DP Sam Levy Shoots Mayday With Cooke Anamorphic/i SF Primes

Cinematographer Sam Levy chose Cooke Anamorphic/i primes to accompany him on his journey in shooting Mayday, a new film from writer/director Karen Cinorre.

Mayday is an action fantasy about a young woman finding her voice, a modern take on The Wizard of Oz,” said Levy. “I spent years looking for the right tools to capture this story the way I saw it in my mind. Along the way I met the optical genius Kavon Elhami, owner of Camtec in LA. He told me about this “special flare” coating for the Cooke Anamorphic/i SFs and I simply had to try them out. I wasn’t going to take just any old lenses with me to Croatia to capture this once in a lifetime project. If you’re reading this, take a second and go watch the trailer for Mayday, you’ll see what I mean. I tested every lens under the sun, but I kept coming back to the Cooke Anamorphic/i SFs. I knew I’d always regret it if we used anything else.”

Shot in Croatia using an ARRI ALEXA Mini, Levy shot open gate 3.4K RAW with Mayday finishing in 4K. His 1.8X Cooke Anamorphic/i SF primes included the 25mm, 32mm, 40mm, 50mm, 65mm MACRO, 75mm, 100mm and 135mm.

“The Cooke Anamorphic/i SFs were well suited to this material,” notes Levy. They have a mysterious glow in the highlight. It reminds me of the way old Kodak Ektachrome film used to roll off in the highlight. In a subtle way this glow helped me create a visual language to bridge intimacy of the characters’ personal journey with the scope and sweep of an adventure film – as if Andrei Tarkovsky had directed an action movie.” 

“The expressionistic quality of anamorphic is sometimes heavy-handed in narrative storytelling. For Mayday, the density of the anamorphic look was helpful in transporting the viewer to a place outside their reality. Cooke lenses traditionally embrace people’s faces in a pleasing way. The friendliness of the Cooke’s classical skin tones combined with the dazzling glow of the special flare coating put me in the perfect sweet spot to create great cinema.” 

For his next project, Levy has already tested both special flare and regular anamorphics from Cooke. “I can’t talk about my next project, but rest assured, Cookes are always firmly in mind when I’m designing the look of any film.” 

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