In “Mass Hysteria,” Jeff Ryan turns to Litepanels’ Gemini to create the mood, build suspense, and grab viewers’ attention
Watch the hair-raising trailer for “Mass Hysteria,” the latest project from indie filmmaker Jeff Ryan, and you know this film will take you on a tense, spooky, and darkly funny ride. Filmed entirely on location in Salem, Massachusetts, “Mass Hysteria” tells the story of a group of Salem Witch Trial re-enactors who find themselves the target of a modern-day witch hunt after a tourist dies on Halloween night.
Mass Hysteria is a signature project for Jeff, who has been immersed in the fast-paced New York City filmmaking scene for the better part of a decade. In addition to acting credits in shows such as Orange is the New Black and feature films like Steve Carell’s “The Way, Way Back,” Jeff has a fast-growing resume as a writer and director. He gravitates to genre-bending projects that blend action, horror, and comedy.
“I like to put myself in the role of ‘nomadic storyteller,’ with projects that allow me to create spaces where I can move freely, take risks, and build a compelling story with the camera,” he says. “That’s a big reason I love Gemini – it’s lightweight and portable enough to go wherever I go, but it’s also a strong and incredibly versatile light source that really lets the performances shine through.”
Since much of the action takes place outdoors, Jeff was able to light the entire Mass Hysteria production with only a single Gemini 2x1 Soft panel and two Litepanels Astra 1x1 LEDs. The Gemini’s RGBWW and lighting effects capabilities enabled the crew to mimic the natural light (including moonlight) to create any mood and set any scene. In one example, the crew used the Gemini’s full-spectrum white light capabilities to recreate the appearance of sodium vapor street lights for a night shoot in downtown Salem. The Astras provided versatile key and fill lighting as needed.
“We did a lot of night shooting, and Gemini’s fantastic color temperature accuracy meant we could light an entire set without practicals. We lit entire cornfields, the exterior of a barn, and even chase scenes by matching the ambient moonlight,” Jeff explains.
It’s just incredible that we’re able to recreate a Hollywood-like set with only three LEDs. The power output of the Gemini meant we could fill the entire scene, and we could use the Astras with some diffusion to add dynamic range."
The Mass Hysteria production invested in a set of gels prior to the shoot, and then Jeff was pleasantly surprised to discover Gemini’s gel presets. “I use a lot of red and Tokyo blue as contrasting colors for different scenes, and it’s fantastic to be able to just dial those in with Gemini,” he says. “It also makes testing different color contrasts while in camera so much faster and easier - instead of having to carry around and swap out different gels, you can just select them using the light’s remote control. On a stripped-down production when each person is doing five different jobs, it makes things so much easier.”
One of Jeff’s favorite Gemini features is the special effects mode, which allows him to add depth and excitement to any scene and give the appearance of a production with a much larger budget. In Mass Hysteria, for instance, the crew was able to dial up the “police lights” effect in the Gemini for a car chase scene involving police vehicles.
In another recent project, a short film called “That’s Hollywood Baby,” Jeff used Gemini’s fire effect for a scene in which an actor enters the fiery depths of hell. “Those effects really made the film possible, because the whole premise was hinging on our main character selling his soul to a Hollywood talent agency,” he says.
For small, independent productions, the special effects capabilities are huge – you can unleash your creativity and achieve truly realistic effects without having to hire large crews of people and equipment."
After his success with the Gemini 2x1 for Mass Hysteria, Jeff was excited to hear about the all-new Gemini 1x1 Soft LEDs – and he placed an order for two. “I loved all of the amazing capabilities and power of the 2x1 and the lightweight durability of the Astras. The new Gemini 1x1 is the perfect marriage of both,” he says. “On a lot of my projects, I’m a one-man show – shooting on location in all kinds of remote settings. One moment, I might be on the beach, and then two hours later I might be in an indoor location. With the 1x1s, I can be just as portable and agile as I need to be.”
As a hardworking indie filmmaker, making several shorts and at least one feature every year, Jeff relies on tools that can deliver him maximum bang for the buck. He comments, “With Gemini, which offers so much functionality in such a compact, user-friendly, and economical package, I’m able to get out and shoot the projects I care about without having to worry about getting the money first. Mass Hysteria is a great example – it was a 26-night shoot over 30 locations with hundreds of extras. We were able to accomplish it on a shoestring, thanks to Gemini.”
Tools like Gemini really are game changers for independent filmmakers, because they allow us to tell our story in an intelligent way and make magic happen – all with fewer budget constraints."