Roger Deakins Used the ARRI Alexa MINI LF to Film “One Shot” War Epic!

October is here and it feels like Oscar-buzz season is officially open. Studios and mini-majors will be soon start releasing their Oscar hopefuls in the cinemas culminating with the highly-anticipated premieres of some of the biggest films of the year in December.

Universal is banking on Sam Mendes’ “1917” one-shot war epic oozing “Dunkirk” vibes, lensed by the legendary (and most deservedly finally an Oscar winner himself) DP Roger Deakins, to be one of the main contenders for Best Picture and Best Cinematography categories at the upcoming Academy Awards.

“1917” was one of the first, if not the first, big budget motion picture to be shot on the new ARRI Alexa MINI LF camera utilizing the large format ARRI Signature Primes.

Filmmaking, as a whole, is hard as hell, and to compound the level of complexity, in 1917, director Sam Mendes focused on telling the story in real-time from the point of view of the two main characters as they frantically race from one massive location to another throughout their journey of completing their mission of delivering a message of vital importance that can save hundreds of lives.

ARRI Alexa mIni LF

Image by ARRI

Roger Deakins shared some intriguing insights into the production of the film, where he and his crew utilized mainly available light, shot mostly in grandiose exteriors with hundreds of extras, and even filmed in sequence since the story was unravelling in real-time.

“1917” Behind the Scenes with Director Sam Mendes and DoP Roger Deakins:

In the behind the scenes featurette above, you can also spot Roger Deakins use some sort of a DIY “DSLR/mirrorless viewfinder-rig” to previz a shot of the camera following the main characters in the trenches. Bonus points for whoever identifies the camera he’s holding (screenshot below).

Could it be a Sony a7III or a Sony A7s II given they are full-frame compact cameras? Or maybe it’s just a Canon 5D Mark II shooting FF in 1080p (the lens to me looks like a Canon L-series prime, but I may be totally wrong).

Check out the “1917” trailer below:

Here are a few other one-shot movies that you should definitely check out if you haven’t.

“Victoria” (2015) dir. Sebastian Schipper/DP Sturla Brandth Grovlen (shot on the Canon C300, in a single, uninterrupted take, “true one-shot”)

“Russian Ark” (2001) dir. Alexandr Sokurov – a classic, one of the most-revered true one-shot films.

“The Silent House” (2010) dir. Gustavo Hernandez

This is a great example of a low-budget “one shot” horror, that is actually a very good film too. I remember seeing this years back at a film festival; I was blown away how good it looked on the big screen and most importantly how genuinely scary it was.

“The Silent House” (the original film from Uruguay) was shot on the Canon 5D Mark II in 12 minutes takes stitched together as to give the illusion of a single continuous take. Hollywood remade it a year later, and of course ruined it.

I can hardly believe this film is almost a decade old, but it still looks good and is a good example of a successful low-budget film from the heyday era of “everybody using a DSLR to shoot an indie feature”. Ah, those were the days…

What other one-shot films would you recommend seeing? Let me know in the comments below.

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