Premiering at this year's Edinburgh International Film Festival, Paul and Ludwig Shammasian's The Pyramid Texts stood out among the submissions. Shot completely in black and white, the 98 minute monologue delivered by its main actor, James Cosmo, was so stirring that it earned him an award for Best Performance in a British Feature Film at the festival. Their first feature film, the Shammasian brothers were able to create a blockbuster experience with only a £20,000 (approximately $31,000) budget and two and a half days worth of shooting time.
Conveying a story that's brimming with emotion, the Shammasians wanted to eliminate all distractions and focus on the performance. Coupled with the desire to capture the feel of the golden age of boxing, they decided to shoot the film completely in black and white. After testing and research, the Shammasians decided to use the EPIC-M MONOCHROME for the ease of using the digital workflow as well as the crispness of the images captured in black and white.
"As the entire movie takes place in 1 location and we are focused on one man for 98 minutes, any technical or artistic flaws would be glaringly obvious. So we all had to be confident in our choices and commit to our decisions 100%. Knowing that we were shooting in dedicated black and white meant that we were all committing to the artistry of the project and pushing it as far as it wanted to go. Anything less would have been diluting its strength. Making this decision from the very start set the precedence for everything that followed...
We used the tones of monochrome to create the mood and atmosphere to evoke the emotional journey. We start the film early morning, with low level light. Half way through a heavy storm arrives, and by the end of the film the storm clears to make way for some sunlight. Shooting on black and white was the perfect medium to create this environmental visual narrative, as we were dealing with variations in light and dark tones."
When conducting research about the best way to capture the film in black and white, the EPIC-M MONOCHROME stood out amongst the others as having the best workflow for their needs. It allowed them the flexibility to shoot and edit the original raw footage without altering the color scheme while also capturing longer takes allowing James to stay in character as much as possible.
"As Paul would be editing the film, shooting on the RED EPIC MONOCHROME meant that we could review the rushes every night. As we were on such a strict budget and timeframe, the freedom to access rushes so quickly was vital and gave us piece of mind. Also, the logistics of long takes just wasn't feasible on black and white film. Shooting digital allowed us to set up longer continuous takes, which really helps draw the audience into the emotion of the film and connect with the character of Ray...shooting on digital meant we could comfortably do long takes without the risk of running out of film. This meant James could really immerse himself in the moment and not be interrupted by sudden breaks in the shots."
Visit The Pyramid Texts website to learn more about the film and to see if it will be screened in your area.