Director and cinematographer Karl Stelter is driven to create films that communicate a powerful message of hope. In “The Good Wolf,” a film that tells the remarkable story of paraplegic Mino Solomon, Karl used Astra LED panels from Litepanels to create a striking visual mood that helped to illustrate Mino’s journey.
“The Good Wolf” is a remarkable piece of filmmaking. On an intimate scale, the short film created by Karl Stelter documents the harrowing but triumphant journey of Crossfit athlete Mino Solomon as he navigates life after a devastating injury left him paralyzed from the waist down.
Mino sums up his outlook in the opening seconds of the film. He says, “Two wolves live within all of us. One is positive, believing and supportive. The other is fear, anger, jealousy. At every point in your life you’re feeding one of the two. Which do you want to win?”
Thought-provoking pieces like “The Good Wolf” have defined Karl’s filmmaking career. “From a very young age, I wanted to make a difference, to do something worthwhile and meaningful. In college, I started to see the possibilities of film to communicate messages with the power to challenge and change people’s perspective.”
To create a visual mood that would match the tone of Mino’s story, Karl turned to Litepanels’ Astra LED panels.
Telling Mino’s story in “The Good Wolf,” Karl set out to capture both his physical and inner strength. “With the cinematography I had to walk a fine line between a dark and gritty feel and a story that is empowering, so the lighting was important. I wanted to show, thematically, that Mino found a way to bring light into the darkest moments of his life.”
In a compelling scene at the beginning of the film, a side view of Mino shows him working out with battle ropes. Mino and his wheelchair are well-lit, but he is surrounded in darkness that gradually lightens to the left of the frame, where an open garage door was creating natural light. “With the Astras, I was able to create the exact look and feel I was going for. By feathering two of the panels towards Mino but not at the ground, we made him the sole bright spot in the frame,” Karl says.
He adds, “The quality of the Astras’ light is beautiful. I was able to give a scene just the right blend of softness while adding a little bit of punch when needed. That can be a tough balance to strike, but the Astras made it easy.”
With limited time for filming, Karl appreciated the Astras’ light weight, flexibility, and easy setup.
“Speed was a critical factor on this shoot, because we had only three days’ total production time with Mino. And we had just 30 minutes to do the shots of him working out at Crossfit Hinge,” Karl notes. “We had to move very, very quickly. But one of the things I absolutely love about the Astras is that they’re so fast and easy to work with, and they run at full power off batteries. You attach the battery and then just swing the light around wherever you need it.”
Karl acquired two Astra LEDs when he was working as a wedding videographer, but he had his eye on bigger projects. “I thought of the wedding work as my filmmaking boot camp. When I got the Astras, I knew they would help me graduate into more ambitious projects and take me right into the more commercial career I have now,” he relates. “Now, I use them on just about every job, and I’ve traveled with them many, many times. Flying with gear can be nerve-wracking, but the Astras are so rugged I don’t have to worry about them.”
Karl relies on his Astras – and also his brand-new Litepanels Gemini 2x1 Soft panel – for a wide variety of projects.
He recently purchased a Gemini 2x1 Soft panel to provide a strong, versatile, and easy-to-control key light for interviews and future narrative projects. “The Gemini gives me a great advantage with the full RGB spectrum and the built-in gel colors, which offer huge flexibility. And it offers better light quality at a lower price than similar products,” Karl says.
At his production company, Journeyman Studios, Karl puts the Astras and the Gemini to work on a broad range of projects including corporate videos, commercials, and other branded content. On a recent corporate shoot, he used the Gemini together with both of his Astras for the first time. “It was a great combination. I used one Astra to bring the background levels to where I wanted them and the other as a hair light for the spokesperson. Then the Gemini provided a big, beautiful key light,” he relates.
While Karl loves producing brand and corporate content, his heart lies with creative projects like “The Good Wolf.” “The reason I got into filmmaking in the first place is to put projects out there that make people sit and think about life, and to ask some of the deeper questions that most of us don’t get to explore often,” he explains. “‘The Good Wolf’ was really my first attempt to document a story about the human spirit and how much each of us is capable of enduring, and then overcoming. Mino’s story is all about hope.”
He adds, “Tools like the LEDs from Litepanels are essential partners in my ability to tell stories like this, because they empower me express myself creatively without having to worry about the gear itself. You can’t say that for a lot of other products.”