In the new modern take on Romeo & Juliet, cinematographer Tim Sidell captured the performance using Cooke S7/i full frame lenses and Canon K35s on a Sony Venice camera. Starring Josh O’Connor and Jessie Buckley, the film was shot at the National Theatre in the UK over 17 days while the country was closed during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The film begins with a theatre group rehearsing the play in a space with only a few props, and as it progresses, the sets become more detailed and more filmic.
During rehearsals, Sidell pushed for camera and lighting tests to demonstrate to the film’s director, Simon Godwin, how the theatre setting could be captured on camera. He elaborated: “As a theatre, the National Theatre is unbeatable, but the hard spotlights were not quite right for film.”
Sidell then submitted a lighting plan grouping those spots into large controllable soft boxes and with the addition of “the big cloud” – a 45 sq ft cloth covering the sources, which the gaffer Sam Alberg was able to rig to the flybars above the stage.
“We also brought in some film lights at the edges and used mirrors to bounce theatre lights,” he continued. “It was a wonderful fusion between the worlds of film and theatre, and we achieved greater flexibility and speed because of the rich resources at the National Theatre.”
The film was shot on the Sony Venice, which Sidell described as “very organic”. He explained: “It has a more ‘human’ feel and a lot of that is to do with the colour – the way it renders skin is incredible. It’s also full frame so there’s more depth of field range to play with.”
Sidell first fitted the Sony Venice camera with Canon K35 lenses for the more intimate handheld documentary-style shots. However, he also needed a complementary lens set for the more fully realised scenes later in the film, with more focal lengths and a little more contrast.
He said: “We tested lots of full frame lenses and found that the Cooke S7/i’s had similar organic qualities to the K35s and they blended well. They don’t feel too clean; I like the way the focus falls off, and the contrast is very elegant.
“Having a range of focal lengths to choose from is also great. Shooting full frame is different from shooting K35 and the slightly-longer-than-medium focal lengths are so good for portraiture – I love the Cooke 65mm. Having so many choices close together at the wide end is also really useful.”
Sidell used the Cooke lenses with the Sony Venice on a dolly track as well as a Scorpio TechnoCrane with a manual fluid head where he would have control with a rocker switch, which gave the freedom of handheld but a more classic movement.
The entire camera and lens package was supplied by Movietech, while Panavision supplied the Scorpio.