I shot this gritty little slice of cinema verite on my iPhone 4s camera. Because the camera is so simple, there is a feeling of immediacy when shooting with it. There is virtually no gear to distract the photographer from the subject and as a result, it can be much easier to connect with the moment being captured. I was able to experience this first hand while shooting this video.
I was visiting friends who live on a farm. One of the chickens had been caught eating eggs, and had been sentenced to death. The task was handed down to Sol. He had never killed a chicken before, and did not take the responsibility lightly. He reflected on the act of killing for several days in advance of the execution. One morning after breakfast, I saw him preparing for the ordeal.
I knew I had to record what he was about to do. The only camera available to me was the one on my camera, and I knew it would have to do. No stabilizer, no mics, no filters. Just the lens aimed at the moment as it occured. Later, in editing, I was surprised at how smooth some of the shots were. I was also impressed with how well the footage took to color adjustments. The orange and teal grading worked nicely with the lush greens of the setting. I added letterboxing to give the image a cinematic quality, to imbue it with the experience of watching from a theater, where everything is larger than life.
The shallow focus shots were inspired by the camera work of Terrence Malick films. I aimed to conjure an ephemeral, spiritual sense to reflect the reverence Sol felt for the life he was taking. The stark, minimalist score is Roger Reynolds’ “Process and Passion”. I used it to emphasize the ebbing and flowing of life and the dance of death taking place between the chicken and it’s executioner.
Sol made it clear that he wants all viewers to know that he regrets not ending the chicken’s life more quickly and less painfully. It was his first time, and I forgive him. I like to think the chicken did to.