DOMINO FALLING and Master Anamorphics is a short film following a hit man in Mexico who is forced to carry out a brutal task in order to save his love. Written and directed by Siavash Farahani, the short film was produced as a showcase for a feature film that is currently in development. DOMINO FALLING delivers big on visuals and action with cinematography by Maz Makhani on the ALEXA XT and the 35 mm, 50 mm and 75 mm ARRI / ZEISS Master Anamorphic lenses.
Farahani knew from the outset that anamorphic would be the perfect way to tell his story. "From conception DOMINO FALLING was inspired by the westerns of Sergio Leone and Sam Peckinpah. In those films as in ours, the epic natural vistas are very much a character in the story and highlight the solitary journey of the anti-hero. I feel shooting anamorphic is crucial to capturing that kind of operatic scale," he explains.
For producer Andrew Molina, the expanded frame opened up the landscapes to grand visual scale. He notes, "Before lensing DOMINO FALLING I was trying to picture in my head how our location just north of Los Angeles was going to pose as an endless Mexican desert. It wasn't until I saw the first frame on set with the ARRI Master Anamorphic 35 mm lens that the entire process became a reality. I began to believe in the world we were trying to create at that very moment."
Says Makhani, "I absolutely love [Master Anamorphics]. I currently own a set of the spherical Master Primes that I've had since they first came out. The new Master Anamorphics are reminiscent of those with the cinematic feel and sharpness with the magic of anamorphic lenses. The other huge advantage to other anamorphic lenses is how fast they are at T1.9. I usually love to shoot wide open and with the Master Anamorphics, the depth of field can get extremely shallow when they are wide open. It's a beautiful look."
The director desired a retro look for the images, a choice that initially made him wary of capturing on digital. "I'd held off on shooting Domino for many years because I worried shooting digital would produce an image that was too clean and would compromise the analog feel of the films I was paying tribute to. The Master Anamorphics are a game changer in that regard. They've made the divide between digital and film invisible for me. Time and again people want to know how we got away with shooting on anamorphic film! Of course any tool is only as good as the artist using it, and in that regard we were very fortunate to have Maz Makhani as our DP. He and the crew really brought out the best in our amazing toys."
Makhani is no stranger to capturing on ALEXA. "I love the organic image quality that the camera gives and when you mix that with anamorphics, it's as close to film as anything out there. Also based on this short being a western, I felt like the aspect ratio of 2:35 was more appropriate based on our landscape environment and the genre."
From a producing perspective, Molina appreciated ALEXA's ease of use and staggering visual quality to allow the filmmakers time to concentrate on being creative. Speed and flexibility was essential on just a two-day schedule. "Using the ALEXA XT while shooting DOMINO FALLING gave us the feeling of using a film camera. We had the speed and versatility to shoot with a Z Crane, a Steadicam, a jib and a dolly while using Master Anamorphic lenses and zoom lenses. We even did some handheld work. All this in a single camera, two-day shoot. After going over different scenarios, camera packages and feeling the need to shoot multiple cameras to make up the aggressive schedule, I was relieved we decided on using one single ALEXA XT."
Shooting on ALEXA was also a very positive experience for the director, a self-proclaimed celluloid lover. "Given our tight budget and schedule, we needed a camera that could not only deliver the cinematic aesthetic we were going for at a high resolution, but one that was versatile enough to shoot at different frame rates while being tough enough to perform on a demanding location and quick enough to move between our various rigs, mounts and setups. The ALEXA delivered on all of that and more. She's won my little cinephile heart."