DOP Adam Krajczynski Talks A Reckoning
DC: Much has been made of the cinematography in A Reckoning. How does that feel, to be so highly praised?
AK: It's brilliant that people are reacting to our work in such a positive and supportive way. We all challenged ourselves - by time, the environment, by each other. It was a Baptism of Fire, Rain and Snow. We worked very hard and at great self-sacrifice to get this film made.
Although, I am under no delusion. I'm still learning...that is always the name of the game. To gain experience, hone understanding and skill sets, to improve and evolve.
DC: How would you describe the film to those (far too many) people who have not seen it yet?
AK: It is very likely that I have seen this film more than anyone else in the world, and with every viewing my interpretation changes. Currently, I like the idea that it is a tragic love story where The Lone Man is beloved by an Angel of Death as he is the last Soul on a ravaged Planet. She constantly weeps for him as he gazes into a swirling abyss with undercurrents of pain, misery and solitary existence. She cannot bring herself to be close to him - as it would mean his demise, the end of humanity and the loss of the only Soul she has ever come to love. So, with regret, she lets him live only to suffer watching him slowly die as a prisoner of his own existence and her mercy.
"None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free."- Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
DC: What did you think when you saw the abandoned RAF base which, in the film, becomes a second character? Was there much, if any, sort of work done on the sets you used to make them look worse than they already did (this is a production design question, but I thought I would ask anyway)?
AK: The location was ravaged by time and neglect. It was a very vibrant environment that was being misused by the lowest of souls and desperately cried out for an influx of positivity. It haunted us, guided us and sheltered us. The essence of the place looms within every frame we shot, and whilst some parts of the location were cosmetically enhanced, forces beyond our control and understanding are what forged its design.
DC: You were also the editor of the film and director Andy Barker’s “right-hand geezer” (according to Les Simpson). How difficult was it to juggle all of the jobs you had while working in the worst winter England had seen in decades? And on a microbudget?
AK: I think John W. Gardner said it best: “We are [were] continually faced with a series of great opportunities brilliantly disguised as insoluble problems.”
DC: I read that there was and had to be a lot of laughter on the set, given the weather conditions as well as the subject matter of the film. Leslie Simpson described you as one of the chief comedians (he should talk). How did everyone manage to maintain a comedic air during this guerrilla shoot?
AK: Comedy was an engine that powered the production, keeping in high spirits is good for creativity. Most of the crew met for the first time on the first day of shooting, and since we did not have the luxury of going out and getting thoroughly 'Charlie Sheen'd' (which is always a great way to break the ice ) - arsing about and having a joke is a great way to bring people together.
By the end of the two-week shoot we had all developed 'Involuntary Schwarzenegger Syndrome'...which meant speaking in an exaggerated Arnie accent at random, inappropriate intervals. There was lots of corpsing and piss-taking - it is the best way to work. You can't be moping about like an arty-farty wanker and taking everything seriously...at the end of the day it is important to revere the work and be irreverent in how you do it. Good times!
DC: What sort of cameras did you use for the film and were there any problems with them caused by the frigid weather? I know on low budget films, anything that can go wrong usually does. And how many days of snow did you actually have to work in?
AK: We used Canon XL-H1 HDV cameras, which myself and Daniel Tee (the second camera operator) heavily augmented. We put them through hell, and along the way there were a few hiccups and undesired technical set-backs, but these types of issues occur on productions of all shapes, sizes and budgets; they are just not spoken about that often as it is par for the course. However, you have to look at the bigger picture - the XL-H1 camera as a combined full-unit is superb value for money. Since we wrapped, there has been a technological explosion that has allowed low-budget productions to exploit affordable devices which produce a raw image that can rival a 35mm film, but we didn't have the luxury of access to such hi-spec kit at that time without the need to rob a bank...so we called in a bunch of favours, did the absolute best with what we could get our hands on - and I would say it all turned out looking okay. It is like Jean Cocteau said, “Film will only become an art when its materials are as inexpensive as pencil and paper”.
We had quite a few days of snow once it started. Since then the UK has had worse storms, but the weather we endured was quite relentless, hence the reason why I thought it a great idea to have Les run naked through it all when it was at its worst. The craziest part is that he actually did it...the unfortunate thing is that we had to suffer looking at his bony arse. The horror, the horror.
DC: How was it working with Leslie Simpson, who can be quite the comedian, and Axelle Carolyn?
AK: We had a lot of beautiful women helping out on the shoot, although I hardly ever saw them as I was stuck staring at Les' aforementioned arse most of the time; and the face of that grizzly bastard Andrew whose 'filmmaker beard' can put both George Lucas and Peter Jackson's combined to shame, and only be rivaled by Alan Moore's, or maybe Brian Blessed's...
Axelle joined us in the last leg of the shoot and immediately made an impression. We're all big fans of her husband, Neil Marshall, the writer/director of 'Dog Soldiers' and 'The Descent', so it was quite exciting to have her on board. When I think or read about Axelle now, the word 'cult' comes to mind. As a writer, published author and horror aficionado, she has a tremendous online following and deservedly so. Axelle is a very special soul with natural charisma whose talent evokes the memory of onscreen sirens from the Silent Era of film like Theda Bara and Pola Negri.
As for Leslie, I love that guy - without his talent and support, we'd have no damn film and I would not have made a lifelong friend. But I never see him anymore - he's too busy partying with Charlie Sheen, but I do know he likes to work under the pseudonym, 'Sir Eddie Cook'...he's out there and god knows, we'll be working together again!
DC: The film was originally titled Straw Man - why the change? I think the original title can be interpreted in so many ways: from the T.S. Eliot poem The Hollow Men to the literal straw people Les' character creates to Les' character of The Lone Man himself. What say you?
AK: Originally, Andrew's story outline made me imagine a tragic tale of love wrapped within an erotic thriller on the cusp of a complicated and frightening sexual apocalypse about two living ghosts, in true-love, that haunt opposite ends of a dead city. This was a long time before there was any script or title. From that you can tell how Andrew's story conjured images in my mind like something Gustav Klimt would paint. With 'The Woman' character channeling Alfons Mucha's 'Primavera'. But I digress...
Putting it quite simply, the title changed to 'A Reckoning' because that is what the process of creation had become, and exactly what The Lone Man goes through. The title, the film 'Straw Man' to us, became a fallacy, something that was being misrepresented by small-mindedness and horrific mismanagement whilst we worked very hard, under the illusion of its eventual release. So, we circumvented that negativity with a name change, to avoid being tainted by association...and since then the film's name is 'A Reckoning', and forever shall be. The philosophy became that if something had a negative connotation, began stifling progress or giving us shit - we removed it, with [digital] knives if necessary.
DC: Aside from Herzog, what films and/or directors inspire you? And as this is a horror website, are there any horror movies you are particularly fond of?
AK: I enjoy so many different films and the works of so many different filmmakers for so many different reasons that I can never just decide on listing a few. The creatives that truly grab my attention, regardless of their output, are always the ones that go that one step further, or live life with an aggressive passion for creativity or create with an ingenuity that beguiles, influences and resonates beyond the demands of a mass audience or culture. Creatives that wave a two-fingered salute at the coziness of mediocrity and works of no ambition. It can be anyone and everyone from Melvin Van Peebles to Roger Corman! Which is the reason I really enjoy working with Andrew, Leslie, Dan and Michael Spiby (our Key Grip and overwhelming font of knowledge and inspiration) - they all have that pedal to the floor work ethic of the best of my favourites.
As for a horror film I am fond of, whenever I can, I always let people know about the film 'Pontypool'...I highly recommend it.
DC: What are some films, horror or otherwise, which you would definitely recommend just based on the cinematography alone?
AK: Easy question! Check out 'Carnival of Souls' and 'White Zombie' if you haven't already!
DC: Are you a reader of horror literature? If so, who are among your favourite authors?
AK: Without getting into politics, I get many doses of real-life, close-to-home horror just looking out of my window or reading the goddamn newspaper. The craziness of even the most talented horror author will never compare to the brutal nonsense that goes on just outside my front door. The worst parts are that it is real and getting worse. All the while we are smoke-screened with double-think, being told that it is 'normal' and to 'ignore' it. There is a lot of scary stuff going on in this brave new world...
DC: What projects do you have coming up? And would you work with Andy and Les again?
AK: I am developing what can be best described as an evolving concept with a musical genius by the name of Shekhar Raj Dhain and my very close friend, budding musician and on-screen avatar John Paul Clarke. Together, we are creating a trans-media, multi-platform universe going by the codename Shapeshifter. It is still very much in its infancy, but it allows us to experiment with visual form and function on an ultra-lo-fi scale based on a thematic over-arching story. It is a fantastic chance to explore new territory or play with ideas in a constant attempt to develop and sharpen our creative sensibilities in any way we see fit to express ourselves.
As for working with Leslie and Andrew again, I'll be sending Leslie to outer space, to find another race...and Andrew and I, we're gonna take your brains to another dimension! So, pay close attention!
DC: What is one thing no one knows about Adam Krajczynski that you think they should (everyone gets this question from me)?
AK: I'll give you two things: Despite being a cunning linguist, I like to use quotes in my interview answers. Also, I can detect changes in atmospheric pressure...
Our thanks to Adam for taking the time to speak with us. To keep up-to-date on all his latest projects, be sure to follow Adam Krajczynski on Twitter.
Got news? Click here to submit it!
Make it a day of reckoning in the comments section below.