Growing up in Northern California, filmmaker Grant Thompson started out making what he describes as “goofy little videos” as a middle schooler before moving on to produce polished skateboard videos. When he was 21, he began hanging out with a group of friends who practiced the extreme sport of highlining – the act of balancing along a suspended length of flat webbing tensioned between two anchors at high elevations.
“I was really intrigued by the sport,” explains Thompson. “I didn’t feel like there were a lot of films that showcased it so I reached out to Jerry Miszewski and Chris Rigby, who were some of the best athletes in highlining at the time.” Thompson began filming them every week and made a series of short films that have played numerous film festivals.
Thompson started using the AU-EVA1 cinema camera as his primary camera for an upcoming documentary, A Man & the Sea, which is narrated by Peter Coyote and profiles 67-year old surfer Christy Davis, who has been surfing big waves at Mavericks, a northern California beach where waves can reach heights of over 60-feet, for decades. Over the past several years, Davis has suffered many physical setbacks, including a broken back and a heart attack, but is still determined to surf the legendary wave. “The world’s best big wave surfers frequent Mavericks, who fly in from around the world for different swells,” says Thompson. “Yet this film is less about the cutting edge of athletic performance at Mavericks than it is an intimate portrait of Christy, who is a normal, everyday guy that lives locally and has been surfing there for over 30 years, under the radar of the public eye.”
Shooting dangerous action in the ocean with huge waves crashing from above takes a lot of planning, compared to a traditional land sport. Thompson was intrigued by the EVA1 because it delivered the cinematic images he needed with a body and form factor that was compact and lightweight. “I’ll be riding on the back of a jet ski holding a camera in a water housing, which even for a lightweight camera like the EVA1, the housing makes it significantly heavier, especially when doing handheld work,” he explains.
To protect the camera, Thompson worked with Matt Hipsley from Australia-based Salty Surf Housings to build a specialized underwater housing for the EVA1. He shoots 2K resolution in the ocean in order to capture high-speed 240-fps. On land he’ll typically capture 4K at 24-fps. “One of the things I really love about this camera are the User Buttons, where I can program the settings that I use most often,” explains Thompson. “At the press of a button, I can go from beautiful cinematic slow-motion images to 4K verité style moments at 24p.”
Thompson is primarily using the Sigma 24-105mm F4 as his main lens because of unexpected conditions he’ll encounter in the water. Because he’s shooting in brighter conditions, f/4 is fast enough. “It’s also wide enough because we often get pretty close to the wave,” says Thompson. “When I’m shooting from the boat, I’m typically zoomed in shooting at an 85mm or 100mm. If I’m moving on a jet ski in different locations, I like to make quick adjustments with different focal lengths.”
Even though the logistics of filming on the water is complicated and Thompson is often flying around on the back of jet skis, the extra effort is worth it. “When I get back to land and go home to look at the footage, I see the beautiful images from the day,” explains Thompson. “It is such fulfilling work to preserve these moments with a camera that creates such beautiful footage and to know that one day Christy’s grandchildren or great grandchildren will be able to watch it and relive these experiences.”
Along with shooting A Man & the Sea, Thompson is working on a number of different projects, including a series of short docs on housing issues for a SF based non-profit and he recently produced a short film on the work of WB Yeats in Western Ireland. He also still captures beautiful slow-motion content of professional highliners Lukas Irmler and Friedi Kühne, both considered some of the best in the sport. According to Thompson, the EVA1 is the perfect camera for the death-defying sport because of the size and the ability to capture beautiful 240-fps.
“The EVA1 is very capable of creating beautiful images, while simultaneously being really easy to work with,” concludes Thompson. “I can pack it away in my backpack that I’ve used for my SLR camera, including the shotgun mic and a couple of lenses that I can hike around with. Its small size and cinema features makes it so nice and easy to work with.”
For more information on the AU-EVA1, click through here.
For more information on Grant Thompson, visit his personal website here.