Scene from Bad Axe with a woman in a yellow mask looking at men with guns leaning against a brick wall

Bad Axe Documentary Captured with Pocket Cinema Camera 4K

Blackmagic Design today announced that the award winning documentary “Bad Axe” was shot with Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K digital film camera. The camera’s portable design and exceptional image quality allowed Director David Siev to capture an intimate portrait of a close knit family living in rural America during the pandemic and rising racial tensions.

“Bad Axe” follows the Siev family as they fight to keep their local restaurant and American dream alive in rural Michigan, amid dealing with backlash from a divided community, the financial stress of the pandemic, and intergenerational trauma. Following a very successful festival run with more than 20 awards, including Best First Feature at the Critics’ Choice Awards and the SXSW Grand Jury Award for Best Documentary Feature, “Bad Axe” recently had its streaming premiere on Hulu.

The Pocket Cinema Camera 4K’s portable design helped Siev, who also served as the film’s DP, stay flexible while shooting. He explained, “‘Bad Axe’ is a cinema verité documentary, so it was shot very run and gun. Since the subjects are my family and it was during the pandemic, I didn’t have a crew. There were no specific shoot days or schedules; everything was just a ‘pick up and go’ situation. If something interesting was happening, I would grab the camera, so it had to always be within an arm’s reach of me and ready to go.”

“I’ve always wanted to share my family’s American dream story. My dad is a Cambodian refugee who came to this country in 1979 with nothing but the shirt on his back after having survived the Killing Fields,” Siev noted. “When I first picked up the camera and began shooting, I was in the midst of writing a script about his life of surviving genocide and overcoming the struggles of trauma, loss, and PTSD. There originally wasn’t any intention to make a documentary, but as we reached the summer of 2020, I realized this American dream story I’d always wanted to share about my family had to be told within the context of what the American dream is today.


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“There became a sense of urgency to the project because the American dream was being challenged in ways it never had been before, with not only a pandemic, but heightened racial tensions, political division, and so much more. Having tools like the Pocket Cinema Camera 4K allowed me to capture that story in a way that invited the audience to view these universal issues through a personal, yet cinematic lens.”

“Bad Axe” was captured in Blackmagic RAW and then color graded and conformed with DaVinci Resolve Studio. “The ability to shoot in 12 bit RAW was such a game changer, especially when making a run and gun documentary like this where we needed that flexibility to push the image when we were in situations where we couldn’t control lighting. The dual native ISO was also a huge plus for us in that regard, as well as the menu layout for quick usability when grabbing the camera on the fly. I wish all camera menus were as intuitive as Blackmagic Design’s,” Siev added.

“In some ways, ‘Bad Axe’ feels like a home movie due to the approach of picking up the camera and shooting such intimate family moments. However, what separates it from a typical home movie is obviously the craft that goes into filmmaking, like framing, composition, storytelling, and the overall image quality,” concluded Siev. “Blackmagic Design has changed the game for indie filmmakers in terms of having the capability to capture beautiful, cinematic images without a $50K or $60K price point.”


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