Alkisti Terzi, MFA Advanced Film Practice – Cinematography as a collaborative process on Chameleon

Chameleon is a film that evolved as it was being filmed. As a director of photography on Chameleon I had been to the location scout, discussed the script again and again, watched and read the references my director gave me, tried to feel its tone by analyzing its symbolism in real life to prepare my lighting and camera plans, but Chameleon on set would evolve from a shot list and a detailed plan to an organic body of work we all collaborated on.

AlkistiTerziBlog_0.jpgI had thought I would get an idea of the whole project only at the post production stage but I found that on Chameleon the project revealed itself during the filmmaking process. The motivation of the director and the actors to make an honest reflection of themselves in this film was so persistent while we were shooting that it allowed me to get a clear vision of the whole film. I was not worried about each shot separately anymore but instead felt like I was giving shape to something that was already there. 

My main sources of inspiration for the film was the cinematography of Thimios Bakatakis in Makridi’s film L but I also used Giorgos Iliopoulos’ (the director of Chameleon) stills as a reference to explain the alienating feeling we were trying to capture from the framing and the stillness of the shots. Before he switched to directing Giorgos worked as a cinematographer so his idea of the image was a very accurate one and he could easily express it to me whenever we talked about it. 





ChameleonBlog.jpgChameleonBlog2.jpgBeing a film student specialising in cinematography I have worked on many film sets and in every role of the camera department to gain experience but often I felt I had to prove myself and come up with the most impressive ideas for our shots. Consequently these ambitious ideas would carry a huge responsibility for me on set and with the limited resources of low-budget film making they would rarely succeed or they would take away from the narrative of the film altogether. The filming of my graduation film Picnic Days and straight after Chameleon, were the turning point of this amateurish approach for me. Both films taught me that the less you worry about proving yourself the better the chance of releasing your vision and craft effortlessly to create something you will know then and there if it works for the film or not. 

The film industry is a competitive environment but bringing the stress of that into our work can take away from the filmmaking process. The way the film industry works in comparison to the filmmaking process needs to be considered separately, especially for new filmmakers specialized in craft roles. The reputation each film might bring to a crew member is dependent on the overall outcome of a film and not the other way around. I discovered this working on Chameleon which I found made my work better and the filmmaking process much more inspiring and enjoyable.

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Alikiti Terzi is a graduate of the Edinburgh Napier BA Photography & Film course and is currently studying on the MFA Advanced Film Practice  at Screen Academy Scotland, Edinburgh Napier.