by Katrina Diamond
We were able to get an exclusive interview with the very busy Shane Hurlbut, ASC (DP on Act of Valor Project). What makes this recently released movie unique is that it was filmed with real Navy SEALs, in a story where they embark on a mission to recover a CIA Agent. Check out our Q&A for the inside look of what it was like to be on set and in the middle of such an amazing moviemaking project.
Q: How did you become involved in the Act of Valor project?
A: I shot and directed a series of webisodes for Terminator 4 that Bandito Brothers was producing. There I met Mike “Mouse” McCoy and Scott Waugh. We shot on the Canon 5D Mk II, and realized it would be the perfect camera for an immersive “Call of Duty” style of shooting for Act of Valor.
Q: What cameras were used?
Q: What special equipment was used in Act of Valor?
A: A lot of special equipment was utilized to turn the 5D into a movie making machine. We used the “Man Cam” which creates a great handheld/steadicam mixed look. We used crash boxes and steel-plated with 1/4 inch plate right in front of the CF card. That way if the camera got shot up the card would be ok. We also used Aquatech water housing, modified shoulder rigs, car mounts, motorcycle mounts, and a cineflex helicopter mount.
Q: Was 3D production considered? Why or why not?
A: The film was originally intended to be shot in 3D. However it wouldn’t be possible to shoot 3D working with the Navy and their assets, because they would only allow a crew of 5-10 people at a time. A small profile crew of that size just wasn’t possible for a 3D production.
Q: What was your favorite scene to shoot?
A: My favorite scene to shoot was the CIA extraction, because it has so many levels to it. The steel grey of night, mixed with the golden oranges from the sunrise, and the cool tonalities of the interior of the jungle. It’s the signature action piece of the film.
Q: What was the biggest challenge / obstacle in the production?
A: The biggest challenge was figuring out how to use the 5D to make the creative vision come to life. It was brand new technology and not intended to use as a digital film camera. This was overcome through trial and error and my crew the “elite team.” We were constantly innovating and trailblazing on Act of Valor. With each challenge we would create a new rig or make improvements. We had camera etiquette meetings with everyone who would have a camera in their hands. Our rules of engagement were simple: Think outside the box and immerse the camera.
Q: How was the transition of working with Navy SEALs versus traditional actors on such a high profile movie?
A: It was great working with the Navy SEALs because they all had a great gung-ho attitude. If they needed to strap on a 15lb helmet cam all day it was no problem. If they needed to jump out of an airplane it was no problem. Whatever was needed, they were on-board 100%.
Q: How did the locations affect staffing your team, resources and the overall quality of production?
A: Depending on how intensive a sequence we would bring two to four elite team members and then we picked up local crew. The beauty of shooting with the 5D is that our camera package would fly in our overhead bin space with us to whatever location we were shooting at. It allowed us to keep a small footprint and roll through customs with our DSLR package.