The Perfect Rogue Build with the Unified DSLR Cage
In the spring of last year, Wooden Camera learned of a unique project taking place in the Peruvian Amazon and spearheaded by acclaimed documentary filmmaker Werner Herzog. 48 international filmmakers had been selected to join Herzog and together experience the distinct task of "making cinema imbedded of jungle and adventure."
Rupert Clague, one of the filmmakers tapped for the project, was most excited to embark on this profound opportunity. We partnered with Rupert to equip him with Wooden Camera gear that would best support his ideal camera setup out in the depths of the Amazon. Given that the Panasonic GH4 and a set of Zeiss CP.3 lenses were his primary tools of choice, we provided him with our Unified DSLR Cage and MFT to PL Mount Pro. When he returned from filming, we caught up with Rupert to learn more about the project, and how he utilized Wooden Camera gear based on the demands of the jungle.
Wooden Camera (WC): Tell us a little about yourself. What is your main profession?
Rupert Clague: My desire to understand and translate the world into film has taken me in all kinds of different directions. I studied English Literature in London and at the University of California, Berkeley, filming whenever and however I could. Upon graduating, I began to work for the BBC, making documentaries on everything from Shakespeare to the birth of the SAS.
I feel very lucky to have found a career that allows me to spend time with so many different kinds of people all over the world, and live so many lives in one. Now a Producer and Director, in the past few years, I’ve chased through the Cambodian jungle in search of homemade rocket gambling, directed content in Silicon Valley, and train-hopped across America. I direct, self-shoot, and edit, and am currently producing a new series for Netflix.
I also run my own fledging production company, and make my own independent films - two of which have just begun their festival run: In The Fall, an adaptation of renowned Canadian author Alistair MacLeod’s short story, and Jacob’s Ladder, which was shot on location in the Peruvian amazon rainforest with Werner Herzog.
WC: What kind of content do you typically shoot? What is your shooting style?
Rupert: I always strive to find magic in the mundane, and take my energy from talking to people and listening to their stories. When it comes to documentary film, there’s nothing more important than connecting with your subject. I believe in the New Criticism approach to filmmaking - namely, that form should equal content, and all sources, historical, and cultural contexts must be considered.
I love the idea of ‘soloing’ as a filmmaker. As filmmakers we should aspire to really lose ourselves in the art, in that it becomes second nature and we don’t have to think about it. Similarly, I try to be led just as much by what I hear as what I see, never forgetting that audio is 50% of a film.
I revere Werner Herzog’s rules for rogue filmmakers, believing there is nothing wrong with spending a night in jail if it means getting the shot you need, and that one should ask for forgiveness, not permission.
WC: Tell us about your most recent project. You traveled to Latin America to shoot a short film under the guidance of Werner Herzog.
Rupert: In early 2018, I received the news that I, and a handful of international filmmakers, had been selected to join Director Werner Herzog and Black Factory Cinema in a remote part of the Peruvian Amazon to develop, shoot, and edit a short film under the director's tutelage.
What an extraordinary time it was. Werner was everything you'd want him to be. It was one of the best experiences of my career to date. Each one of us acted as a solo film crew, directing, operating camera, recording audio, and editing long into the night, often without electricity when the generator cut out. Not only did I get to spend time with a figure who has been so influential in my own life, but the opportunity to earn from, laugh with, and be inspired by new filmmaker friends from all over the world.
On our first day, Werner announced that our theme would be "fever dreams”. I was quietly thrilled, as I wanted to shoot something quite experimental and led by sound. After some research, I discovered that a native tribe called the Machiguenga prized a plant known locally as Toé for its ability to create intense, lucid dreams. I wanted to invite audiences into a deep dream world, as if crossing over from the black and white waking world into a full frame realm of intense color. Waking up at 5am each day to beat the sunrise, we’d spend our days filming and our evenings in conversation with Werner.
The film is called Jacob’s Ladder not only for its allusion to the Biblical story, but as a reference to the children’s wooden toy of the same name. The images fall on top of each other, as if colored blocks. It will begin its festival run later this year.
WC: What was your camera of choice and why? Did shooting in the jungle change how you normally go about building a rig?
Rupert: I have been a huge fan of the Panasonic GH4 for a number of years now. It’s incredibly compact, fits so comfortably in your hand, and doesn’t draw a lot of attention if ever the situation requires discretion. Thanks to Wooden Camera, virtually any lens in existence can be adapted to the GH4. With the MFT to PL Mount, I’m thrilled to say that I shot Jacob’s Ladder entirely on Zeiss CP3 primes (18mm T2.9 PL; 35mm T2.1 PL; and 50mm T2.1 PL).
The drawback of being such a compact camera is that it can be tricky to mount additional parts. Enter the Wooden Camera Unified DSLR Cage: suddenly my camera presented a world of possibilities for audio recorders, lights, and handles, without exerting any stress on the body itself. The cage is well built, easy to assemble, and kept both my lenses supported and my camera safe, even in the depths of the jungle.
Sound is also at the very heart of the film, captured by the Shure VP83 LensHopper top mic atop a Beachtek MCC-2, audio adapter, neatly mounted onto the Wooden Camera cage.
WC: You rigged your GH4 with our Unified DSLR Cage and MFT to PL Mount. Have you used other cages and how did it compare?
Rupert: Cage fight! The Wooden Camera Unified cage was the most thoughtfully-designed I’ve used - it didn’t block any of my controls, nor did it add much weight to my rig. It’s also easy on the eye.
WC: How did our cage make your shoot easier? Did it allow for setups or shots that would have not otherwise been possible?
Rupert: The cage really allowed me to create whatever set up I needed with all the accessories required for each scene. I approached shooting in the Amazon with an incredibly open mind, and never knew what sort of moments I was going to capture until I found myself in them. I’d take my LowePro camera bag loaded up with all my equipment each day, knowing full well that whether I was shooting on a riverboat at night, atop of ancient lupuna trees with the Machiguenga tribes, or in the midst of the bustling markets of Puerto Maldonado, the Wooden Camera cage would deliver. Frankly, my GH4 now feels underdressed without it.
WC: Our DSLR cage has many features. What was your favorite?
Rupert: I liked that the cage could be adjusted according to the demands of each shoot. You can really customize the configuration - expand or simplify both quickly and easily - to adapt to whatever situation you find yourself in. The baseplate also made it possible to attach my Manfrotto tripod’s plate, which allowed me to move even faster out in the field.
You can follow more of Rupert's film adventures via @areyoupert on Instagram!
Shop Gear In This Article:
Unified DSLR Cage (Small)
The minimalist design of this cage provides accessory mounting points on the top and side while leaving all of the camera's vital controls on the right grip and left side easily viewable and accessible.
MFT to PL Mount Pro
MFT to PL Adapter Pro is a shimmable lens mount adapter that enables mounting of PL mount lenses onto the MFT cameras. Mount includes a foot with 1/4-20 threaded hole for attaching to a tripod eliminating strain on the camera.