How filmmaker Gabe Dinsmoor shot mini-doc “SAGE”, winner of the EVA1 “Share Your Vision” Short Film Contest for non-fiction

4 min read

Winner of the EVA1 “Share Your Vision” short film contest for non-fiction, SAGE, directed and shot by filmmaker Gabe Dinsmoor with the EVA1, tells the story of Errika Bridgeford, an activist who founded the Ceasefire Movement, which organizes ceasefire weekends to stop street violence in Baltimore, MD.

Dinsmoor’s career took off while filming the protests during the Baltimore Uprising movement while working as a freelance video journalist for The New York Times, The Guardian and Esquire. “I remember I had to make the decision to either take photographs, or film the protests, and I felt like film was the best medium for communicating what was happening on the ground,” says Dinsmoor. “I teamed up with [actress] Sonja Sohn, producer Nate Mook, co-producer Mahrya Macintyre, and DP Cliff Charles to spend two years as a cinematographer and associate producer on Baltimore Rising, a feature documentary for HBO that followed activists and police during the trials for the officers involved in Freddie Gray's death.”

Gabe Dinsmoor shooting handheld with his EVA1 (All photos courtesy of Gabe Dinsmoor)

For Dinsmoor, it was a big transition going from multimedia journalism to working on an HBO feature as a cinematographer and he had to learn on the job. “One thing that is a common thread throughout my work is being involved in storytelling in my community and having a commitment to social justice,” explains Dinsmoor. “There are great stories that need to be told right in our own backyard. I think there is a misconception that you need to travel to find great stories and that's not necessarily true.”

For SAGE, Dinsmoor first captured Bridgeford while shooting for VICE News Tonight while they were reporting on one of the first Ceasefire weekends in 2017. He was immediately taken by her passion, warmth and grit. “It wasn't until 2017 became a record-setting year in terms of homicides per capita in Baltimore that I felt like this was a very important story that needed to be told,” explains Dinsmoor. “I saw that Erricka was on the front lines doing the work of building a grassroots anti-violence movement.”

For SAGE, Dinsmoor had to shoot on dark street corners with little to no light, so he made use of EVA1's native 2500 ISO and fast lenses.

Dinsmoor shot with a Canon C300 when working on Baltimore Rising but decided to upgrade to a “future-proof 4K cinema camera” which lead him to the EVA1. “The EVA1 looked appealing for the kind of work I was going to do,” reveals Dinsmoor. “The camera is lightweight, which was very important to me. The Dual Native ISO also sold me as a documentary cinematographer who often uses only available light. With SAGE, there were times when we were on dark street corners with little to no light and I had to make use of the native 2500 ISO and fast lenses because there was zero possibility of lighting the scene.”

Another challenge for Dinsmoor was being a one-man-band for the production (director, producer, sound op, editor, and DP). He was able to accomplish this by receiving tremendous support from the local Baltimore film community. “People believe in Erricka and her story and want to see the film come to fruition,” explains Dinsmoor. “I also knew that I would be filming Erricka in extreme low light situations that would be a challenge for any cinema camera. Combined with fast lenses, the EVA1 gave me the right kind of gritty cinematic look I was going for.”

According to Dinsmoor, he was able to complete SAGE only with tremendous support from the Baltimore film community.

In shooting on dark streets with very little practical light, often in locations where someone had been murdered, Dinsmoor employed fast zoom lenses, including a Canon 17-55mm f/2.8, Canon 70-200mm f/2.8, and a Canon 24mm f/1.4 prime. He also used the EVA1’s Native 2500 ISO. “At times it was necessary to push to 5000 ISO depending on how dark the scene was, but I tried to not go above 4000 unless absolutely necessary to get a good exposure,” says Dinsmoor.

SAGE was captured at 4K DCI (4096x2160) at 23.98-fps. Since the ALL-I codec had not been released at the time of shooting, Dinsmoor recorded in Long-GOP 150Mbps.

Activist Erricka Bridgeford, founder of Baltimore's Ceasefire Movement

According to Dinsmoor, it was amazing to watch how much flexibility the EVA1 V-Log files had for the color grade, which was finished on Premiere Pro by Dinsmoor and his friend, Andrew Capino. “Andrew raved about the dynamic range, color science, and the ability to match with other even higher tier cinema cameras such as the ARRI Alexa and RED cameras,” says Dinsmoor. “This was a quick grade, as this was originally a sizzle tape before we submitted to the contest. I think we spent a day on the whole grade.”

“Overall, I'm very happy with how EVA1 performed while filming SAGE,” continues Dinsmoor. “The image is cinematic and film-like, the color science is natural and pleasing, and the camera is lightweight, so you can go for hours shooting handheld run-and-gun style. The Dual Native ISO feature is super useful in so many situations so I felt confident that the EVA1 was the right camera choice for my film.”

The EVA1's low weight was appealing to Dinsmoor in order to shoot handheld for hours at a time.

Currently Dinsmoor is in post-production for a longer documentary chronicling Erricka Bridgeford's efforts of building a grassroots anti-violence movement in Baltimore. “We are preparing the film for a festival run and are looking for distributors,” says Dinsmoor. “We hope the film will start a dialogue about gun violence in cities across America.”

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