During the summer of 2023, we received a call for a remarkable task – the filming of the third installment of Largo Winch.
In the realm of cinema, our collaborations are always in partnership with the esteemed Thomas WILSKI, a renowned director of photography and cameraman in both Belgian and international cinema. With credits on projects like Game of Thrones, Thomas boasts a stellar reputation.
In this particular venture, Thomas wielded the camera, I manned the controls as the pilot, while Stéphane assumed the role of observer. The shoot was scheduled for nightfall, prompting our arrival at 7:30 PM to rehearse camera movements with the stand-ins, ensuring readiness for shooting by 10:30 PM.
Upon arrival, it was evident that this endeavor wouldn't be a walk in the park. The scenes were set within an industrial landscape, amidst towering iron structures. To elaborate, we needed to fly the Inspire 3 within a 20m by 20m iron cage, facing swift accelerations and sudden yet gentle decelerations.
Though my experience with the I3 was limited, merely a handful of minutes, I wasn't entirely at ease. Consequently, we undertook numerous dry runs.
Oh yes, I almost forgot – I had to delicately halt the drone approximately 1m from James Franco's head while grazing Tomer Sisley's scalp by mere centimeters. All this while seated atop a precarious metal structure, 15m above ground, at night, with blinding cinematic lights beaming in our faces, and to top it off, in a metallic framework that thwarted GPS signals. Lacking RTK, we had to settle for ATTI mode. Hooray.
After a series of tests, I opted for a more or less FPV approach. Taking a deep breath, we plunged into anticipation.
Midnight came, and there was still no action. By 2 AM, the situation remained unchanged. With the sun due to rise around 5 AM, and to keep my wits about me, I retreated to the van for some rest. Awakening at 4:45 AM, the status quo prevailed.
At 5 AM, an assistant director informed us that shooting for the night was off. By 6:30 AM, I was back in my own bed.
Three days later, we repeated the process. Returning to the set, we ran more tests (I had taken time to familiarize myself better with the I3, adjusting expos and such), and then, at 10:45 PM, with Tomer Sisley just 3 meters away, the pivotal shot was secured. Accelerating robustly in ATTI mode, then smoothly yet forcefully decelerating, stopping centimetres away from a metallic pillar.
Tomer Sisley firing his gun at James Franco 👇🏼
We then seamlessly transitioned to other planned shots, as well as some that were more spontaneous. The director expressed his satisfaction, a gratifying feeling as I had invested my all.
The result? Four or five shots captured in half a night, no actors disfigured, and an elated team proud to have contributed to a splendid production set.
This experience illuminated the reality that directors (and other cinema crews) don't always recognize that a drone isn't a universal tool. In the case of shots required for this scene in Largo Winch, a crane or cable cam might have been more fitting, less risky, and ultimately just as effective for a team that was already grappling with filming delays. Nevertheless, the shots are undeniably cool, and I stand proud of them.
A picture of the set 👇🏼