Dakota Fanning and Jeremy Irvine star in Now is Good.
Based on the novel “Before I Die” by Jenny Downham, Now is Good tells the story of Tessa, a 17-year-old girl dying of Leukemia. With only months left to live, Tessa (Dakota Fanning) becomes determined to live every moment, and sets out to fulfill a bucket list that includes all the experiences a normal teenager would have; including losing her virginity and taking drugs. Falling in love with her new neighbor Adam (Jeremy Irvine) wasn’t part of the plan, but it does prove to be her most exhilarating experience of all.
Blueprint Pictures brought director and writer Ol Parker and cinematographer Erik Wilson together to tell Tessa’s story on the big screen. “I was brought into the project somewhat late in the game, but I connected with Ol right away, and loved the script,” notes Wilson. “The decision to shoot on film had already been made, which I was very happy to hear. The movie is a performance driven piece with a very strong script, and I have always felt that the etiquette of film lends itself to drama.”
No digital tests had been considered for the feature, and Wilson moved right into testing stocks. “I wanted to keep the look as clean, crisp and sharp as possible. The story was so strong; it didn’t need help romanticizing it,” says Wilson. The filmmakers choose KODAK VISION3 50D Color Negative Film 5203 and KODAK VISION3 250D Color Negative Film 5207 for daylight scenes, and KODAK VISION3 500T Color Negative Film 5219 for night shoots and one scene shot in Tessa’s bedroom. As the set for that particular sequence was located in a warehouse, the lighting set-up dictated the use of the 5219.
Now is Good utilized two ARRI cameras, the ARRICAM Studio and the ARRICAM Lite. ARRI’s Master Prime lenses were used throughout production. “I wanted a clear and bright image. There was no need to hide anything or build a look. The nature of the story against that crisp, unfiltered look stood on its own,” Wilson continues.
The movie had a seven week shooting schedule, and all but two days of production took place in and around London. Now is Good is actually set in the seaside city of Brighton, but only two days of location shooting took place in Brighton and along England’s southern coast. A nighttime shoot in which Tessa and Adam go for an evening swim proved particularly tricky to capture. “We had to figure out how to light them in that scene,” Wilson comments. “The sea at night, far from any city, offered no potential sources of light beyond the moon. We put some lights on a boat, and created a river outlet. Our gaffer, Andy Lowe, added some clever ideas, but in the end we realized we just needed to get over ourselves and get some light on them.” The temperature that night was also a challenge, even for Wilson, a Norwegian native who originally moved to the UK to attend film school. “We also had to take care here that the lighting was romantic. We couldn’t have it look freezing, which it was!”
Burnham Beeches, 540 acres of woodland west of London, was the site of a key forest sequence in which Tessa scales a tree and Adam follows her. Wilson says, “Shooting in a forest is always strange. It’s a big green reflector with all of these crazy highlights, but it’s dark and hard to get a handle on. We split the scene over a few days and different locations, and we used three trees; a very large one, a small one and a fake tree. Technically it was quite interesting and rewarding, and the film handled the contrast so well.”
“The whole experience on Now is Good was a very pleasant one,” says Wilson. “It was a well-planned shoot and there weren’t many surprises. Whenever Dakota was on set, it was a good day, and Dakota was on set virtually every day. My only warning is to bring a box of tissues with you to the movie... you will need them.”