Behind the Scenes of Wild rose


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Financed by BFI Film Fund, Wild Rose tells the story of a musician from Glasgow who dreams of becoming a Nashville star. The only thing in the way: her own penchant for crime and violence.

Starring Jessie Buckley, the film begins just as its talented antihero, Rose-Lynn, is first released on parole after having spent a year in jail on a drug charge. Her mother Marion (Julie Walters), who has been looking after her two young children in the meantime, is frustrated at Rose-Lynn’s fixation for becoming a star ahead of her responsibilities as a parent.

Full of amazing music that was shot live on set and with a unique look and storyline to boot, Wild Rose is a surprise in more ways than you might expect. We caught up with director Tom Harper, DP George Steel, and colourist Simone Grattarola – who have already worked together on projects including War & Peace and Peaky Blinders – to learn more about the making of their latest collaborative effort.

Aiming for Authenticity

From the start, the most important aspect to creating Wild Rose for the filmmaking team was to tell Rose-Lynn’s story in as raw and honest a way as possible. “It’s rare to be given a heroine that’s as complex as she was, and show the world what life is like from that perspective,” Harper begins. “I needed to do her story justice.”

To do this, Harper made the decision to shoot on location throughout, from the council estates of Glasgow, Scotland through to the concert venues of Nashville. Music on the film – including Jessie Buckley singing at various shows – was always recorded live.

“For me, being on location was important,” he reveals. “Shooting on stage with blue screen gives you endless creative possibilities in post, but there’s nothing that compares to having the feel, light and texture of the real location in your dailies. At one point, we were discussing not going to Nashville as it was tricky for visas, but I felt strongly that mocking up America just wouldn’t do.”

On-Set Challenges

Shot in RAW 4K anamorphic and framed for a 2.39:1 2K extraction, Wild Rose was predominantly shot handheld. The team used T2.2-3.5 Hawk V-Lite anamorphic glass, all on a RED Weapon.
“From a technical standpoint, we needed to constantly be light on our feet to incorporate improvised performances,” adds Steel. “If Jessie decided to, for example, get out of the car and walk up the street, she could and we’d follow her with the camera, boom, and lights. She never felt restricted. We were there to service Tom’s vision and Jessie’s talent.”

Of course, planning the cinematographic style in this way also brought several challenges to the production team. Accuracy in framing, for instance, was a constant requirement, as was relighting shots on-the-fly in restrictive spaces like the council estate in Glasgow.

“There’s a scene where Jessie and Julie’s characters have an argument in their apartment. We were initially in the living room, and ended up following them through the flat until Julie opens the front door and leaves while Jessie is standing in the doorway,” Steel continues. “It seems like nothing, but the light can change quite a lot as the door opens and closes, which in turn changes the color in the foreground. We had to ensure there was subtlety in the way we manipulated the exposure throughout the scene, so that the audience could see just enough. It turned out to be one of my favorite moments.”

Establishing a Vibrant Look

Using films like The Godfather as inspiration, Harper, Steel and Grattarola next worked to ensure there was a difference between the lighting and aesthetics of Glasgow and those of Nashville, all while creating a distinct look from the muted tones an audience might expect of a British indie.

“We knew that color was going to be quite an important element to Wild Rose,” Steel reveals. “We didn’t want to just have a grey, desaturated Scotland and a colorful, vivid America. We wanted to maintain some color in the main production design throughout. I hate subdued skin tones; I like to see the blood pulsing through people!”

Using his own copy of DaVinci Resolve and a laptop on set, Steel explains he would grade stills from set into a look book of ideas. “By no means am I a great colorist, but sometimes the CDL doesn’t translate,” he adds. “With stills, you can portray how it actually felt on set, and that can then help inform the final grade.”

Together, with Simone, Harper and Steel would discuss how the DI could reflect the characters’ emotions to further develop Steel’s initial look book of ideas. “Throughout the whole film we kept a fair amount of contrast and added some texture with cine grain,” Grattarola adds. “The saturation was pushed to complement the vibrancy of the music on the film, especially once we got to the scenes in the US where Rose-Lynn was fulfilling her dream. We also helped to darken or lighten several shots from a party scene which was shot over a whole day, but needed to blend to look like it took place at twilight.”

“We were only initially grading the feature, but to help with delivery for production we became more involved with the conform and picking up VFX shots,” he continues. “Resolve’s editing toolset allowed us to trim some sequences and keep up with the updating VFX shots from our Nuke and Flame suites without having to round-trip to another NLE.”

Conclusion

All in all, it all went towards ensuring the team’s initial aim – to tell a unique story authentically – was achieved for the world to see. “There’s a moment in the film after Rose-Lynn comes back from America, a very quick shot of her watching her kids watching TV. It’s a close up on a 35mm anamorphic, and you feel like you’re right there with her,” Steel explains.

“This isn’t a film about the perfect talent easily overcoming all her difficulties to become a star. This is a film about how there’s light and dark in everyone. Rose-Lynn isn’t perfect, and you feel all that emotion as she reflects on her children. When I see that shot, all I can think is wow, we got that one right.”

Wild Rose was delivered in P3 for DCP cinema delivery and REC709 for broadcast and DVD.


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