About Jacques Ballard – Underwater Cinematographer
Jacques is specialised in Underwater cinematography. He has shot the music Video « Runnin’ » directed by Julie Gautier and Charlie Robins, featuring Beyonce and staring the world free-diving champion Guillaume Nery. The video counts more than 280 millions views on Youtube and got nominated for international best music video in 2016 at the world’s greatest festival for cinematographers : Camerimage, Poland.
One of the latest project he shot is the feature movie « The Deep House » directed by Julien Maury and Alexandre Bustillo, produced by Radar Films, starring Camille Rowe and James Jagger. A horror feature film almost all shot underwater in a sunken haunted house. His team and him have developed new technologies to shoot that projet.
He filmed and produced « AMA » a short directed and performed by Julie Gautier, shot in the deepest pool in the world (Y-40 Deep joy, in Italy) screened around the world in festivals and that count over 100 million views on internet. He won the best cinematography award at the Berlin Music Video Awards 2018.
He also was an underwater cinematographer on movies like : « Marie Madeleine » by Garth Davis, the Amazon series « The Patriot S02 » by Steve Conrad, « Plonger » by Melanie Laurent, « Le chant du Loup » by Antonin Baudry, and « Deep » by JF Julian, a Web series for Studio Canal he entirely shot and for which he won the best cinematography award at the International Bilbao TV series festival 2017.
Ep 51 – Jacques Ballard
[00:00:00] Brett Stanley: Welcome back to the underwater podcast. And this week I’m talking to underwater cinematographer shocked by that, about his work on the feature film, deep house.
We discuss how he shot the underwater, thriller, what cameras and lighting they used and how problem solving can really be one of the fun parts of underwater filmmaking. Jack’s career has been quite varied with documentaries feature films and amazing underwater collaborations with free diving talent. Like Julie go TA and All right let’s dive in Jacque welcome to the underwater podcast.
[00:01:04] Jacques Ballard: Thank you, Brett. It’s a pleasure.
[00:01:05] Brett Stanley: It’s so awesome to have you, because I saw your work through the deep house film that came out not too long ago, but then I was actually looking through your your portfolio and I realized that you did so many things that like underwater productions that I just love you are.
You’re so prolific. It’s it’s amazing. How did you even get into under.
[00:01:23] Jacques Ballard: By chance basically, I, I started diving when I was something like 14 in Greece with the, in the island and got passionate about diving, but then living in Paris not much water the pools and the sin. So forgot a bit about, about piping and then. And then one of my best friends at the time called met Davido was finishing the French movie school.
And he wanted to do something under, or there’s lot more stuff to play around with. And and so we, we did this this, like how do you call it? End of study film, his end of study film and,
[00:02:08] Brett Stanley: we call it a thesis. Yeah.
[00:02:09] Jacques Ballard: That’s it, that’s it. And and he had a teacher, a masterclass teacher called was a great underwater. And like, I, you say cinematographer and and hiss assistant then was becoming a DP.
So there was a naturally an assistance job to take over. And that’s how I really started.
I haven’t, I haven’t done any film school, but but help my friends who were in film school. So that was really perfect. Didn’t
[00:02:42] Brett Stanley: That’s it? You just learned on the job and was film something you’d always wanted to do or was it just cuz you kind of, your friends were doing it so you kind of fell into it.
[00:02:52] Jacques Ballard: when I was like, Nine I think were the first you know, first uh, moments when I thought, wow, if I put it, like, I remember thinking if I put a camera in a Christmas tree, it would be as if I was in it and I would live in it. I think I, I saw a cartoon or something like, I dunno, Mickey mouse and Christmas or something like that.
I can’t remember, but I thought, wow, that’s super cool. And, and as a human, I. Do that. So what, what would get me as close as possible to that feeling and and putting little in places that I couldn’t access
was, uh, Was part of it. So I think that’s how it, it, it started. And you know, when you like nine, until even when I was like 18, then, then started that you have whole crews making movies.
And before I thought you could be alone making a.
[00:03:42] Brett Stanley: how, yeah,
[00:03:43] Jacques Ballard: So then I, I discovered, you know, the, the, the job of a, a cinematographer, which I really loved
[00:03:48] Brett Stanley: So what was the first underwater project? You did
[00:03:52] Jacques Ballard: well, the, the first job really was the underwater was the, the, the thesis that WNO called me. I was probably like 19 19 years old. That was really the first first one that was uh, at sea near mass, very cold water. And we were shooting on 35 film.
So I was already I had already been a bit of a second camera assistant and a bit of an electrician. So I, I knew, you know, I, I, I was working already. And and being an assistant with an Underwood housing was, was incredible. Was new learn.
[00:04:41] Brett Stanley: Yeah. that’s right. Yeah. And are you kind of drawn to those things? Like the, the the technical side of things in terms of, of like, you know, if it’s something you haven’t done before, or if there’s like an some unknown kind
[00:04:53] Jacques Ballard: Sure. Sure. Yeah. I’m quite quite a technical guy, but more, more, I work. Less. I am technical.
[00:05:01] Brett Stanley: Right. Okay.
[00:05:02] Jacques Ballard: I, I concentrate on the, on the, on the story and and and you know, what the directors looking for and, and what I, I can bring to, to the but yeah, the, the technical parts Are quite important and some shots are quite, you know, complicated yet.
And, and, and still today, quite often, I’m impressed in how little I know really like on the deep house, many, many surprises, technical surpris, I thought, oh, well, yeah, wifi underwater. Sure. That, that, that probably exists. You know, the. Or reuses that, which they don’t. So we had to make something like wifi underwater.
And then I, I learned that avatar were when, when, when avatar themselves the same questions I didn’t have. So I had to myself some things so yeah, the, the I’m excited when the when the technique brings brings something special to the story.
[00:05:58] Brett Stanley: Right. You’re not in it just for the technical kind of thing.
[00:06:02] Jacques Ballard: Absolutely not, no, I enjoy it, but I’m
[00:06:04] Brett Stanley: Yeah.
[00:06:05] Jacques Ballard: Well, it’s fun. Don’t don’t you like it? how are you? Technically?
[00:06:08] Brett Stanley: Oh, I love
it. Yeah, no, I, I, I love the, for me. I, the reason I shoot underwater, I think is cuz I love the problem solving of it. I love trying to work out how to do that thing. And because it’s, you know, an underwater, it’s all these extra kind of factors you gotta take into account, but all these extra benefits you get from it that you can play with to make something
[00:06:28] Jacques Ballard: Yeah. And use the use the how do you say it in French? You call it contact you know, you have a, you have an element and you have to deal with it. You know, you can’t just do whatever you want, so you’ve gotta work with it. And,
[00:06:40] Brett Stanley: Yeah.
[00:06:41] Jacques Ballard: and that’s, that’s, that’s an exciting part of the, and, and it makes you probably more creative.
I mean, you have the same aspects on dry shoots, but but it’s like multiplied by a hundred when , when you have the
[00:06:52] Brett Stanley: totally. and there, there definitely is that thing where the water is, you know, it is this a moveable object. You have to work with it. You know, you can’t
[00:07:01] Jacques Ballard: And the texture texture that changes so much. I mean, I, I get, I get often bored in tanks and I, I often ask productions to try to shoot. In, in, you know, real water. So in lakes and in, in sea and stuff, and that first you know, production houses look at me like with huge eyes, like how can you guarantee anything?
I said, I can’t, but it’s, it’s still great. We’re gonna get loads of great stuff and I’m sure we’re gonna get greater
stuff than new magic. Obviously our work, I mean the deep house. You know, in a water tankful, it took me almost a year, you know, with prep and, and shooting and stuff. But, but getting this this texture of the water was, was something that was extremely exciting, but very, very hard to achieve.
Just like learning how to make great food. You know, it was actually like that. We, we, we had to mix loads of organic stuff to to, to find the good. They could textures and the different textures of the.
[00:08:01] Brett Stanley: Well, that that’s something that I found really interesting. So, so let’s talk about deep house because it it’s a film that, that came out, I think last year or early this year. And it’s basically a horror film set in a sunken house at the bottom of a lake. And the way it’s shot. It is incredible. It is kind of seamless to me in terms of, of what is actually shot in a lake and what’s shot in the tank.
Can you, can you talk about
[00:08:24] Jacques Ballard: I’m happy you
[00:08:25] Brett Stanley: did that? Yeah.
[00:08:27] Jacques Ballard: it was, that was. I wasn’t sure about, you know, if that would work or not, but yeah, that was well, exactly. That was, that was part of of the times when I asked production to real water for the beginning of the movie in a real lake. And we were shooting in Belgium in winter water was four degrees CELs so how, how much is that in FN?
[00:08:49] Brett Stanley: Oh, it’s yeah. Nearly, nearly
32 degrees. Yeah, yeah,
[00:08:53] Jacques Ballard: and I say, well, you know, there’s this old how do you say quar?
[00:08:57] Brett Stanley: yeah. Quarry. Yeah.
[00:08:59] Jacques Ballard: Quar. So, yeah. So there’s this old quarry, like a few miles from the, from the studio and it’s a bunch of divers who bought that place in like the eighties. And since then, it’s the diving playground.
So it’s a big place, but it was like real did, did fill this, this place where the deepest part was about hundred 20 feet.
[00:09:23] Brett Stanley: Oh, right.
[00:09:24] Jacques Ballard: and he had like there and old army and
stair loads exist. I that’s something. So much money to do in the studio and, and we wouldn’t even get, you know, better than what really exists. So before they get to the house, I think we, we, we should use reality and old space and we’ll get inspired by this space. So we don’t need to, you many days, we shot only two days in, in very difficult environment.
And, and, and to make it work, we had to be in quite a small crew. And we sunk. We asked the guys to sunk that, to sink a car, an old car,
[00:10:08] Brett Stanley: Yeah.
[00:10:08] Jacques Ballard: Props didn’t have time to make it look like super old. So we , we, we, we kicked quite a bit of a dust on it. But but that was, that was really fun to do. And that was the, the, the call was about 60 feet depth.
[00:10:22] Brett Stanley: Oh, right. Yeah. Well, that was interesting in the film, because I remember you, would they get to the car, like even going down those stairs, I was like, where are these stairs? Like, where did they find these stairs to shoot? And then they get to the car and they basically talk about how it’s still in pristine condition.
Like, you kind of wrote that into the story.
[00:10:39] Jacques Ballard: We did. Yeah, because it did look so so new that uh, the directors, you know, adapted to that that’s, that’s, what’s, you know, fun about making movies anyway. You make what you, you’ve got really on the day of the shoot. So. But yeah, you, you feel for me, you feel the depth and you feel the, and real of visibility
[00:11:04] Brett Stanley: Good.
[00:11:13] Jacques Ballard: in the tank tank. Uh, I thought when we shot just before, because we, we, we shot that part after the COVID
[00:11:20] Brett Stanley: Yeah,
[00:11:21] Jacques Ballard: So it was like three months or four months. I can’t remember after leaving the living room of the of the house and And when, when they sunk the the set, there were, you know, tons of pebbles.
And I asked the the art department to to wash those pebbles before putting it in the water because have so much dust on them. And the set was sunk and we couldn’t see the end of our arms.
[00:11:48] Brett Stanley: Oh,
wow. It just killed the visibility.
[00:11:51] Jacques Ballard: It killed the visibility. It was, it was hell. I thought, how is this gonna work? So we waited and waited.
And the, the filtering system of the pool is quite, quite performing. And so we waited like a day and did a few closeups and stuff, but and still then I thought, I thought visibility was to low to match. But, but it did work. I adapted the lighting also for it to work, but
[00:12:16] Brett Stanley: And, and how was that lit? Is it just all lighting from a barrel or have you got
[00:12:19] Jacques Ballard: There was basically like a L E D. Yeah. L E D sky light,
[00:12:24] Brett Stanley: Sky panels.
[00:12:26] Jacques Ballard: like sky panels. Yeah. But it was like big L E D strips that were made for that For that water stage. So all connected on DMX and were, you know, all colors so that great, you know, like big mattresses, like king size of those,
[00:12:47] Brett Stanley: Yeah.
[00:12:47] Jacques Ballard: And you could, you know, place them where you wanted and put them, or, you know You could choose the color and put some put more or less green in it.
And and maybe put a bit, you know darker in the background and light in the foreground or something. If you wanted to change the, the visibility in the water or
[00:13:02] Brett Stanley: Yeah.
[00:13:03] Jacques Ballard: I, I had a base and And then in the house, and there were quite a few lights in the water that too, I had to adapt because I thought I was gonna get those new sky panel air sky panel housings.
I was promised 20 of those. They weren’t, yeah, they, they, they didn’t arrive. so
so then I worked, I worked with ACLS, which are basically like parks made out of 20 volt Par lamps spot par lamps. And they are used to that’s what’s used in airplanes. It’s basically landing airplane lights.
[00:13:36] Brett Stanley: Oh, and their waterproof or you had to then build housings for them.
[00:13:40] Jacques Ballard: they waterproof. Yeah.
Yeah. You need to, you need to have a, like a special ballast at the surface that, that won’t cut the whole egg just eat, but yeah. And it’s only 24 volts, so.
[00:13:52] Brett Stanley: Oh, okay. and I guess cuz once you’re inside the house, it is quite, quite small quarters. So you don’t need to throw the light too far.
[00:13:59] Jacques Ballard: No, but I did need a lot of light because we used like unconventional cameras. all my D P friends told me, well, why are you shooting with this it’s real cameras and stuff. So it’s, it’s part of the like modern footage thing. So I’m not gonna shoot this with Alexa or red or something. And. And the, and the actors are, are holding the cameras.
And so we shot with little DGI Osmo actions,
[00:14:25] Brett Stanley: Oh, wow.
[00:14:26] Jacques Ballard: which are like GoPros. I tested the GoPros and those and different, different Sony had little,
exactly name tested a few of those small action and DGI at the time had the had for me the best ones. And, but they’re, if you want them to work for big screen The the, the, the base ISO is quite low. It’s like a two ISO, and then it’s,
[00:14:50] Brett Stanley: Oh, okay.
[00:14:52] Jacques Ballard: liket stop for
5.6. That’s it. So basically on the set, even though it’s like dark, we could see like in, in late morning in the winter and Northern states or, or middle friends,
[00:15:07] Brett Stanley: Yeah. Oh, that was interesting as well. Cuz the, the way you kind of did the camera work was, you know, the characters have got their little. You know, basically GoPros on, on their arms and stuff and kind of recording themselves. And then you’ve got the ROV that they had, which was another kind of camera.
And then you also had kind of the narrative camera, which I assume was an Alexa or something,
[00:15:30] Jacques Ballard: Well, when we, the, the, the dry part of the movie was shot on Alexa.
[00:15:35] Brett Stanley: right.
[00:15:35] Jacques Ballard: And then I, I introduced some of the action camera footage because the original was to switch to the cam footage. Only when our actors would. Be in the water. And I thought it would be too much of a, of a, of a shift.
So it’s, I think it, it works quite well to introduce the the use of that, of those cameras before and mix it with the Alexa. Personally, I would’ve shot everything with the with the little action cameras from the start. But
[00:16:04] Brett Stanley: Oh, yeah, you would’ve.
[00:16:05] Jacques Ballard: Yeah. Yeah. Because I, I, would’ve been more with, you know, more with the characters.
[00:16:10] Brett Stanley: right. Yeah.
[00:16:11] Jacques Ballard: still, I mean, it works fine, works fine. And then no. And then, and then underwater was just, yeah, the three Osmos and and under the the underwater ROV it was a Panasonic, J five S
with the zoom and we control that from the surface and I modified with my crew uh, the, the ROV, so we could play around with it with a PlayStation um,
[00:16:31] Brett Stanley: I control her.
[00:16:33] Jacques Ballard: control and that’s it.
So we played
with it with
[00:16:36] Brett Stanley: that’s
[00:16:37] Jacques Ballard: game. That was great. Yeah. There was a lot of programming going into.
[00:16:47] Brett Stanley: yeah. I mean, there’s so much going on, like, and, and in each scene, are you running all three cameras or all, all, you know, all the cameras at once or are you kind of just running with them as you need them?
[00:17:00] Jacques Ballard: Yeah, we were just running. We had to shoot very fast. Very very fast. I can’t tell you the amount of days, because it would give ideas to other production companies and it would be a bad idea
[00:17:11] Brett Stanley: right? Yep.
[00:17:12] Jacques Ballard: because it was, we really didn’t have enough days. We didn’t need much more, but we didn’t have enough still. We, we happy with the result, but it was extremely short, extremely short.
So yeah, at the beginning, I mean, we, we really learned. On the way, but the, the first three days were complete chaos. Because we were just looking at all the cameras at the same time. And and then we, we realized that we had to really concentrate on one point of view, the other cameras shoot, because.
You know, get stuff. And then once we were happy with one point of view, we’d switch to the second one, but we would basically shoot, you know, the whole scene that we would first rehearse on land in a, in a very basic replica of the, of the set. And and then our actors, whoever who actually my, my, my friends TBO, just in hobby, who are.
Some of the best divers in the world. They were, they were the stunts that, that, that played the characters under. So they, they knew a lot already, you know, extremely tech, divers and movies before. And we had worked together before and stuff and don’t do movies, but also incredible underwater missions and, and all that.
So so they understood a lot. And that was part of the Of the point of view, you know, I, I didn’t want the film to be shot by, you know, a cinematographer it had to feel real and it was, it was nicely shot and we could, you know, have, see everything live from the surface. And we had underwater speakers and we could speak to our, our stunts at the same time and all that.
We did adjust things, but we also wanted to let the scene happen as if they were really, you know, living, living it. And I was often underwater to shoot what, what the drone was supposed to shoot, because I would, you know, have a better feeling. I would use the drone, the, to give those very mechanical movements and also, you know, the errors where the drone could, you know, Hit a wall or something, or do a certain type of that.
You can’t really imagine
[00:19:16] Brett Stanley: Yeah,
[00:19:17] Jacques Ballard: hand basically a of the it’s it’s,
[00:19:22] Brett Stanley: Brian. Yeah.
[00:19:26] Jacques Ballard: you know?
[00:19:27] Brett Stanley: Well, you wanna be down there, right? You wanna be in there swimming around in that? Yeah.
[00:19:30] Jacques Ballard: Yeah.
[00:19:32] Brett Stanley: yeah. I mean the um, the, the stunts the you know, kind of the, the scary family, the, the corpses or whatever they were incredible. Cause I would, I would look at the take and how long the take was and I’m like, they’re still going and,
[00:19:44] Jacques Ballard: It was incredible.
[00:19:45] Brett Stanley: Yeah. And they had those masks on as.
[00:19:48] Jacques Ballard: It was, yeah, it wasn’t Musk. It was, it was makeup.
[00:19:50] Brett Stanley: Oh, I thought they had like, uh, something strapped strapped to their faces, like, um,
[00:19:55] Jacques Ballard: oh yes. The mask of shames, that’s it? Yeah. You do have a, a scene where they have those mask of shame, but there’s a trick,
[00:20:04] Brett Stanley: Right.
[00:20:04] Jacques Ballard: it? It was great. That movie was great because we, we, we imagined that every shot would have Special effects, how you call them video, special effects, VFX, that’s it.
And very few at the end because on the shoot realized that we could do so much Real, you know, like, like it’s funny. Cause I live in and France and that’s where Mel was one of the inventors of cinema lived. So I live a few, few meters away from where the first movies were shot and this guy was a magician and he would, you know, the guy that, that big, that movie of, you know, the guy being shut on the moon and stuff.
[00:20:41] Brett Stanley: that’s right. Yeah.
[00:20:42] Jacques Ballard: Something. And and I really had the impression that we were sometimes making shots like years.
So basically actors
were from, from basically the previous movie. That our directors shot. So they were adapted and changed a bit to more to the diver actors.
[00:21:11] Brett Stanley: so they were more
[00:21:11] Jacques Ballard: And so when the exactly mannequins and
[00:21:15] Brett Stanley: Yeah.
[00:21:16] Jacques Ballard: takes with mannequins, and it’s the real
[00:21:23] Brett Stanley: Ah, I, I need to go back and look at that and see if I can see where, where they swapped out.
[00:21:28] Jacques Ballard: The the who plays the old witch. When she saw her mannequin, she was there when we shot the mannequin like this horrible.
[00:21:44] Brett Stanley: Right. Yeah.
[00:21:46] Jacques Ballard: And the guy playing says, I’m not this white and bold.
[00:21:50] Brett Stanley: right. yeah. This is based exactly on you guys. This is a, a replica of you guys. Yeah. The other thing that I, that I really found quite amazing was was how clear the water seemed to be. Once we’re inside the house, there’s, there’s a scene. And I think it’s in like the movie room, like it’s almost at the end, I think, and the projectors playing and, and all that sort of stuff.
And I was looking at it and I’m like, this could, this, this doesn’t even look underwater anymore. Like, it’s so clear.
[00:22:18] Jacques Ballard: Yeah. I, I, I ask my, I often ask myself the question while we were shooting. Is there enough uh, particles, but. At the beginning, the characters wanted, they told me the more we go deep and more, the image becomes filled with particles and dark. I thought, well, that’s not gonna work either. It’s filled with particles and it’s it’s Milky basically and diffused.
But if you want it dark and we can, we could see quite far, but it’s so dark that we can’t, and maybe that’s, what’s the most terrifying, even when you’re a kid, you know, when you’re in your room or, or outside in the dog forest when the dog or something, and it’s so dark that you can, you know, Let your imagination terrify you.
[00:23:04] Brett Stanley: Yeah.
[00:23:06] Jacques Ballard: so that’s why I, I sort of inverted things with the particles and said, when they get into the house, this strange house, it looks old and it looks moldy and it’s full of particles and the deeper they go and the more they get to kind of know the house or the, the house gets. Eat them alive.
[00:23:27] Brett Stanley: Yeah. Yeah.
[00:23:28] Jacques Ballard: the less particles you get, the more you forget the water and and the darker it gets.
And I think that that works pretty well, but yeah, sometimes you, you forget the water and I dunno, I, I, I dunno how the the audience react to that. How did, how did you react to that?
When you say you didn’t feel like you in the water sometimes was.
[00:23:46] Brett Stanley: no, I thought it was great, cuz because at some points there was like, especially the deeper they got and into that room, it felt kind of like an underwater. Shining kind of thing. Like it was very Kubrick and I think the, the clearer, it got the
[00:24:00] Jacques Ballard: Or like in the
[00:24:01] Brett Stanley: exactly. Yeah. Like this crystal clear water, but it was creepy.
And it was, and as you say, there was these pools of light and you kind of got lost in them. And, and I think the more you could see the, the darkness that the kind of weeder it was, it was really kind of mind bending at that point. I, I, I loved it.
[00:24:20] Jacques Ballard: I went with the idea when the director said, well, this, this house is, is alive and, and the deeper they go, the more this house seems, it, it. It got sunk a few days ago,
know, you still, you still, you know, have all the elements that are, are there very, very few elements floating and stuff like that.
I, I added as much as I could basically of floating elements because then it was just too much of a, of an effect of not having You know, elements that are, that are due to water. And uh,
[00:24:57] Brett Stanley: Well, that, that was the other thing too, was when you had that set, like Having sunk sets and stuff myself. Like I know how quickly things fall apart and start to rot and all that sort of stuff. Like how much work went into getting this set that you could use for days on end.
[00:25:12] Jacques Ballard: Well, the set design was and the work and the builders and stuff, they did such an amazing job. I mean, I was really, really, I. In prep, I say, well, what are we making the sets with? And so say, would, I said, that’s never gonna work.
[00:25:24] Brett Stanley: Right.
[00:25:26] Jacques Ballard: see. Yeah, we can’t. I mean, we don’t have the money to use different elements.
So the walls are made with, I can’t even remember what element it is, but with different element, but basically inside the walls as a bit of foam, I said, that’s not gonna work. It’s gonna float and things like that, but it, but but it did.
[00:25:45] Brett Stanley: Yeah,
[00:25:45] Jacques Ballard: It did work, but the sets, the, the long, the, the set that stayed the longest under the water was eight days.
That was the the ground floor with the, with the piano and the, and the, the living room and the, and and the big staircases and stuff. But the piano was an important scene and the piano was supposed to play by itself,
[00:26:03] Brett Stanley: Yeah.
[00:26:03] Jacques Ballard: but within a few. Couple of hours, actually, the, the piano, the how do you say the things that you press to
white, the keys there?
So, yeah, basically the piano keys started to. To swell and they couldn’t move, they were completely blocked. And we had many surprises like that. You know, you think about everything and it’s like, as you know,
[00:26:35] Brett Stanley: Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, totally.
[00:26:37] Jacques Ballard: something, something, then, you know, you don’t have it.
[00:26:41] Brett Stanley: No exactly. Yeah.
[00:26:43] Jacques Ballard: Okay. And and so that piano yeah. Was, was one of the bad surprises, but it’s so impressive. And so cool to see this, this piano that we also, you know, built to make it,
the impression it’s floating.
[00:27:00] Brett Stanley: Yeah.
[00:27:01] Jacques Ballard: put it, we, we, we made, we, we put it on an angle, you know but yeah, we wanted to be able to, to play the keys and that was. Not doable
[00:27:09] Brett Stanley: No
[00:27:10] Jacques Ballard: but then the, the the, the plants, do you call it the Ivy?
Yeah, the Ivy that’s everywhere around the house and sometimes a bit inside the house.
And it, most of it was real Ivy and it would continue to grow underwater.
[00:27:25] Brett Stanley: really?
[00:27:25] Jacques Ballard: That was, that was really impressive.
[00:27:28] Brett Stanley: Wow. And so, so with that whole set, I’m assuming was built above the water, like on, on dry land and you, and you sort of put the Ivy and attached it and then took it underwater and it just kept on growing.
[00:27:40] Jacques Ballard: yep.
[00:27:41] Brett Stanley: Wow. That’s so cool.
[00:27:43] Jacques Ballard: Then little details like the, in the, in the kitchen, that was one of the first sets we had. We wanted a lot of MOS on the walls.
It’s one of the first and and so it wasn’t, we, we couldn’t use real. Didn’t didn’t work. It would fall apart and stuff.
So the art department used how say metallic sponges
[00:28:04] Brett Stanley: Oh, yeah. Yeah. Like
[00:28:06] Jacques Ballard: and rust of it. So it looked really
[00:28:07] Brett Stanley: right like steel wool.
[00:28:09] Jacques Ballard: exactly steel wall
[00:28:11] Brett Stanley: Oh, that’s
[00:28:13] Jacques Ballard: it was great, but. That that steel would dissolve and get in, in, in the process of electrolyze because there was another type of, of metal underwater.
And and it would like disolve in tiny pieces of metal and the RO motors are brushless motors with very strong magnets. So within a few hours motors full of that
[00:28:41] Brett Stanley: oh gosh. Like covered by these little bits of metal and everything. I wouldn’t have even thought about that. That’s insane. Yeah.
[00:28:52] Jacques Ballard: fun to talk about afterwards, but when you, when you’re living them on, the set is
[00:28:57] Brett Stanley: yeah. not so much at the time. Yeah. the other big thing that you did as well, that, that kind of I think kind of blew people’s minds was the short film you did with with Julie Guttier a.
In the, uh, yeah,
In the um, Y 40 in the deep joy. I think that, that film I think, yeah, blew people’s minds.
[00:29:18] Jacques Ballard: It’s, it’s great to be able to, to shoot you know, personal projects like that. And, and I’ve been, I, I basically started the, the, the first movie I shot as a underwater cinematographer was nachos. By Julie. And we basically started together. She had shot free, which was basically the millions and millions of
you before how I started one of the big projects that I, I started on was on a project directed and produced by category called bear. Who’s a. Photographer and, and filmmaker. And and I went twice around the world with him, with the director assistant and. Actress model at the time. And we started talking about her, her personal projects you wanted to do. She said, well, is it, is it hard to direct a movie and make a movie, you know, just ourselves without, you know, big budget or something. So I lied you. I said yes, it’s, it’s super easy.
[00:30:26] Brett Stanley: right. Yeah. and, and it’s so much easier underwater as well. It’s so super easy. Yeah.
[00:30:33] Jacques Ballard: but I knew, I mean, she was, she was the, the French and the water champion at time and, and her husband is the, was the world. say free dive champion? So that made things a lot easier. And we were able to do stuff that, that others couldn’t basical. the
[00:30:48] Brett Stanley: Yep.
[00:30:49] Jacques Ballard: But yeah, so, so Julie and I really started together and we still together, we have a new with involving dance again,
[00:30:58] Brett Stanley: Yep.
[00:30:58] Jacques Ballard: September, but was, was a very, very personal project for, and and it moved me a lot emotionally. So it was, it was very important to, to be part of it.
[00:31:13] Brett Stanley: well, it was, I remember when it came out and I remember watching it and thinking. How, how controlled she was not just in, in the dance, but also the fact that she, she didn’t even leap off the bottom until, you know, pass the halfway mark of the whole film. Like she, she totally teased that out. And the camera work and the lighting, it’s just so simple and so minimal.
The use of that space, it’s like an underwater dance studio, but it’s it’s still so surreal. It’s beautiful.
[00:31:42] Jacques Ballard: I’m I’m, I’m happy. You’ve seen it like that. And talk about it like that. Yeah. It’s, it’s exactly what I dreamt that people would would think, you know, seeing it visually at least, but yeah. I mean many, many shots I was, you know, just, just filming them. It was, it was like super easy for me compared to what Judy was doing and, and the, and the safety free dive and stuff.
But many times I thought, wow, I mean, is this really happening? Is this. I mean, is this real, you know, I was, it was quite, I mean, as you say, it was minimal and simple, it’s, it’s, it’s, it’s, it’s a dancing on water, but it was, I had never seen that before, you know, and being part of it and it, you know, being there, but it, my little camera screen sometimes just, you know, quit the screen and look at, look at reality without even seeing what, looking at what my camera was filming, you know, it was so, so impressive.
[00:32:39] Brett Stanley: And I think those, those, those little moments and like, I think we all have those kind of things underwater where we’re shooting something and we are like, this is, you know, like this is happening. This is something that you’ve planned forever, or you’d never even thought of it, but there’s just this moment where you, you know, you have this stupid grin on your face and you just like, you don’t really want that moment to end.
[00:32:57] Jacques Ballard: this is very well said. Yeah. That’s that’s kind of why we do this job. It.
[00:33:03] Brett Stanley: exactly. And I think looking at your body of work as well, you know, you’ve done these things in the tanks, you’ve done these amazing stuff out in the open water with free divers and all that sort of stuff. Do you have a, a, I think you mentioned before, but do you have a preference where you like to shoot?
Is it open water or do or tanks? Like what, or is
[00:33:19] Jacques Ballard: Yeah, open water. Yeah. I mean, thanks. I would, I would go back and attend for something as technical as, as the deep house, you know, where you really, I mean, it was, it was undoable. In any other way
to do it then doing it in the tank. But when I shot, for example, Lulu, which was a big feature French movie with submarines and stuff, I, I told the production, I said, well, this water in this is, is part, part, so much part of it that want real water.
I don’t wanna shoot this in a. They almost, you know, say, well, thank you. It won’t be you for the job, but but I convinced them
[00:33:57] Brett Stanley: Right?
[00:33:58] Jacques Ballard: wasn’t, wasn’t sure technically that would work, but I knew that we would became very technical where we had to, you know, build structures underwater at sea next to an army base in south of France.
And And position like the the front of this nuclear submarine that we had built like a skeleton of that submarine. So the, to holes would be exactly a six depth.
Uh, six is what, around 20 feet,
[00:34:34] Brett Stanley: Yeah. Around there.
[00:34:35] Jacques Ballard: we were working with some, some real army equipment, which were pure oxygen Rere.
[00:34:41] Brett Stanley: Yeah,
[00:34:42] Jacques Ballard: closed circuit, pure, pure Rubus. And, and some of the actors stunts were Navy seals, French Navy seals, basically. And the procedures and stuff are very strict and they cannot go below six meters with pure.
[00:34:56] Brett Stanley: right?
[00:34:57] Jacques Ballard: For a certain amount of time. So that, that became extremely technical, but we, we that’s something that everyone would in
[00:35:11] Brett Stanley: Yeah. The feel of the water, like you can kind of
[00:35:14] Jacques Ballard: yeah. So it’s, it’s, it’s risky in a way. It’s Unconvention. But but I, for the moment I, I wasn’t wrong about it yet.
[00:35:24] Brett Stanley: Right. Yeah.
[00:35:25] Jacques Ballard: She did that kind stuff. Had she, I mean, it happen one day I’m, but
Davis shot by Greg Fraser, a photographer that too. I say, well, let’s, let’s do that in, in, and we’ll see in south of France and.
[00:35:41] Brett Stanley: Right.
[00:35:42] Jacques Ballard: And very, very quickly. I mean, Greg said, well, if, if you believe in, in that I’ll, I’ll trust that and, and go, and, and the sequence is quite different than what they imagine.
And I wouldn’t say better cause it’s not the word, but you know, different in a great way than what they imagine.
more organic about it, you know, a bit more real, more, more magical, more. Cause once again, in the tank, everything you see is something that you have to create. And in a movie like horror movie and deep house, it’s great.
But in many other movies, you wanna, you wanna create something that, that you don’t that you haven’t thought of really.
[00:36:25] Brett Stanley: Well, I think that’s the thing, especially with your open water stuff, like Mary Magdalene and even the Estella, like commercials and stuff. Like you make so much use of that landscape that you couldn’t do that in a tank like you, you, unless you’re building massive sets in there, but As long as you, you know, get lucky with the weather.
[00:36:41] Jacques Ballard: But even that, you know, I try to try to work with smaller crews, but with people that are extremely efficient and and, and devoted to the passion and the work, and a bit like shooting documentaries, which I should love of documentaries, but having a, a smaller crew in a way buys buys us time because we, we can spend, you know, a few more days because it’s a bit cheaper than having a huge crew.
And I try to to also, you know you know, convince people that, you know, they’ve gotta make it happen money wise because it’s, it’s worth it. And and until now it’s, it’s never been a bad surprise. I mean, all the. Clients of producers or whatever. They, they, first of all, they enjoy it very much. you know, being at sea and seeing what we can do with, with real elements. And and yeah, so we, we, I mean, it happens. We have bad weather. For example, when I shoot at sea, I, I never shoot less than three dates. I mean, I never plan for less than three days, even if I can get it in, in one day for three days.
And if, if we do it in one or two days, well then it’s great. You know, when we, the, the Beyonce music video we were three days there and basically the whole thing was shot in like a day and a half. Cause around that we had bad, we bad weather.
[00:37:56] Brett Stanley: And, and that
video is that, that running video.
And that was like, again, it’s such a simple premise and I, I assume you’re just in the current, just letting them kind of float and you’re just floating along beside them shooting it. But the, the effect of it is so powerful.
[00:38:13] Jacques Ballard: Yeah. Well, we, we went to look for that current because it’s tied current. Basically is it’s, you’ve got the whole Pacific ocean that comes into a tiny lagoon in Polynesia at once. And so, yeah, it creates an amazing I mean, I would, I would sometimes, you know, automatically try to grab a, to slow down or something and I, I thought my arm would rip off.
[00:38:38] Brett Stanley: right. Yeah,
[00:38:40] Jacques Ballard: and the shots where, where you see the characters coming towards me, that means that I am kicking like, hell.
[00:38:47] Brett Stanley: yeah. Right.
[00:38:48] Jacques Ballard: Against current. And and that was, that was like super hard. And, you know, I’ve got a, a cardiac on my computer
this monitor thing that’s connected to my,
[00:39:11] Brett Stanley: Oh, my God.
[00:39:13] Jacques Ballard: And, and when I, when I saw the the, the dive medic, like two or three years after that to, you know, get your medical check you say, well, you’ve gotta do this and this test and check your heart and you in bad shape and eat too much and whatever. And, you know, Mean to me. I said, listen, I’m, I’m, I’m in good shape.
I mean, yeah. I don’t do sports every day, but I feel OK. And look, when I shot that you probably seen that, you know, that music video of those people, you know, running on and singing and they said, oh yeah, you shot that. Yeah. Look at this. And this’ll show you the says the computers wrong. No, it’s not
[00:40:01] Brett Stanley: Right. Exactly. Yeah. That’s the thing that’s right. I survived. I need a stamp just to survive. Yeah.
[00:40:09] Jacques Ballard: yeah.
[00:40:10] Brett Stanley: So good. Yeah. I mean, that sort of stuff is amazing. And, and are you do you, are you generally on scuba when you’re shooting this stuff or do you free dive as well?
[00:40:19] Jacques Ballard: I, I started a free diving course a year ago. I, I,
less and less equipment and less technical stuff.
[00:40:31] Brett Stanley: Yeah.
[00:40:32] Jacques Ballard: Seeing the. You know, the way they, they dive and, and, and work and stuff is so inspiring. I’d like to learn that. Yeah. But Rere, whatever technique brings me
to, of under a lot, lot up and down, stuff like that. So,
[00:40:58] Brett Stanley: Yeah.
[00:40:59] Jacques Ballard: so that’s, that’s the older you get. The the less, less you can do that,
[00:41:07] Brett Stanley: Yeah, totally.
[00:41:08] Jacques Ballard: more dangerous it gets so,
[00:41:10] Brett Stanley: Yeah, exactly. I think that’s the thing, cuz I, I, I tend to shoot in the ocean a bit these days and and I, I usually try and do it most of it on free dive because I like to sort of move up and down through the water column and kind of move around. And then the times when I do that on scuba I’m like, Brett, you’ve gotta stop you.
Can’t. You can’t just bounce up and down anymore. You know, you’re on compressed air. This is when things go wrong. So it’s, it’s interesting how, you know, scuba can keep us down for longer and we can get longer takes. But it does restrict the movements that you have as well.
[00:41:39] Jacques Ballard: Yeah, yeah. And the and the silence of our free diving is interesting too. They you just don’t see the things the same way also. And and the, and the, and life doesn’t react the same way to you than when you exciting loads of bubbles that make a lot of noise every way.
[00:41:57] Brett Stanley: Yeah.
[00:41:58] Jacques Ballard: That’s, what’s nice about Rere reread those too.
makes things a bit more complicated when we film because you, you, you dive very differently and and you can do even less movements basically. I mean, vertical move.
[00:42:16] Brett Stanley: And, and I guess that’s, I mean, re reread, this gives you a lot more latitude in terms of the shots you can get, cuz you’re not worried about your own bubbles getting into the, into the shot, the same
[00:42:24] Jacques Ballard: Yes. And the amount of time that you can stay, you know,
[00:42:28] Brett Stanley: Yeah.
[00:42:30] Jacques Ballard: I shot a, a Russian feature movie. And I was, I had to wait for incredible free divers to to dive down about 60 feet and then, and then go for like 30 or 40 feet inside a cave. And I was waiting at the end of that cave and they were only on, on Frida and on breath hold.
And I could, I could stay there, you know, for, I stayed there for almost three hours with my Rere.
[00:42:56] Brett Stanley: Right.
[00:42:56] Jacques Ballard: I was died. I had a problem with a re-breather, but
[00:43:00] Brett Stanley: Right. right. Yeah, exactly. Were you there by yourself? Yeah. You had safety. Yeah. Yeah. And as, so as a creative, what inspires you? Like where are you getting your inspiration from, for, you know, for the new projects for new kind of, for new looks and new ways to create?
Are there things that, that kind of get you going?
[00:43:25] Jacques Ballard: Mm, really. I mean, it’s like, you know, when, when, when you get asked, what, what’s your favorite music, what’s your favorite color? So I think that changes very much moods and moment of life. So I’m inspired by, by, by, by many things and mostly what I’m inspired of by story and the motivation of the, of the director, the, the creatives I work with.
And then I go and look for, you know, Other, other film work photos bit of painting often. I, I’m not, I’m not very um, I dunno much about music, but I, I am, I am moved by it and, and react to it. So sometimes I just listen to. To some music random time. And I don’t even really know what I’m listening at, but I would, I would get inspired by it.
[00:44:13] Brett Stanley: Right. Yeah.
[00:44:17] Jacques Ballard: Like
it’s basically taking the time to get devoted to a project, you know, and I find it hard and harder. The more you you work and the less time you. You give to yourself, you know,
that’s, uh, that’s something I find hard to to think about and maintain. And
right now for too many projects,
[00:44:44] Brett Stanley: Yeah. Your
[00:44:44] Jacques Ballard: I’m not. Yeah, exactly. Yeah.
[00:44:47] Brett Stanley: Yeah, I think that’s the thing. Like, I, I don’t. When I’ve got a lot of work on, you know, I don’t get inspired cuz I’m too busy trying to, to get the thing, you know, be in the, in the mindset of all those kind of projects. And I think it’s when the, when I’m relaxed and I at least expect it.
That’s when something bubbles up into my brain and I’m like, oh God, there’s that thing. Oh, let you know. That’s you know, and then you go down the, the rabbit hole of trying to work out how to create something from that little, you know, like you say, like a color or a, or a, or a lighting style or a contrast or so.
[00:45:18] Jacques Ballard: Well, it depends on, I mean, for example, right now I’m preparing another hour movie, but, but only dry there’s absolutely no underwater. There’s a bit of rain
[00:45:28] Brett Stanley: Yeah. you had to get some water in there somewhere,
[00:45:32] Jacques Ballard: but I try not to watch too many references that are too close to what we. Imagine being the right reference in a way, you know, it’s not because I’m gonna do a horror movie that I watch horror movies. I tend to even do like the opposite.
Um, try to find inspiration, not in, in the, in the uh, evidence,
[00:45:55] Brett Stanley: Yeah.
[00:45:56] Jacques Ballard: I find it more exciting that your brain works maybe a bit more in a, in, in, in a hard way.
You know? I mean, I think it’s, it’s quite different for, for, for each of. You just have to find your, and I’m just starting to kinda realize or, or know what, what, you know, I react to and and what inspires me.
[00:46:18] Brett Stanley: And, and it is what, like you said, like it is that sort of thing of, you know, like go the wrong direct. And then you might find something that you haven’t seen before, and then you can apply it to something that hasn’t been done before. And I think, and I think for a lot of wonder water stuff, that’s what I’m striving for is I wanna, I wanna create things that I haven’t seen before.
You know, I don’t wanna emulate someone else. I don’t wanna imitate someone. You know, I want to kind of find new ways to do this. And you know, might be the, I don’t know, like a curve of a leaf on a tree that sets you off down. Path of, of creating something. It could be anything that triggers you. Yeah.
[00:46:55] Jacques Ballard: Yeah. And staying open to, to the moment that when you’re filming, having a lot of conversations and, and, and grasping the what, what, what the movie needs to, to, to tell, you know, as an emotion
and then, and then just go with what you feel is, is right. You know, you can prepare loads of stuff, but then.
As we know it often doesn’t work exactly like plant
[00:47:19] Brett Stanley: No know exactly. Yeah. yeah. Sometimes better, sometimes worse. Did you have a way that you kind of collate your inspirations, say for a project, do you have a certain way of you know, writing down or, or drawing or, you know, the, the
[00:47:34] Jacques Ballard: I haven’t got no, I haven’t found one way that I really like. And I’m, I’m actually working on that. I’m trying stuff now.
Um, It’s I find it very hard. I, I, now I’m using like good notes, which is with, you know, on the iPad also, and on the, on the, on the on the computer and things. And it’s like synced with all my devices.
Cause I like the fact that, you know, sometimes I’m just taking dump or something and then I’ve got an idea, but then I, I can’t get my, my notebook or something. So I would like, you know, I wanna be able to, to write. An idea at anytime. So that’s, that’s, what’s cool about having our, our smartphones part of our brain now.
And and no, I haven’t, I haven’t found a great way yet. Also to, you know, to a way that you can share or decide how to share the ideas with the different departments. I’d like to be able to share stuff in a very Personal and almost secret way with our department and then have my secrets with, with the director too.
And, you know, some things don’t need to be said to everyone at a certain stage. And then
at one point, you know, like gather what you think is the sum of all those great ideas and, and then share it with everyone who needs to, to see that. And so the whole crew is I haven’t, mean, If you know something about apps, I’m sure we can make one.
[00:49:04] Brett Stanley: No. I know. I was just thinking that myself, this could be a money maker, Jack This could be our retirement fund.
[00:49:11] Jacques Ballard: How do.
[00:49:12] Brett Stanley: I’m pretty much the same. I have, I have a, you know, I just use the notes program on my on my iPhone and, and that syncs, but then I’ll use like um, Pinterest and things like that. I I’m kind of mad professor sort of thing where I have notes everywhere and then I never find them. So,
[00:49:28] Jacques Ballard: Yeah, me too.
[00:49:29] Brett Stanley: and then I just try and hold everything in my head.
[00:49:32] Jacques Ballard: I think the essential stays in head, but sometimes you got this little idea that that was a good idea. And you just forget it because it’s a detail, but
[00:49:41] Brett Stanley: Oh yeah.
[00:49:42] Jacques Ballard: you know, films are made a lot with, with, with those details. So
[00:49:45] Brett Stanley: Yeah.
[00:49:46] Jacques Ballard: I get frustrated after once, once we got the. You know, and a few months later find a note.
[00:49:53] Brett Stanley: Oh, yeah. Yeah. That’s it. Yeah.
[00:49:54] Jacques Ballard: About that one.
[00:49:56] Brett Stanley: that’s right. Yeah, I do that all the time. I always forget. And then yeah, come back to it too late, but that’s the thing. Hey, Jacque, this has been amazing. Just hearing how you’ve, you know, kind of come from, you know, putting cameras in Christmas trees and now, you know, doing 50 films and documentaries and commercials.
It’s amazing. Thank you so much for sharing all this.
[00:50:14] Jacques Ballard: Well, thank you. Thank you for having me in this very great and inspiring project.
[00:50:19] Brett Stanley: Yeah.
[00:50:20] Jacques Ballard: we’ll work together one day underwater.
[00:50:22] Brett Stanley: Oh, dude, I would, I would love that. Yeah. Sign me up. All right, Jack. Thanks very much, man.
[00:50:27] Jacques Ballard: Thank you. Thank you. Talk too soon.