It’s been a busy couple of years for cinematographer and producer Amy Belling. In that time, she has lensed five features as well as shorts, music videos and a television series. I manage to squeeze in a chat with her on the same weekend her feature, Stress Position, is opening theatrically in Vancouver.
Considering how underrepresented women are in the cinematography department, I ask Amy how she ended up behind the lens. She figures she inherited her love for the visual language of imagery from her dad, who was an avid photographer. When she was 13, her dad bought an early consumer video camera. From the time Amy gave it a try, it rarely left her side.
She went on to graduate from UBC’S Film Program and received her Masters of Fine Arts in Cinematography at the American Film Institute Conservatory in Los Angeles. It’s at UBC where she met A.J. Bond, who wrote, directed and acts in Stress Position. The two formed the production company The Siblings back in 2006 and collaborated on two award-winning shorts prior to Stress Position, their debut feature.
According to the official synopsis, “Stress Position is a genre-bending feature film about two close friends who make a bet to see which one of them can withstand a week of psychological torture at the hands of the other.” Sounds intriguing, even more so when Amy tells me that 20% of it is documentary combined with heavily improvised drama.
Unlike typical drama, which is shot from a finely tuned script, the creative team worked instead from a 30-page treatment. All of the dialogue was improvised, as was much of the blocking. For some DPs, this would have been a nightmare. But Amy embraced the challenge, and enjoyed “dancing with the actors.”
Working with a small crew also presented challenges. A few times most of the crew was enlisted to appear on camera as some of the “white figures” which feature in the story, including the soundman. With Amy shooting and A.J. acting, no one was left to monitor the three camera shots in the video village. Fortunately, they got the look they wanted. And after shooting 21 days in a row on location in a warehouse in North Vancouver, principal photography was wrapped.
Stress Position has already received much acclaim – “The film has twists and turns that surprise and horrify” Examiner.com – and awards – Best Cinematography at the 2013 Las Vegas Film Festival. Here in Vancouver, the feature is nominated for seven Leo Awards, including, of course, one for Cinematography.
I have no doubt there are many more awards to come for Amy. We wrap up our conversation and then with a warm smile, she is off racing to her next screening.
By Catharine Parke
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