Shooting A Feature Film On A Canon T2i by Tom Sachs of A SPACE PROGRAM of A SPACE PROGRAM Documentary

Shooting A Feature Film On A Canon T2i by Tom Sachs of A SPACE PROGRAM_filmcourage_dslr_filmmaking_van_neistat_tech_cameras



Tom Sachs:  the movies that we make, Van [Neistat] and I are in way communication aspects of the sculpture.  They are built like…the movies are built, just like sculptures.  They’re films so they show the flaws, they are shot with a Canon T2i with a missing pixel in the middle about two-thirds of the way down from the top of the screen you will see one red dot.  It’s almost always there and I think we’re about to get a new version, like the T8i or something?  I’m not sure.  But it’s the idea that we started making movies when iMovie came out and then iMovie started to become so difficult and not functional. That is when we stopped for about three years and now we’re using Final Cut Pro because it’s easy again.

Film Courage:  What lenses did you use because you had such great, intricate close-up [shots] of drills and things like that?

Tom Sachs:  That’s the off-the-shelf Canon zoom lens.  I don’t even remember the model number of it but it’s probably something like a 20 or 30 millimeter to zoom out to be somewhere between 80 to 125.  It’s a good, basic, off-the-shelf one.   It’s not even the one with the red ring on it.  It’s not the good one.  I think we bought one of those later when we had to get another T2i to take a picture of our T2i for the credit sequence in the SPACE PROGRAM.  We needed a photo of the camera so we had to buy a second one just to take up one photo of the first one…which we then returned.

Film Courage:  So the entire film is shot on a Canon T2i?  Wow!…

Tom Sachs:  It’s name is Baby Jesus and in the credit sequence you’ll see that…in the credit sequence shot…you’ll see the camera is in it.  There’s some iPhone footage also, but nothing…there is nothing exotic.  When we shoot still footage of the sculptures those are all shot with like a…40 ninja pixel Hasselblad digital back.  Those are always shot by Genevieve Hanson or Joshua White, those are stills and those are for images you’ll see in books and on websites.

Film Courage:  What was your decision to use the T2i?  I mean I was thinking you used a Red camera or something.  It’s beautiful…

Tom Sachs:  It’s really what Van had…that’s Van’s camera and what’s important about the T2i to our team is that Van knows what all the buttons do.  And the Red has…it’s probably a superior camera in nearly every way except you have a huge liability because it’s so expensive and the virtue of a cheap camera is that it’s not an heirloom product.  It’s a consumable even though a camera is not typically understood as a consumable.  The films, the data cards, are considered consumables.  But when something is that cheap you can take risks.  You don’t have to obsess about it and I think a lot of filmmakers and camera aficionados are more obsessed with the hardware than what it’s capturing and if something is only $500 and you’ve got a huge production ahead of you, it’s really a relatively small part and that reversal of economics and power is what gives us the freedom to make a movie like we did.  It’s a a bar-lowering affect.  And, I can’t underscore this enough, the knowing how to use the tool is the most important thing.  Not what the tool can do.  As a sculptor I made much better work with lower quality tools that were in my hands that I know I have a muscle memory with a more precise, better tool because it’s part of my body.  I’m not thinking.

So when Van is getting these shots, he doesn’t have to worry about learning about some great new feature.  He just goes


Film Courage:
Tom briefly off-camera you were just telling us the slogan about NASA and I 
thought it relates to something that was interesting at the beginning of A SPACE PROGRAM documentary, about how you don’t just do things well, it seems like you’re a perfectionist and you insist on making sure that it’s perfect.


Tom Sachs:
When we say perfectionism, it’s often described as an illness and that might be true but what we say in the studio is ‘It won’t fail because of me. It won’t fail because of my part.’ That’s a great slogan for a collective work and when we put a man on the moon it was 35,000 people working on it. Each one of them said if we don’t get there, it’s not because of something I didn’t do and if everyone really agrees and believes in that, then we can achieve these incredible things.


Film Courage:
You’ve said before you don’t take vacations, you don’t believe in them. Therefore, do you ever feel your creative work feels stale because if you’re totally nose to the grindstone and you believe in making sure that every I is dotted and T is crossed, how do you recharge?




In A Space Program, internationally acclaimed artist Tom Sachs takes us on an intricately handmade journey to the red planet, providing audiences with an intimate, first person look into his studio and methods. The film is both a piece of art in its own right and a recording of Sachs’ historic piece, Space Program 2.0: MARS, which opened at New York’s Park Avenue Armory in 2012.

For Space Program 2.0: MARS, Tom and his team built an entire space program from scratch. They were guided by the philosophy of bricolage: creating and constructing from available yet limited resources. They ultimately sent two female astronauts to Mars in search of the answer to humankind’s ultimate question… are we alone?

Directed by Van Neistat, A Space Program is a captivating introduction to Sachs’ work for the uninitiated, and required viewing for his longtime fans.


A SPACE PROGRAM in theaters 4/7/16







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