from an observational documentary background, working in uncontrolled environments where unpredictability and one-off moments are part and parcel. Drama is usually none of that.

“That’s exactly why I’m calling you,” was Jim’s reply, “I need camera ops that can move fast and capture the moment!”

The camera operating team consisted of Jim Frater as DP, Ian Batt, myself and Ben Berkhout who also was 1st camera assist with the main crew being Meredith Lindsay as 2nd Camera assist and Paolo Feliciano as 3rd assist. We also had camera assists who would come in on location days, such as Erin Macliver and David Manners and we received a plethora of interns that would come in for a few weeks at a time over the course of the 5 months.

Ian Batt was not only 2nd camera but also 2nd DP on location days when we would split into two teams. These days had their own challenges especially filming during the winter weather but despite this, like Jim, Ian always managed to keep the team solid, efficient and enjoyable.

Under the skilful guidance and leadership of D.P Jim Frater, the working atmosphere on set was one of total respect, positivity and support.

We filmed entirely off the shoulder, Jim chose the Panasonic EVA-1 camera for its light weight and great colour and light abilities. We attached Tilta Nucleus wireless lens controllers so that we as camera ops could have control on our focus and iris, allowing us to be fully independent and have the freedom to film on the fly. The majority of the time, Jim had us filming on Sigma Cine Lenses at T2 aperture across the 18-35mm, 50 – 100mm and between T2 - T4 on the 135mm prime and Canon 70-200mm, sometimes with an extender! (I must admit my favourite was the 100mm or 135mm.)

Jim had a unique way of honing in on what makes a camera operator ‘tick’ paying close attention to their skills and the all-important, ‘intuition’ of the shot. Utilising our individual quirks as camera ops to his advantage on particular shots. I really appreciated that. Watching Jim work though a four-camera set up whilst choreographing the flow with such a tight shooting schedule was inspiring.

Jim’s direction for the camera work was to be as unrehearsed as possible so we would watch the walk through with actors and then Jim would position all four cameras where he wanted coverage. Most of the time we would film our first run through with the actors. It kept us in the realm of documentary style, which I loved! The challenge for me was to not pre-empt movements when we got beyond our second or third take but to still film the scene as if with new eyes and not anticipate an actor’s cue points. Reading script and getting involved with story and character also became important when following the play of the scene, a lot like documentary. It influenced camera movement and inspired camera placement.

It was a learning experience to film with a ‘Zen’ like mind set, to trust your instincts and follow where the action took you. Never be ahead, but rather be a millisecond behind, not to anticipate with the frame and to feel the focus points.

Actors and scene set up never moved for camera. As camera ops we had to work around what naturally happened within the scene, if you got blocked, move, if you can’t move find another moment to capture! Some sets were tiny. For example, the Jafari’s two-bedroom apartment, which housed 6 people in it and then added into the mix the 4 camera operators, it became pretty crowded. So, the challenge was not only all fitting in and not being in the way of another camera, but also to look for new interesting angles for each scene.

Having said that, the speed of filming meant we were filming on average about 9min of an episode a day (our biggest day had us covering 12 mins), so there was not a lot of time for multiple takes. I’d say we would hardly ever go over 5 takes of a scene. But every scene was run through as a whole with all 4 cameras rolling simultaneously. That in itself is challenging, being always aware that there are four cameras in the room and being aware of what they’re capturing and what you don’t have to capture. There had to be a lot of trust amongst the camera team and knowing that your other fellow camera ops were capturing different aspects of the scene was integral.

If my 18 years in the film industry has taught me anything, it’s the importance of working with people who understand the concept of strong teamwork, respect for one another and valuing creative input. This team was all of that and I was so happy to be a part of it.


The Cinekids WA branch is officially up and running. We have several young enthusiastic new members but we are continuing to look for more interest.

Iain Appleyard has been working hard behind the scenes to basically rebuild Cinekids WA from scratch, and is currently putting together a hands demo aimed for late April.

Cinekids is nationally recognised and gives young cinematographers an opportunity to submit their work to the ACS Awards with their own official category, they can win some amazing prizes and gold winners get a chance to be seen on a national level and stand amongst Australia's best cinematographers.

If you think you may know a budding cinematographer or filmmaker, please spread the word and help the filmmakers of tomorrow have the opportunity to grow and learn the craft at an early age.

Information and application forms can be found on the ACS website or contact WA member Iain Appleyard on 0430 219159 Email:


Screenwest have been developing and now implementing some of the interesting strategies they have been working on since the arrival of CEO Willie Rowe. It's all working towards showcasing the talent that lies here in Western Australian and the ACS WA committee and particularly WA President, David Le May ACS, have been working alongside key industry guilds and representatives to achieve this.

We want to remind all members who are screen professionals to submit their application to Screenwest Production & Crew Directory It looks great for the WA Screen Industry, and provides practitioners a credible point of contact when productions are looking for crew.


ACS WA have recently created an Instagram account make sure to follow us for more ACS related content @ acs_wa_cinematographers

Newsletter contributors
President: David Le May ACS
Vice President: Ben Berkhout
Committee: Erin Macliver, Iain Appleyard and Claire Leach.

Edited and published by ACS WA Branch Vice President ~ Ben Berkhout


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