In association with Focus24, we are proud to present theological horror “God’s Kingdom”.  We took the opportunity to talk to cinematographer Nicholas Bennett about his creative and logistical strategy for the project

Did you have a clear vision for the look of the film? How much was planned vs discovered?

The vision of the film was lead somewhat by the locations, schedule and weather, I grew up in and around North Yorkshire so knew we could expect lots of dark forbidding skies, we weren’t disappointed… what I hadn’t counted on was bright sunshine at the scene set at Fountains Abbey near Harrogate, a lightweight crew with a very experienced production team helped us embrace these brief moments by adapting the schedule to allow us to shoot around the weather.  I’m often unsure as a cinematographer how much we can influence a film shot mainly with available light, I think framing becomes very important with subtle camera moves and gestures becoming part of the story telling process.

What camera and lens combination did you use and why?

Our camera for this project was the ARRI Alexa, coupled with my old favourites, the Cooke S4’s.  At the time of shooting in early 2016, the ARRI Alexa was still the only digital camera I would have considered for this film, it’s simple operation and tonal/colour reproduction set the
benchmark for all other digital film cameras.  And the Cooke S4’s? anyone who uses Cooke will take no convincing of the simple beauty of these lenses, faces feature heavily in the film and the geometry of the S4’s and the smoothness in contrast all help render these in a very pleasing way.

GODS KINGDOM 3Did you use any FX filtration and if so can you talk about the rationale behind it?

On ‘Gods Kingdom’ I used Tiffen Black Satin diffusion only on one scene, which was inside the shipping container when Asmodeus (jack Johns) is visited by Alexander (Alistair Petrie).  The very subtle halation provided by the black satins on this high contrast scene helps create the impression of a cold and damp atmosphere without taking sharpness away from the eyes.

Obviously a lot of the project is shot against vast landscapes.

One thing Yorkshire has plenty of are views, Guy and Joe had scouted the locations around Harrogate and found a really good farm house, a sawmill nearby provided some lovely exteriors along with the help of the National Trust who let us film inside the ruined Fountains Abbey.  The final scene was shot in a maize field, the maize is grown to give cover to the Pheasants so we had to wait to film this scene after the shooting season was over but this meant that the field was looking quite tired and lifeless which really worked to our advantage.

Can you describe the production itself? For example the crew, the schedule etc.

I shot the film with a minimal camera crew in part due to that nature of finding crew that can commit to a full week, Toby Rothwell assisted with batteries, data and directors monitors, and I operated and focused in much the same way as I would if shooting a documentary and I think this style comes across in the film.  By its nature, the small crew meant small lighting inventory, where I needed to augment the available light I used a couple of LED 1×1’ bi-colour panels but I tried to work without lights where I could.

This is your second collaboration with Guy. Can you describe your working dynamic?GODS KINGDOM 4

I’d previously shot ‘Devil Makes Work’ for Guy which was very different in style, mainly shot in the studio and had a very polished and stylised feel.  Working with Guy is always a collaborative process, an emphasis on performance doesn’t diminish from his strong visual style and he remains flexible to any suggestions of lighting, blocking and framing that help him tell his story.

The film is very atmospheric. Describe your in camera strategy for the grade…

Im particularly pleased with the grade of the film, the colourist was Yoomin Lee at Jogger Studios, as always my in-camera strategy is to produce a solid negative without clipping any highlights or chroma detail with which the colourist can then manipulate without introducing too much noise.  I shot most of the film with the camera balanced at 5600 Kelvin which accentuated the blue tones in our overcast skies and provided some warmth for the scene set around the farmhouse table with Jack (Anthony Flanagan) Ella (Leah Rhodes) and Simon (Mark Wingett)

Click here for more examples of Nicholas’s work.  You can read our interview with Gods Kingdom director, Guy Soulsby here!