“S.O.G.: The Book of Ward” is a documentary about Andre Ward's journey from the streets of
Oakland to the International Boxing Hall of Fame. Facing an all-too familiar series of obstacles
including substance abuse, the loss of a parent, drug dealing and teen pregnancy, how Ward
faced that adversity is what separates him from the rest. Fight after fight he defied the odds and
silenced his critics. And then, guided by faith and devotion, he walked away - choosing his role
as a father and a husband over his boxing career.
What was the biggest filming challenge?
The biggest challenge filming this documentary was the small footprint and versatility we as a crew needed to have. Filming a cinema vérité style documentary in active public spaces is much different than filming on closed sets. One particularly challenging segment while filming was the Boxing Hall of Fame Induction Week. We filmed in parades, large public presentations, Q&A’s, restaurants, casino grounds, etc.. The EZ 1 & 2 lenses were invaluable for these situations. During all public cinema vérité filming situations the two zoom lenses allowed fast adaptability. If we needed to be in an elevator or a car the EZ 2 was the go to. If we were not allowed to get close to our subject due to event security then the EZ 1 was the choice. Many times, only I was able to be in certain situations without any other camera operators, camera assistants, G&E, or even our director. In these situations the ease of taking one backpack with one lens on the camera and the other on my back allowed for quick situational changes.
Which technical requirements led you to try and choose our lenses?
The technical requirements that led to our decision to go with the EZ 1 & 2 lenses were three
One, the two EZ zooms are lightweight, compact, and easy for a single operator with no assistant to operate and change lenses.
Two, both lenses in S35 are T2. The majority of this documentary was shot on the ARRI AlexaMini. When shooting cinema vérité, there are times when you have no lighting and can only work with available light. The ability to open up to a T2 was a savior in certain situations.
Three, the matched look between both lenses. When working with these lenses you quickly learn that the look between both the EZ 1 & 2 are identical. The contrast, color, and minimal breathing are matched from one lens to the other. When you take the EZ 1, which in S35 is a 30-90mm, and take the EZ 2, which in S35 is a 15-40mm, and put them both at a match focal length at the same T-Stop you cannot tell which lens is which. On those overlapping focal lengths both distort equally, flare equally, and have the same cinematic focus fall off.
Which artistic requirements led you to try and choose our lenses?
The artistic requirements that led to our decision to go with the EZ 1 & 2 lenses were for three reasons.
The first artistic reason was that our subject was always viewed from afar during his career as a professional boxer. He was very private and never let the press into his personal life. So, that’s all we as a documentary team wanted to do. We wanted to be as physically close to our subject and his family as possible. We tried to keep our lenses at 20mm, 30mm, and 50mm. We only ventured past 50mm when we were kept far away from our subject due to security reasons at public events. Both the EZ 1 & 2 lenses render images beautifully at the wider and medium focal lengths. The distortion feels natural and not extreme at a 20mm, and when pushed into a 50mm the subtle compression helps isolate the subject while still keeping a subtle sense of depth. This lens and focal length combination created a sense of intimacy. Our second artistic reason was the flare control.
Our subject was a very controlled individual who was not flashy. His focus was always on his family and not stardom. We wanted the look of the documentary to mirror his personal lifestyle. While the lenses do have flaring characteristics, they are so subtle and controlled that they never overpower the image. Our subject was always in control of every frame just like in his career.
How did the EZ 1 & 2 lenses aid in the feeling of the project?
The EZ 1 & 2 lens combination created a classic soft cinematic image that sucks the viewer into the story. Sometimes when watching a documentary everything is very sharp, realistic, and busy. As a viewer it can be overwhelming and takes you out of the story. This lens combination allowed us to isolate our subject, make the world in the image feel less overwhelming, and draw you into the story. The way the lenses combined with the ARRI Alexa Mini sensor created images that felt so cinematic it helped differentiate our subjects past boxing career to his present life after boxing. The contrast between his broadcast television boxing past and his cinematic present drives home the different worlds this person has existed in.
“S.O.G.: The Book of Ward”
Directed by Rachel Neubeck
DOP : Wilfredo Garcia
Streaming now on Showtime
Thanks to Stephanie Lopez for making the connexion.