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British DP Matthew Lewis pulls-off a one-shot wonder for Philip Barantini’s award-winning Boiling Point

Dec 15, 2021

Matthew Lewis • Boiling Point

By Ron Prince

Aged just 23, British DP Matthew Lewis pulled-off a remarkable feat with the one-shot-wonder film that is Boiling Point, directed by Philip Barantini.

Running at 90-minutes, and captured by Lewis in a single continuous take – with no cuts or invisible joins – the absorbing story follows Andy (Stephen Graham), the owner and head chef at a hip East London restaurant, during a frenetic pre-Christmas dinner sitting.

The film opens as Andy receives a call from his ex-wife about parenting problems. But that’s just the start of his troubles, as he soon discovers the local health inspector has docked points off the restaurant’s hygiene-rating, steaks are in short supply, key staff are late or out of their depth, and celebrity chef Alistair Skye (Jason Flemyng) will be dining this evening accompanied by an influential restaurant critic.

Boiling Point screened to packed cinemas during the 2021 London Film Festival, and earned acclaim for Graham’s gripping central performance, as well as Lewis’ formidable camerawork around the tables, kitchens and backyard of the restaurant. Lewis subsequently won the 2021 BIFA Award for his cinematograihy work on the film, whilst Barantini picked up the gong for Best Director.

“It’s wicked to have been able to shoot something like this at such an early point in my career,” says Lewis, a film graduate from Portsmouth University, who had previously shot Barantini’s well-received crime thriller Villain (2020). “But, the prep, logistics and practical co-ordination were pretty mind-boggling, and following the action with the camera through multiple rehearsals and actual takes was physically-demanding.”

Lewis worked with London camera house Focus24 for several months in advance of the shoot to develop an Easirig camera system that would enable agile movement as well as seamless recording of the long take.

The prep, logistics and practical co-ordination were pretty mind-boggling

“I was super-certain that I would use the ARRI Alexa Mini, as it is small and compact,” Lewis says, “but I discovered the weight distribution caused me to have to compensate with my shoulders and back, and we could not readily find a solution to record 90-minutes continuously.

“The team at Focus24 team suggested working with Sony Venice in Rialto mode – with the sensor head on the rig, plus a 2-axis Flowcine Serene to help iron out my footsteps, and an Sony AXS-R7 external recorder strapped to my back – and I was immediately won over by how much better that felt physically. Also, we could capture in Sony X-OCN 6K format and hot-swap the cards in the recorder to ensure a seamless take.”

The final camera and body rig combination also included a Zeiss Supreme 29mm lens plus remote focus mechanism, a Pancro Mitchell D-strength diffusion filter, two Transvideo Starlite HD monitors pitched at 45º, a Teradek Bolt 3000 XT transmitter and two 150W batteries – came it an 10kg all-told. Lewis’ 1st AC, James Woodbridge, pulled focus remotely using a ARRI WCU-4 hand unit.

“We ran through the camera moves and story beats with our cast for two weeks, and then did two full rehearsals before the actual shoot itself, by which time I knew the camera path off by heart,” says Lewis, who was supported by in his camera-moving endeavours by grip was Will Anderson.

“The shoot itself was scheduled for four consecutive nights, with two takes each night at 10pm and 2am – making eight in all. Even though I had an insane amount of shoulder padding, I had a professional back-and-shoulder massage for 20 minutes after every take to make sure I didn’t seize-up, and remember smelling of Deep Heat throughout the shoot.”

Production took place at Jones & Sons restaurant in Dalston East London, in March 2020. Jem Balls were used to illuminate the exterior sequences, whilst the interiors were illuminated using carefully-concealed RGB Quasar tubes, Tungsten Fresnels and existing practicals refitted with LED bulbs, under the auspices of gaffer Max Hodgkinson.

Several areas, including some of the dining tables, were lit from above with dimmable Tungsten softboxes. The lighting on these could be heightened, whilst the surrounding ambient light was lowered, to deliver a subtle vignette to the image for key moments. The lighting and power package was provided by Pixipixel.

Although Lewis was prepared to shoot eight full takes, UK lockdown intervened, which meant the production could only shoot for two nights.

“As if things weren’t pressed enough, there was a general gasp amongst the cast and crew when we learned that we only had two nights and four takes to get the movie,” remarks Lewis.

“But it had a remarkable galvanising effect, and everyone focussed their energies towards getting the emotion on-screen. I have never before experienced such camaraderie or commitment amongst the cast and the crew on a project. We shot four takes, but it was the third that became the final film. I’m glad that we wrapped when we did, as I think I’d have been a wreck after a further four takes.”

Lewis completed the final DI remotely with colourist was Tom Alexander at Technicolor.

 

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