DP Simon Lereng Wilmont on A House Made of Shards |


The war in eastern Ukraine has left countless children orphaned, and in the face of systemic failure, the burden of caring for them falls primarily on the caretakers of overstretched orphanages. Simon Lereng Wilmont made such an orphanage the subject of his latest film, A house made of shards. Wilmont both directed and shot the film, and below he discusses the paradoxes of filming in an isolated orphanage during COVID and recounts the toughest scene he’s ever filmed.

Director: How and why did you become the director of photography for your film? What factors and attributes led you to be hired for this position?

Wilmont: I do most of my own filming because I just love cinematography. I enjoy working in the intimate space that I’m able to create, when it’s just me with a simple camera setup and my subjects rather than an entire crew with big lights and equipment. In my experience, it’s so much easier to establish that important trust, and at some point the camera blends into our shared daily life. He becomes an indifferent piece of equipment, or some kind of extra friend in our party. This is when the magic usually starts to happen and I’m able to capture the most emotionally raw and honest scenes.

Director: What were your artistic goals on this film, and how did you achieve them? How did you want your cinematography to enhance the film’s storytelling and the treatment of its characters?

Wilmont: I fell in love with this shelter in eastern Ukraine because it exuded human warmth and closeness from the moment I stepped inside. I knew instantly that this was a special place. I quickly realized, however, that it was also a place that had a strong undercurrent of tragedy that would surface and rear its ugly head from time to time. That’s for sure. part of the shelter’s DNA and its function, so it became kind of a mission for me personally to try to understand and capture what made the shelter so special, which was both the kindness and the attention from the staff and that fragile but precious hope that still lived so strongly in most of the children despite the difficult circumstances. I needed the moments of close human connection to be captured as beautifully as possible to show how precious that hope is in contrast to the harsh reality outside the shelter.

Director: Were there any specific influences on your cinematography, whether it was from other films, or visual art, photography or something else?

Wilmont: I was, and still am, deeply inspired by French photographer Lisa Sarfati and her photographs of post-Soviet Russia in the 1990s.

Director: What were the biggest challenges in producing these goals?

Wilmont: COVID, COVID and COVID. The orphanage didn’t use much masking equipment as they pretty much shut themselves off from the outside world. That was great for the movie because it makes it more universal and non-COVID “timestamped” but super tough for us because sometimes I had to film the kids going about their daily lives wearing a contagion-like hazmat suit, which was much to the delight of children. The absurdity of those moments made the whole filming process a little less serious for all of us, I think. So in some ways you could say it all ended up working to our advantage.

Director: What camera did you shoot with? Why did you choose the camera you made? What glasses did you use?

Wilmont: The film is shot on a Canon C300 mk2 with the Canon 24-70mm or 70-200mm lens – the 24-70mm being my personal favorite lens of all time as it’s an amazing all-around lens for shooting of sight. in all the different kinds of crazy situations you find yourself in when shooting documentaries.

Director: Describe your approach to lighting.

Wilmont: I’m a big fan of natural light and I gravitate toward it as much as possible. Professional lighting is an art form, and it’s difficult, cumbersome, and time-consuming, so I prefer to use whatever light sources are available and get the most out of them with the least amount of tinkering. So I can move a lamp around or ask the subjects to hang their string lights somewhere else, but I try to keep it to a minimum.

Director: What was the most difficult scene to achieve and why? And how did you do?

Wilmont: Without a doubt, the most difficult scene to film – maybe even the most difficult scene I have ever filmed – was when one of the children had to say goodbye to his siblings. I had become good friends with him by this point in the process and had spent a lot of time with him and his siblings, so filming what was truly one of the worst times of their lives was really difficult. The situation was so sudden, so raw and heartbreaking, that I just wanted to put the camera down and try to be a friend to them in any way I could, but realized, much to my frustration, that I was completely helpless. in this situation. . So I decided to do my best to capture the moment as soberly as possible so that the scene could at least be some sort of testament to his deep love for his little brother and sister.

Director: Finally, describe the finish of the film. How much of your look was “prepared” versus done in the DI?

Wilmont: The worn look and dusty colors of the orphanage and the bright colors of the children are quite true to life, but we added some grain to give the film a soft look, which reminds me of the old 16mm color film and gives the film a special warmth and life.


Movie Title: A house made of shards
Camera: Canon C300 mk2
Lenses: Canon 24-70mm & Canon 70-200mm
Lighting: Natural light
Processing: Kong Gulerod Post Company, DaVinci Resolve
Color gradient: DaVinci Resolution


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