How we shot... 'The Farm Under The City'
'The Farm Under The City' was a short documentary supported by Quorn & Planet Shine with distribution on the WaterBear Network. It's a film that loooks at food sustainability, land use and how we can use new techniques to tackle the climate emercency.
Leaf & Shoot answer these questions with an underground vertical bioponic farm in the heart of industrial Sheffield. Aiming to close the loop with food waste and food production.
Working alongside my colleagues Brett Chapman & Lewis Coates, we started out by doing a master interview with two angles that would form the backbone of our story. The idea was the flush out all the different ideas and concepts that this project covers, to get Luke talking and to see where our main narrative was. This interview went on for nearly 2 hours and obviously was a challenge to cut down. But it gave us crucial research material for our future filming days.
We wanted to light this interview really well so took nearly 2 hours setting it up. We noticed on the reccy that Luke already had a natural colour scheme in his farm and shop, which had the orange of the heat lamps contrast with a fun pink led source in the shop. So we decided to lean into this and added our own sources with gels to expand the space and compliment the character of our main protagonist.
After flushing out the science and facts of the business, we cut that interview down and saw where our weak points where and what we needed to focus on next. We realised that under the lights and talking about all the science-y bits, that Luke was a bit stiffer than usual and less of the perky character that he was in real life. Something that we really wanted to capture in the film...
So for our second filming day we left him for a few weeks to refresh and went again. This time our approach was to be more walk & talk, with less pretty lighting and less formality.
Our aim was to follow him around the business all day doing his usual tasks and to ask him questions along the way to hopefully make him feel more relaxed. This meant our footage was more raw and less polished looking than the main interview, but the result was that we got really fun and interesting sound bites that truly reflected his character. We also liked the raw look of these shots because it portrayed the reality of his work space being in an old Victorian spring factory basement.
With Luke in full spirits we then went out film him delivering produce with some of his customers and suppliers. This gave us the opportunity to get out of the basement and into the Sheffield community. It allowed for dialogue away from camera and directed towards other people, which gave us some more honest and funny moments, and a side to Luke we really wanted to pull out in the edit.
One of the final pieces of the storyline was to get Luke out into nature. His farm system is based up the natural flows of the forest, and he used this analogy a lot in his interview. So we took him down to his favourite spot on the outskirts of town, which also gave us a nice contrast to the urban side of the city.
We went over some talking points again that we felt needed reinforcing or telling in a more efficient manner, to make sure our story was really precise. So all in all some topics were covered on 3 separate occasions. This meant we got the best out of Luke, and kept the film as short as possible by working on how to express his ideas.
Once we felt like we had all the story elements we arranged some b-roll filming days. One we were very keen to capture was to get Luke riding around on his electric cargo bike. A key element in the way his business stays carbon neutral and how he gets around the city efficiently.
We captured this by using a gimbal stabilised camera system and filming out the back of a moving car on closed roads. This was a risky set-up but something that really paid off with the end result. I initially tried running along side him but this failed miserably...
We paired this day with some drones shots of the same action, as well as general cityscape shots of Sheffield and the industrial Kelham Island area.
As well as some generic rising and following shots, we also pushed for this top down approach which reminded us of the first Grand Theft Auto game on Ps1. It really emphasised the traffic problem we have in our cities and showed how Luke was doing his deliveries the right way but under challenging circumstances.
We also needed a day getting b-roll shots of the farm. This involved gimbal shots walking around the farm, general GV's, but more importantly macro shots of the produce.
This was important to us as the world of biology is small and his crop currently specialises in micro greens. So getting down to that level was important to us. We focused on the crop and the systems in the farm like the gravel that the crops sit on and the water pumps.
The final piece of the puzzle was to commission some animations which were provided by the talented Emily Redfearn.
She works as an illustrator and animator in Sheffield. Her style felt appropriate because it is colourful and fun. We made sure it was bright and engaging and somewhat matched the colour scheme of the master interview in the farm shop.
These animations would then contrast nicely to the grainier and darker moments where Luke walks around the basement. We thought her style was exactly what the production needed to keep it exciting and engaging.
As well as directing the film, myself and Brett worked as the cinematographers on this projects too.
We shot on the Sony Fx6 & Fx3 cameras with primes lenses. I shot on the Carl Zeiss ZE Distagon & Planar range, which has vintage glass in modern electronic bodies, and Brett on the vintage Canon FD lenses. We then used a range of 1/4 & 1/2 Black Pro Mist filters to get that soft look with strong halation in the highlights.
We also edited to a variety of aspect rations to keep things fresh in the edit to get a poppy, zine like style which is successful on platforms like Youtube.
We used a strong grain profile to make the images dirty and textured which is a style we thought worked well with the locations we were filming in. Brett also likes to shoot the white balance warmer in camera and then bring it down in post which gave us a more filmic colour space.
With me and Brett both working as Directors on this project, we really got creative with the overall style of the film and it was a mix of both of our house styles. We love hand held filming and making images mucky and grainy. Brett has a unique editing style already which is very scrapbook-like, and we wanted to lean into this as much as possible. I also like to focus on cinematic techniques to tell the story and pushed for more composed moments to contrast alongside our handheld walk around scenes.
We work together a lot so most of the decisions and ideas weren't hard to agree on, and we both pushed different options which were received well by each other. I think ultimately having two directors is risky but as we had already worked together closely in a variety of capacities beforehand for many years, we were very in sync with what we needed to achieve and what would work well for the film.
Of course none of this could have been possible without our creative producer at Static Flow Productions: Lewis Coates. He came to us with the original idea that we all developed together and guided us through the funding process. Having a producer on board who is also creative only strengthened the production.
PLEASE give it a watch for FREE on the WaterBear Network -
Jordan Carroll is a freelance filmmaker & videographer working on drama, documentary and promotional content in Sheffield and around the UK.
Working as a director, cinematographer and editor he has a wide knowledge of the video production process.
He also works as a director of photography and gaffer in narrative film.