No Ordinary Hero

I am thrilled to announce that NO ORDINARY HERO starring John Maucere with Oscar winner Marlee Matlin is having its world première at the Heartland Film Festival in Indianapolis! I am the cinematographer for this feature film which was directed by Troy Kotsur who is also deaf. We  made the film under an extremely challenging budget, in a very short timeframe, and with cast and crew working through language barriers, but it all came together very smoothly and we created a very beautiful film that will première in Indianapolis Oct 19.

NOH-posterNO ORDINARY HERO: THE SUPERDEAFY MOVIE is a family drama about a deaf actor who plays a superhero on a TV show but must look beyond his own struggles to inspire a deaf boy to believe in himself. Based on the real internationally known SuperDeafy character created by John Maucere, NO ORDINARY HERO is a story about being different and finding the one thing that makes the ordinary, Super.

Crossing Language Barriers to Produce a Film

No Ordinary Hero was conceived by the film’s star John Maucere and Director Troy Kotsur who are both deaf. Executive Producers Liz Tannenbaum and Paul Maucere are deaf, as are about half of the cast. The relationship between DP and Director is normally a close one with a lot of collaboration, and going into this project, I have to admit I was a bit concerned about communicating with Troy. But as it turned out, my concern was unfounded.

Troy has been a stage director and has around television sets as an actor for many years. Like me, he is a very visual person and during our first meetings in pre production it was clear that we had a similar vision for the look of the film. There were  ASL (American Sign language) translators throughout the production, but there were plenty of times on set where Troy and I just didn’t need one. In fact, at one point toward the end of filming he gave me one of the best compliments I think I have ever gotten when he told me that sometimes he forgets I am a hearing person.

[dc]O[/dc]ne of the other extreme challenges we faced was a very low-budget, which kept our shooting schedule down to 13 days, and meant a very tiny camera package. I didn’t want to compromise the look of the film by using inferior lenses, or being saddled with just one zoom, and I almost initally decided to shoot the film on the then-newly released Canon 5D Mk III DSLR. Canon had promised a RAW video output that could be recorded on an external device and I decided to pair it with the Atomos Ninja2 that records to ProRes 422Hq files (read more about this process here). This allowed me to rent a set of Zeiss ZE primes, which I love the look of and worked perfectly for the film, and our budget.

The film centers around the personal struggles of Tony Kane (played by Maucere), while a young Zack (played by newcomer Zane Hencker), who is being bullied at school for being deaf, wrestles with his own feelings of being different. Tony must overcome his own problems to help Zack. I always try to find an aesthetic for every character that will help tell his story, and for Zane we used composition to isolate him and create space around him and the other characters that would eventually get smaller as his character developed toward his resolution. One scene in particular establishes  him very small in a large, empty frame and as he gets closer to us his bully emerges.

The establishing shot turns into a chase, and finally humiliation.

No Ordinary Hero is a fun, heartwarming story and I am very proud to have been a part of it. Enjoy the trailer…

Author: Jeff Gatesman

I am a Cinematographer and still photographer. My favorite places are behind a camera or in front of a big screen.