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Dulce’s Ashes: Production Stills

View the full set on Flickr

I got a call from a close writer friend requesting me to shoot production stills for the movie she had written and was directing: Dulce’s Ashes. To quote from the production’s website, “two sisters find forgiveness and freedom from an unexpected source – each other.” A compelling story set in Echo Park, the director’s current home. This being my first professional gig, I had to say yes- what a treat: doing what I love for a friend! The day’s events proved to be a fascinating look behind the scenes of a movie shoot.

Writer/Director Janine Salinas peering into a monitor containing star Elia Saldana and Producer Christine Mantilla

Each location had special perks that added humanity and realism to the film. We started filming in an underpass beneath LA’s historic Arroyo Seco Parkway. The second location of the day was set up for shooting outside in the yard; children’s toys and books were strewn on the lawn for effect. A few neighbors were commandeered to appear as extras; an ice cream truck provided aleatoric accompaniment to the sound. We then moved on to a nearby church for a couple exterior shots, then back to Echo Park for dinner, a scene outside the Solano Avenue Elementary School and finally back to the underpass to conclude the day’s (and film’s) shooting.

Throughout the day the director, Janine, proved time and again that she intuitively knew what she wanted and how to massage it out of the crew and the cast. It was a learning experience to watch her and the Director of Photography Norbert Shieh collaborate to create this beautiful sequence of images and story.

Norbert Shieh, Director of Photography

Throughout the course of the day everybody was supremely professional in the face of fatigue, hunger and cold. Christine Mantilla, fulfilling her role as producer, made sure everybody was warm enough; Adam and Janine masterfully prepared delicious food for the cast and crew; people entertained each other to remain focused and awake.

Sound Designer KT Kent

The real meat of the day was our second and more lengthy visit to the 110 underpass. By this time the sun had been long gone and the temperature was quite low. Immediately after takes, jackets and coats were distributed to the thinly-clad cast to keep them warm.

Co-Stars Elia Saldana and Eddie Ruiz warming up between takes with the Director

The passageway in which we ended the day’s (and film’s!) shooting provided wonderful lighting and almost electric graffiti on the surrounding walls. It was used as a walkway at several occasions throughout the day’s shooting; families got a kick out of seeing all of our equipment and the copious amounts of drive in the eyes of the production team.

Assistant Camera Operator Wey Wang

At each of the locations, lighting was a key element in the frame. Deft hands were manipulated by Gaffer Michael Meehan and Key Grip Gorav Kalyan; throughout the day they consulted closely with Norbert and Wey to perfect the realization of each others’ visions.

Key Grip Gorav Kalyan, Gaffer Michael Meehan

Editor Aleigh Lewis and Production Assistant Adam Schoenberg

Aleigh Lewis was on set to keep an eye out for continuity and for the post-production editing process; she kept photographic notes from scene to scene in order that all the takes are adjusted and assembled in the most skillful and powerful way. Adam Schoenberg overflowed the shoes of Production Assistant keeping the cast and crew well-fed, leading a smooth tack as slate-man and maintaining a sense of calm and effortless productivity throughout the day.

This was the first major time I spent with the newest item in my camera bag, the Nikon D3. What a machine! At a blazing speed of 9fps, the sensor can capture clean ISO 6,400 images and practically see in the dark up to ISO 25,600. The battery lasted all day and was valued at 60% after capturing more than 1,300 photos. The focus system was never thrown for a loop and locked on to eyes with ease. Truly a precise and powerful tool.

Ultimately, we heard the highly anticipated words: “It’s a wrap!” What a day packed with artistry, skill and perseverance. A beautiful thing to be a part of! Janine: thank you for the call!


Smiles and an embrace complete the shooting of Dulce's Ashes



 View the full set on Flickr

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  1. Charles Suhayda says:

    Regarding VA.

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