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Blackmagic Design Unveils the Darker Side of Filmmaking with “She Has a Name”

“She Has a Name,” the latest independent film out of the Canada-based Unveil Studios, is a dark documentary-style thriller based on the taboo subject of human sex trafficking. More than a movie for filmmakers and brothers Andrew (writer), Matthew (director/editor/color) and Daniel (director/editor) Kooman, “She Has a Name” is human rights statement designed to remove the public’s numbness to what has become a global epidemic.

“The United Nations estimates that approximately two million children are being exploited in the global commercial sex trade,” states Andrew, who wrote the “She Has a Name” screenplay, an adaptation of his highly successful stage play of the same title. “She Has a Name” explores the story of one girl among those millions whose future is stolen, highlighting the work required by the global community to address this unthinkable reality.

The riveting story of “She Has a Name” follows Jason (Giovanni Mocibob), a lawyer posing as a john to build a legal case against a ruthless pimp who is trafficking girls in Asia. He meets Number 18 (Teresa Ting), a girl forced to work as a prostitute in a busy red light district, whose testimony is key to his case.

Shot in Thailand, the country itself played a key character in the film. “Because this film embodies so many complex layers, it required more than the outstanding abilities of our actors to tell the story. It required the tremendous talent of our production crew to capture the diversity of Thailand in way that the country itself played an important character in the film, which was critical to the narrative,” emphasizes Andrew. “The way we were able to weave the environment into the storyline brought a hyper realness to the events, giving the film a powerful production value that aptly tells the story of international corruption and cover ups without losing site of the individual’s story of hope and justice.”

The complex production and post production process spanned 18 months and was supported by a crew of 100. With production in Thailand and post done in several locations throughout Canada, the team built the core production and postproduction workflow around Blackmagic Design solutions, including the Blackmagic Production Camera 4K for shooting and Blackmagic DaVinci Resolve Studio for film editing and color grading. The seamless interoperability between products eliminated the worries that come with complex media migrations and management, leaving the team to focus solely on the creative.

Defining a Look to Set the Tone
The Kooman brothers (Matthew, Daniel and Andrew) along with Producer Shari Aspinall assumed the role of location scouts, visiting Thailand prior to the shoot. Returning home with a photo album of potential shoot locations that ranged from the vast countryside to the frenetic city of Bangkok, the team connected with the film’s director of photography Bob Nguyen to finalize production details. While they all agreed that they wanted to create a signature look and feel for the film, they did not want to stray too far from the grittiness of the original environment.

The trio wanted to bring out the cool tones in the midst of a warm, sweaty and greasy climate. Bob and Matt used DaVinci Resolve Studio to create a LUT, which was installed on the director’s monitor to help the team better visualize the shoot results. Matt, who spearheaded the color grading, explains: “We wanted to be able to monitor everything with the LUT in-monitor. This would give us the ability to convert the raw image and preview what the image was going to look like with lighting as well as the surrounding elements.”

Capturing the Cinematic Rawness of Thailand
With only two months to complete a complex shoot that included the crowded city streets of Bangkok at night, as well as deserted countryside roads, Bob had to research the best camera options for the task at hand. “I have always been a huge fan of film, and at first I wanted to shoot “She Has a Name” on 35mm. However, film doesn’t give that skin tone richness that you often find with most digital formats and shooting in a celluloid format was not ideal for the timeframe we were working with,” he recalls. “Dan, Matt and I did some camera tests, and we were blown away by what we saw coming out of the Production Camera 4K. The color space was very easy to work with and the skin tones looked smooth and pleasant. Seeing the results, the decision to shoot the entire movie using these cameras was easy.”

Bob also felt that the Production Camera 4K delivered the overall cinematic feel he was looking for. “When we all sat down, we agreed that the film has to have a unique look, but the image has to be raw, like a cinematic documentary. We did not want to change much from what we could see with our own eyes. The Production Camera 4K gave us what we wanted in terms of keeping the reality undisturbed but also being able to transform it into something beautiful.”

Camera testing and image quality aside, the team had to also pass the unforeseen tests of Mother Nature. The rapidly changing weather conditions in Thailand brought temperatures of 90 to 100 oF with equally brutal humidity and violent rainstorms. Bob explains, “It was very hot and humid, and I had some big concerns bringing the two Blackmagic Design cameras from Canada to Thailand with such a dramatic change in temperature and conditions. However, not one of the main Production Camera 4K we brought failed. They really held up quite well in extreme conditions.”

For the shoot, Bob paired the Production Camera 4K with Canon Cine Lenses and a Canon 30-300mm zoom lens. The camera body was protected with a cage from Wooden Camera. This offered several mounting points for the onboard monitor and other accessories. Bob comments on the ideal form factor of the Blackmagic cameras, “The small and compact body was a big advantage for us when we had to get in some really tiny spaces, yet the camera was powerful enough to be the main A camera on our film.”

Multi Location Story Development
As the production wrapped in Thailand, the post team back in Canada began the eight month process of compiling the RAW file footage and assembling the story. Matt and Dan collaborated on the editing with Matt working from Alberta, while Dan worked from British Columbia. With two post teams in motion in different locations, DaVinci Resolve Studio’s file sharing and compatibility was crucial. Dan explains, “Working in several locations added to the complexity of post, and we really needed to use a solution that could keep us connected and in sync. That’s where the compatibility of the DaVinci Resolve Studio editing and color grade project files were key for us. We needed to be able to share and review work in real-time so we could discuss the edits and the evolution of the storyline.”

“She Has a Name” was the first project Unveil’s post team had edited with DaVinci Resolve Studio. However, making the leap to DaVinci Resolve Studio’s NLE side was seamless. Dan describes, “The way that DaVinci Resolve Studio is split up into Media, Edit, Color and Deliver is really effective. When you are in one of those modes, you are actually in that zone. If you are in media, you’re just categorizing and setting up what you need for the edit. When you are in edit mode, you’re not thinking about color, you’re not distracted by other functions, you are developing the story. It was really intuitive and something that we all could just really click into.”

With production happening in so many locations and on many different platforms and rigs, the edit team also had to remove shakiness from the film. “The production team often shot on cranes, which would produce these little tremors in the footage. Thankfully, the DaVinci Resolve Studio stabilization feature was fast and easy to use, as we called on it often!” comments Dan.

The Nuance of Color Grading
With the variety of locations, color grading a dark thriller like “She Has a Name” took a bit of finesse to preserve the richness of diverse environments and the grittiness of the film’s subject. For the night scenes in particular, there were strong and varying color casts in the shadow areas. Using DaVinci Resolve Studio’s Lift/Gamma/Gain controls, the colorists could quickly balance out the blacks and maintain continuity. “She Has a Name” senior colorist Don Armstrong explains, “Even though many shots had very strong colors, by the time I had dialed in the blacks and the whites, the flesh tones would often fall right where I wanted them without needing to over correct. It’s all about nuance.”

The film’s colorists also often used DaVinci Resolve Studio’s Curve features to ease a look. Don describes, “Sometimes I’ll use a tracked Power Window with a qualifier for secondary correction, but in areas like waving foliage or other dense textures in moving camera shots, a qualifier can lead to visible keying artifacts. In those cases, the Hue vs. Hue and Hue vs. Sat curves are especially helpful in emphasizing and/or toning down colors without drawing the audience’s attention to it. You don’t want the audience to notice color grading!”

DaVinci Resolve Studio’s capabilities also helped the colorists save time and efficiently manage the film’s look from beginning to end. Don emphasizes the benefits, “Being able to save stills in the Gallery along with the split screen function is a wonderful way to maintain continuity across the film, as is the ability to copy individual nodes from a grade and insert them anywhere you want in another clip’s node tree. Sometimes you run into a problem for which you’ve worked out a solution thirty scenes back, and rather than have to recreate it from scratch, you step back, copy the node and move on. It’s so fast, and that leaves time to really study your work and make sure you’re headed in the right direction.”

More About “She Has a Name”

The Unveil Studios’ film stars an international cast of actors including Will Yun Lee (“The Wolverine,” “Hawaii Five-O”), Eugenia Yuan (“Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon,” “Sword of Destiny,” “Memoirs of a Geisha”) and Gil Bellows (“The Shawshank Redemption,” “Ally McBeal”). The film pairs these actors with up-and-coming stars including Vancouver’s Giovanni Mocibob, New York’s Teresa Ting and Singapore’s Vanessa Toh.

“She Has a Name” is produced by the Kooman brothers, Donna Abraham and Shari Aspinall, with Lance Kadatz and Dean Kohut as executive producers. The global World Premiere of “She Has a Name” will take place December 2, 2016, the International Day for the Abolition of Slavery, with screenings in Melbourne, Australia; Cape Town and Johannesburg, South Africa; London, England; Belfast, Ireland; and Red Deer, Alberta. A wider release is slated for January 2017 to coincide with Human Trafficking Awareness Month. Available at www.shehasanamefilm.com and in select theatres around the globe, proceeds from each online sale through the film's website will #FundFreedom.

Learn more at http://www.shehasanamefilm.com