May 25, 2015 Inbal Voitiz

May’s Monthly Independent Filmmakers Series – Riot House’s “I Am Dominica”

We’re excited to launch another monthly series that will explore great video output by independent filmmakers.

For May, we chose “I Am Dominica” by French production studio Riot House.

We had the opportunity to interview Adi Bessac and Damien Bour of Riot House to get a feel for the making of their video.

Riot House - Independent filmmaking

How did you get the opportunity to participate in the Dominica video challenge?

I saw a Facebook advertisement the day before submissions closed. I usually don’t answer to these types of things, but the concept was nice to go to an island to film. We had time [to spare] at this time of the year, so we thought, why not? (Damien and I had traveled a year before together in Hong Kong and Thailand.) Two or three weeks after our submission, we found out that we were selected as semi-finalists. We were one of twelve semi-finalists, and six finalists went on the trip.

Who were among the competitors?

The six teams were from the U.S., Canada, UK, and France. The six videos are totally different, and it was really cool to see the different perspectives and different ways to approach the challenge. We all lodged together, and the average age of the team members ranged from 25-35.

Independent Film

Photo: “I Am Dominica” rotating transaction

Did you have the concept in mind before taking the trip?

Adrien had the rotating idea. Our inspiration was from a movie called Into the Mind, which incorporated ski, mountains, and rotating angles, [the last of] which we had never tried before. Otherwise, we tried not to view the other projects since the challenge was in its second year. We didn’t really have a plan, but were inspired by local beaches and mountains shown by our driver and guide. In post-production, we watched everything we had and tried to put it in order.

So you kind of took a deliberately ‘free’ approach in pre-planning?

Yes, the challenge worked in this way. We didn’t know anything about the lodgings, and they told us everything about the challenge on the second day we arrived, so it was difficult to plan anything with only the tourism book we were given beforehand.

Independent Filmmaking

How did you find the people you captured on film?

We were coming back from a mountain and the lighting was very beautiful around the time of the sunset. We saw guys playing soccer on the beach which we thought was epic, and then saw a girl swimming at her dad’s and just asked to film her. It was just pure luck, being in the right place at the right time.

What equipment did you use for the video?

We shot with Red Epic, Canon 5d mkIII Raw, Canon L Lenses, DJI Phantom2, and GoPro Hero 4. We had trouble with our luggage; it took four days to arrive. All of the shooting equipment was with us in our carry-ons, but the batteries and chargers were in our luggage. So for that time, we had to improvise before shooting with the Epic.

Which one of you did the shooting?

Adrien was the main shooter for 90% of the video, otherwise it was me.

Was lighting something you worked on?

We worked only with natural light, nothing artificial.

What type of input has the video generated?

We launched this video last Friday (May 15, 2015), and we’ve gotten good feedback so we’re very happy with it. We’ve heard from people all around the world, including Dominica, which was nice. Some natives said they hadn’t seen the island in the way that we had presented it. They told us that they were jealous since we made it look so nice! It’s a really unspoiled island, really green, since there are many volcanoes that catch the clouds and rain. Pirates of the Caribbean 2 and 3 were actually shot on Dominica. There isn’t much tourism, and it’s really a green destination.

How long did it take you to work on the video from pre-production to post?

The shooting challenge lasted one week. We finished in the beginning of March and had to submit the final cut by May 15. In total we spent maybe two weeks in post-production, between editing, grading, voiceover, etc.

How long did it take you before grading, in terms of building the narrative?

3-4 days. We had lots of footage and no concrete story to tell.

Can you tell us about the music?

We tried different music on the subject, and experimented on ones that we both liked and would work well with the story. It took a few days to decide because we wanted to try something different, as we think music is very important in a video.

What would you do differently if you were to do it again?

If anything, we would try to fit more equipment in our bags (and not have them get lost). Rain and wind served as a huge challenge; weather is unpredictable on these kinds of islands.

Which video by the other teams did you like best?

We really liked the Canadian team’s video, called “Green Triangles.” There’s really a nice poetry behind it, and they captured very beautiful shots.

Now here is their masterpiece:

I AM DOMINICA from Riot House on Vimeo.

We’d like to thank the men behind Riot House for taking the time to speak with us. Check out more of their behind the scenes action here:

Behind the Scenes / I AM DOMINICA from Riot House on Vimeo.

Stay tuned next month for our next exploration of top of the line independent film.




About the Author

Inbal Voitiz Inbal Voitiz is Co-Founder of LookAt, where she is focused on producing the tools for video professionals, so that brilliant, inspiring beautiful videos will come to life.