BEHIND THE SCENES
OF ASTRAEA the movie

PHOTOGRAPHY

Isolated for a month in the snowy forests of Northern Maine, at the Canadian border, I documented the shooting of the movie 'Astraea'. 

It was on a cold Sunday night of January, i'd had spent a month in New York City, sleeping on the coach of my friend Arno, figuring out what to do with my lifeMy return flight to Europe was on the following day and of course, my existential questions remained unanswered. 

I was having beers with my friend Dave and as we started to get tipsy, he drops: "On Thursday I'm leaving for a month to work as 1st assistant director on the shoot of an indie feature film." He added: "It's a post-apocalyptic story, we're going to be a small crew, isolated in the middle of snowy forest near the Canadian border". 

I finished my beer and said: "Do you think there is a way I could join in?"

The next day, I did not show up at the airport but instead embarked on this journey, hired as still photographer and 2nd assistant director. I wouldn't regret it.

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As we arrived, we discovered our new home for the next four weeks; the Christmas Tree In, a wooden hotel located on the shore of a froozen lake. 

The hotel was closed and made available only for the film crew. We felt like being hosted in a smaller version of the Overlook from The Shining. 

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Soon, we would realize how much the harsh winter conditions of Maine would make the shooting challenging.

KEY PRODUCTION ASSISTANT IAN CLARCKE PROTECTS THE CAMERA ON THE FIRST SHOOTING DAY AS EQUIPMENT WAS STILL PENDING TO ARRIVE FROM NEW YORK

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SLEDGES WERE USED TO REACH THE SET ON THE FROOZEN LAKE.

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EARLY MORNING CAMERA SET UP ON THE FROZEN LAKE

Director kris thor checking the very first take of the 4 weeks long shooting

Director kris thor checking the very first take of the 4 weeks long shooting

Director of photography matthew mendelson in action

Director of photography matthew mendelson in action

Director kris thor  in the center of his team

Director kris thor (IN RED)

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1st AD DAVID WOOLNER and Director KRIS THOR (BACK) d.o.p. mendelson and 1st assistant camera kaya moon (FRONT)

Set decorator charlotte hornsby

Set decorator charlotte hornsby

1st assistant director david woolner during the first snowy days of the shoot.

1st assistant director david woolner during the first snowy days of the shoot.

Key PA Ian clarke

Key Production Assistant Ian clarke

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first assistant camera kaya moon

This was not a run-and-gun corporate video shoot, but a real feature film with a crew that, despite its small size, worked like a finely-tuned machine.

"Every crew member knew exactly what their role was at any given moment and worked with a rigor and professionality that was a truly humbling experience."

There is not a day that I don't remember how meticulous preparation and clear chain of command is vital for any shoot to be successful, regardless of its scale.

first assistant camera kaya moon and actor between two takes

First assistant camera kaya moon (LEFT) and actor Dan O’Brien during a break.

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1st AD meeting with DoP

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GRIP Ben Knight sets up lights

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Director kris thor directs nerea

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LEAD ACTRESS NEREA GONZALES REHEARSES IN FRONT OF MIRROR

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DOP MATTHEW MENDELSON CHECKING FRAME

ROB FIZ WAS THE SPECIAL FX MAKE-UP ARTIST AND IS REALLY PASSIONATE ABOUT ZOMBIES.
HERE IS A CONVERSATION BETWEEN HIM AND LEAD ACTRESS NEREA DUHART

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1st AC Kaya Moon and grip Dan Hourian on a ‘sensitive’ camera rig.

The frozen lake was one of the main sets as James (Dan O’Brien) and Callie (Jessie Cummings) ice fish to survive after an unknown disease nearly wipes out the human race.

"Shooting in snow represents a challenge for continuity, specially because of footprints. Everyone had to remain in the pathways which significantly slowed down the company movements"

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The two pathways that the crew was allowed to use to move on the lake's surface.

Line up

Crew members WAITING IN LINE to avoid footsteps in the snow

STRECH OUT

Director Kris Thor strech out after digging several fishing holes

Ice Fishing Set

The ice fishing holes set, Designed by James Bolenbaugh and Charlotte Hornsby

jessica halfnight

jessica halfnight

SUNSET

SUNSET ON THE FROZEN LAKE AS Astraea (Nerea Duhart) WALKS OVER THE ICE.

1st AD DAVID WOOLNER and Director KRIS  THOR discuss a shot.

1ST AD DAVID WOOLNER AND DIRECTOR KRISTJAN THOR ARE SCOUTING NEAR SWEDEN, MA, USA

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1st assistant Dave Woolner is hazing the barn before a take.

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DOP matthew mendelson creates custom light modifiers using found objects in the barn

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Sound guy Pete is taking advantage of the environment for better sound recording

production designer james bolenbaugh and director kris thor in the supermarket

production designer james bolenbaugh and director kris thor in the supermarket

director kris thor looking for an shot angle with the viewfinder

director kris thor looking for an shot angle with the viewfinder

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PRODUCTION SHOT OF JESSICA CUMMINGS (CALLIE). ONE THE PHOTOGRAPHS THAT WOULD LATER BE USED FOR THE PROMOTION OF THE MOVIE

Being still photographer during the day and second assistant director by night was absolutely exhausting.

I would often be the last one to go to bed as I had, together with 1st assistant Dave Woolner, to prepare the shooting schedule, call sheets and script sides for the next day. The horribly slow ink jet printer didn't help in the process...

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action scene

Director of Photography Matthew Mendelson is taking a nap after lunch.

Director of Photography Matthew Mendelson taking a nap.

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AT THE END OF THE SHOOTING, DAYS BECAME WARMER AND THE ICE SURFACE BECAME VISIBLE. 

Don't be shy

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Phone: +34 679 75 56 40
Email: jm@superjeanmarc.com