Director of Photography Franklin Dow discusses his personal involvement in the documentary Evelyn and the complex camera rig he built especially for the film. Read our interview with director Orlando von Einsiedel here.
Evelyn is remarkable in its nuanced approach to the question of suicide and grief, resisting all simple conclusions and resolutions — an achievement that required the innovation of the film’s Director of Photography, Franklin Dow. As director Orlando von Einsiedel, his friends, and his family hiked down mountains and valleys for several weeks, Dow was in charge of filming them. But walking backwards across difficult terrain with a camera was out of the question. To get around that problem, Dow built an entire rig from scratch; it is safe to say Evelyn wouldn’t be as affecting and immersive as it is without this completely original set-up.
In our interview, Dow describes his ongoing relationship with the film’s director, the process of capturing people at their most vulnerable, and the fascinating details of the complex camera rig he built especially for the film.
7R: You’ve worked with Orlando von Einsiedel before, but how did you get involved in the documentary Evelyn? Did you have any qualms about it before doing it?
Franklin Dow: I had a few observations, because of the challenge of the director as protagonist, and how that would work. But we’d worked together as a film team for a long time, and we’re like a little family ourselves. I think that level of trust between our film team is crucial. I don’t think I’d be able to make a film like this unless we had that.
We decided from the beginning that it had to be verité. We didn’t want a film that would be all interviews with some cutaways of them walking. It was so important to me that we took the audience on the journey with the family — that you’re really there, and that you could see their faces and the subtle emotions that they go through. You can tell so much just from looking at someone’s face; they don’t need to be saying anything; the emotion is just there on their faces.'It was important that we took the audience on the journey with the family — that you’re really there, that you could see their faces and the subtle emotions they go through.' -Franklin DowClick To Tweet
It’s obviously, in a lot of ways, the most difficult film I’ve ever shot — not just logistically, but also being that close to the director and delving into his family in the way that we did was very tough.
7R: The documentary subjects of Evelyn are very vulnerable on camera. Sometimes, they try to hide their emotions, but they never really manage. Was that something that you all agreed on early on, that the subjects just wouldn’t hide from the camera?
Franklin Dow: Yeah, it was. Orlando knew and could trust that we weren’t going to shy away from anything, and that it was going to be done with respect. Part of that was the way we designed the camera. It was a backward-facing camera, because I couldn’t walk backwards for six hours a day! I designed it to sit inside a backpack in the shadow. The subjects very quickly forgot that there was a camera there because there wasn’t someone staring at them from behind a camera. The actual camera itself is hidden. I think that was really important that the family was able to just go on that journey and experience it. And we were able to capture that.
Read our interview with Evelyn director Orlando von Einsiedel here.