Three Stories Inside A Rental Van

Cinematographer Ryan Alexander Lloyd re-teams with director Lewis Attey for their latest short film Three Stories Inside A Rental Van, screening at this year’s Melbourne International Film Festival – by Vanessa Abbott

A scene from ‘Three Stories Inside A Rental Van’ – Ryan Alexander Lloyd

A young labourer backs into a parked car. Two international students watch a group of kids make a small bomb. And a man attempts to dump a load of rubbish on the side of the road. Three Stories Inside a Rental Van presents three vignettes, each set inside the same rental van, and each exploring the morality of the different characters who hire it. Each story is filmed in a single shot, without edit points and the camera never leaves the interior of the van.

For the filmmakers, the aim of the film was “to live within a moment of someone’s life where their actions or lack of action would be observed and invoke a repose within the viewer as the scene wouldn’t cut away but play out in three long, real time shots,” says cinematographer Ryan Alexander Lloyd.

Lloyd has known writer and director Lewis Attey for close to a decade. “I was lucky to have shot his student films some years ago,” says Lloyd. “I seem to be one of the first people he calls when a clanging idea pops into his head.” And although they hadn’t worked with each other before, the film’s producer Katie Laurie is also friends with Lloyd. The film takes place in a moving vehicle.

A scene from ‘Three Stories Inside A Rental Van’ – Ryan Alexander Lloyd

The best place to start is the work of Emmanuel Lubezki AMC ASC in Children of Men (2006),” says Lloyd. “From there, we took into consideration the fact that our budget was 0.1% of that film and we got to work problem solving.

Time of- day was used to assist with lighting restrictions – Lloyd’s camera moves 360-degrees in some scenes – along with the film’s look being natural, with minimal artificial lighting used. LiteGear’s bicolour LEDs, the size of A4 paper, were taped into small gaps within the van for soft fill light on the actors. Given the physical space was small, the crew knew they wanted to use a lightweight gimbal on a remote slider. That quickly led Lloyd to the ARRI Alexa Mini. “It was new for the director and myself,” he says.

In terms of lenses, all the cinematographer’s dramatic projects up until now had been 16mm or 35mm. “Lenses were more a process of elimination. I knew I wanted a ‘Zeiss look’, it was then finding the right size and speed for the scene. We ended up with Master Primes 21mm between T2 and T5.6 for or the first storyline, 35mm at T2.8 for the second, and T1.4 and T4 on the third.

A scene from ‘Three Stories Inside A Rental Van’ – Ryan Alexander Lloyd

Lloyd remembers a four-day shoot. “The hardest set up being the third storyline on location in western Victoria,” he says. “A number of camera and technical rehearsals leading up to rolling up later in the day was how we prepared.” The shoot week was one of the hottest of summer, pushing forty-degrees in temperature some days. Lloyd’s camera consisted of second assistant camera Bonita Carzino and focus puller Bryn Whitie. “Given the technicalities of the shoot they were absolute legends.

Nicholas Hower was the film’s colourist and someone whom Lloyd had worked with before. “It was very straight forward, just a little bit of shaping hereand there,” he says. “Some of the visual effect’s texture elements were captured by Carzino, such as the explosion, and overlaid with mine and Lewis’ sign off in the mastering stages. I feel like I just gave away a plot point.

After seeing the film again just recently I think the second storyline is my best work,” proclaims the cinematographer. “All I see in the other stories is my errors in camera operating. It’s hard to get over those. The second movement, however, is so focused and story driven and really pushes the viewer into the mindset of asking ‘what is next?’ It’s so restrictive you have to sit up and be present.

A scene from ‘Three Stories Inside A Rental Van’ – Ryan Alexander Lloyd

Would I have done things differently?” he asks himself, “I think any creative person knows the answer to this one; could have, should have. Time and money always help but given it was self-funded by the director and many people offered their time and skills I think it’s a testament to all the creatives involved. Personally, I wish the FreeFly MVI Pro 2 would have been available.

Lloyd is currently in pre-production on a beautiful Indigenous script with Aaron Pedersen attached as a complex father-figure reconnecting with his son. He’s also
in post-production on an emotionally charged documentary following the ongoing mining pollution in the Northern Territory.

Vanessa Abbott is a writer based in Melbourne.

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