Curtains up on MTC ad campaign with Samuel Broeren behind the camera

Samuel Broeren shoots a spot for the Melbourne Theatre Company (MTC) alongside award-winning director Julian Lucas – by Samuel Broeren

A scene from the Melbourne Theatre Company’s ‘2019 Season’ campaign – DOP Samuel Broeren

Director Julian Lucas and I have worked together before on a few projects and have a bit of insight into each other’s approach. Lucas was wrapping up a show overseas during part of our pre-production, so it helped that we were able to quickly choose a direction for this project.

The spot focus on the hero characters in the Melbourne Theatre Company’s 2019 Season. It mostly features actors cast in the plays, or models for plays that were not yet cast. A few of the actors in the spot were already in rehearsals, meaning some days we only had talent for a few hours.

We shot 16:9 aspect on a Super 35 sensor, with spherical lenses. The 35mm focal length was our go-to lens on this project. I like the versatility you get with it, both close into the actors and further away. I’m a fan of using the 35mm for close ups, when you add in camera movement, you get quite a dynamic shift between the talent and background.

One of the MTC’s plays in 2019 is an adaptation of the film Shakespeare in Love (1998). The Oscar-winning film comes to the stage directed by Simon Phillips (Muriel’s Wedding: the Musical). We planned to use the ‘Shakespeare in Love’ scene to bookend the spot. 

A scene from the Melbourne Theatre Company’s ‘2019 Season’ campaign – DOP Samuel Broeren

Wanting to differentiate it from the other scenes we decided to go with a moodier look. We lit with hard light diffused through haze and I rated the ISO 1 stop under native, to give the toe of the image a bit more body. I like the look you get placing the exposure quite low and we were able to bring back contrast into the image through the saturated red dress the model was wearing. 

The textures and levels of wardrobe and styling are incredibly important to the final image and as much as possible I love to get an idea of where these departments are heading earlier in pre-prod, as it informs so many decisions. Especially in this scene where we really planned to push the sensor.

As an actor had yet to be cast for ‘Shakespeare in Love’, we were careful to avoid putting too much attention on the model used in the scene. Instead prioritising our focus on her body language and the textural elements of wardrobe and styling. In order to capture facial expressions without hero-ing her, I used a handheld diopter and prism in the foreground to manipulate the contrast-sharpness-saturation on parts of the frame that we wanted to obscure. It’s something I have tried in my stills work before and I was pleased how effective it was for this purpose. Pared with our heavy atmosphere and backlight it also gave us quite a dreamy and soft look.

All up I’m quite happy with what we were able to produce for this campaign, I had a great time working with past collaborators and a few new faces as well.

Samuel Broeren, based in Melbourne, works across commercial, music video and narrative work.

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