Danial Donai has been on some of the biggest Hollywood film sets over the past 40 years. He has worked as a stuntman and actor on more than 30 blockbusters, including films such as; “Men In Black,” “Mission Impossible II,” “Matrix Revolution,” “Eraser” “Batman & Robin” and “Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome.”
Now in recent years, Danial had moved behind the camera and has become an independent filmmaker, as well as an author. His first film, Night Flyer, premiered in late 2017, and his new film, Chiroptera, began shooting in mid 2018 heading towards a December of 2018 premier date.
Danial used Blackmagic Design’s URSA Mini Pro for shooting the majority of the film, which included shooting in some of the roughest terrain and climate in Australia as well as in a variety of dark and tight locations. Chiroptera was also edited and graded completely in DaVinci Resolve Studio.
Q: Why did you choose to use URSA Mini Pros to shoot the film?
Danial: I have been a big fan and supporter of Blackmagic and their creative efforts to build competitive film cameras at affordable prices. In 2012, I was one of the first people in Queensland Australia to purchase the original Blackmagic Cinema Camera 2.5K model, and then one the first to buy the next model being the 4K version of the same camera design.
I was so impressed with the images these two cameras produced while using them on music video shoots, that I used the 4K model on my first feature film, which I wrote, directed and produced.
Then my feature was put on hold for a sometime while I raised more money for extra scenes I wanted to incorporate into the project. During this time, I was extremely excited for the release of Blackmagic Design’s first URSA camera. I was lucky to purchase this bad boy on its first release which was perfect timing for the start of the push with ‘Chiroptera.’ I loved shooting with the camera. It is a heavy camera but a sturdy one, and having that big screen and utilizing a good screen hood, it was a pleasure working with it. And then I began using the URSA Mini 4.6K. So it was an easy path for me to move to shooting with the URSA Mini Pro from there.
I wrote the film with a look that started out with bright sunny imagery throughout the first half of the film, and as the narrative progressed, the darker and more claustrophobic the film becomes. The URSA Mini Pro, with some lighting for the darker shots, worked out great for each scenario.
We quickly found that Blackmagic had stepped up the game once again with the URSA Mini Pro. For me this camera performed everything I asked of it and when fully rigged it still felt like I was shooting with a DSLR. Bottom line, this is an AMAZING camera at an incredible affordable price.
I can only say that, I wish I had my hands on the new URSA Mini Pro earlier, but working with the previous models and working with the cameras’ evolution was an exciting and great experience. Rome wasn’t built in a day but over time it became one of the most breathtaking cities on Earth, and this is where I foresee Blackmagic excelling to the forefront in this industry with cinematic cameras and editing technology.
Q: Was there any feature of the URSA Mini Pro in particular that the cameras helped with in the film?
Danial: Simply put, this camera helped dramatically with film because of the breathtaking imagery, the simplicity and the well though-out design of the URSA Mini Pro, This awesome camera produced incredible film like images, whether it be with a fixed wide shot of a majestic desert landscape at sunrise or sunset, a quick moving hand held action sequence or a tight dramatic subject shot. During January and Feburary of 2018 we shot using the Mini URSA Pro in the outback desert of far north eastern Queensland, around towns like Winton and Birdsville. Here the temperatures reach over 45 degrees Celsius and we were amazed that this camera did not overheat once.
Most of all this camera has been so reliable and I know that at the end of the day, I’ve captured the story with brilliant imagery.
Q: The film uses a mix of VFX and practical effects and stunt work. Why?
Danial: I originally wrote the film keeping any visuals of the creature hidden in the shadows, due to this film being a low budget project. I just couldn’t afford high end VFX and building an animatronic. If you are going to go down this track with creature visual effects, then I believe you must have a combination of vfx – animatronics & live physical sfx. But if you don’t have the budget to do it right, your creature and effects may look cheap and bring down the quality of your film. I also believe that sometimes, less is more, and that’s what I optioned for.
Q: Any advice you would give to a young filmmaker?
Danial: Most important, BELIEVE in yourself and your visions and NEVER EVER give up! We all start somewhere and get better as we continue on our journey. So, make your journey the best that it can be.
The story is always key – work hard and long on the narrative and be open to suggestion and creativity along the way.
From there, surround yourself with a creative cast and crew, especially people that believe in you and your vision. And give your pre-production as much time as you can and don’t rush this phase, for it is this phase that will govern if your shoot will be the shoot you’ve envisioned from the inception. If not, you will most probably run into a lot more problems during your shoot then you would have. Preparation! Preparation! Preparation! Remember Murphy’s Law.
And always allow enough money in your budget for your Sound & Post production.
Dare To Dream and Dream BIG!