Bitten by the creative bug early on, Alex Zarfati began his artistic journey as a lead singer and guitarist. Always one to appreciate the relationship between audio and video, he knew his band needed a music video to accompany their single, so he took a shot at filming and editing one.
“Looking back at that music video, even though it was awful, it makes me smile because that was the first time I fell in love with the filmmaking process. Creating visuals to my music felt like the ultimate creative outlet. A few years later, I was composing music for a Netflix documentary and that was my introduction to the film and documentary industry,” Zarfati explained.
Zarfati quickly bought his first camera and began looking for the story that he needed to tell. Fast forward two years later, and he not only found the story but also his camera of choice with the Blackmagic URSA Mini Pro 12K digital film camera.
“There’s something about telling real stories with real people that feels so rewarding,” he said. “To be able to give someone a voice and a platform that otherwise no one would hear or see, and to then give the world a different perspective on a subject is amazing. You can do something similar with narrative films of course, but for me, there’s something more impactful with documentaries.”
After a few years of directing and shooting small projects, Zarfati got a call from the owner of a local gym to do a promo video. “From the first moment I walked in there I knew this was the story I was looking for,” he noted. “The gym had so many incredibly inspiring characters. Most of them came from third world countries, escaped oppressive governments, and gave up everything, their family, their home, and way of life, to come to America and get a chance to follow their dreams of making it to the UFC. The drama and passion of an underdog story is something everyone wants to see and it gives people hope. Whether they fail or succeed, it doesn’t matter. The fact that they have the courage to sacrifice everything is inspiring and resonates with me.”
Creating a Cinematic Docuseries
Applying that same discipline, Zarfati threw himself into creating his docuseries “Law of the Goat,” which follows athletes on their journeys to become the greatest of all time.
“We take a deep dive into their lives and find out what an athlete has had to sacrifice to compete at the highest level,” explained Zarfati. “We explore their home lives, training, diet, and mindset as they prepare for the next big moment in their career. My goal is to make this series feel real, like you are engrained in their lives, but I also want it to have aspects of the cinematography and music that feel like a movie at times.”
From a cinematography standpoint, when it comes to shooting a documentary Zarfati loves the challenge of having to “find the shot” rather than staging it. “My goal is to make my documentaries feel a lot more like a film but at the same time, preserve the true authenticity of the moment,” he said. “As such, camera selection is a key component for that.”
Filming began with a Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 6K digital film camera and was upgraded to an URSA Mini Pro 12K as the A camera, with a Pocket Cinema Camera 6K Pro then supplementing as the B camera.
“We fell in love with the Pocket’s interface, size, and beautiful image quality, all for such a low cost,” said Zarfati. “The 12K was added because we need the ability to shoot 8K during fights and then crop in and reframe the shot. When you’re shooting a live sporting event, you only have one chance to capture that moment so having that flexibility in post definitely helps. The other reason we got the 12K was for its superior color and image. The Gen 5 color science is incredible. They are truly cinematic cameras.”
Shooting in Blackmagic RAW, Zarfati also appreciates the URSA Mini Pro 12K’s dynamic range and the way it handles highlights, noting, “Even if they’re a little overexposed, the recovery is incredible. We used the Pocket 6K Pro as a B cam, and it pairs perfectly with the URSA. We use it as a second camera on all our interviews, as well as a third and fourth camera on our fight nights.”
With two episodes under his belt and more in production, Zarfati releases them on his YouTube channel Law of The Goat, while showcasing behind the scenes content and filmmaking tutorials on his YouTube channel Alex Zarfati.
“I think YouTube and my film career go hand in hand. My YouTube channel has not just made me a better creator, but it also helps connect me with thousands of other filmmakers that I have hired for ‘Law of the Goat’ or other productions that I’m directing,” he explained. “It’s also great for attracting new clients and opportunities to work with other brands and companies. I was hired by another fight promoter to produce and direct their content because they found my documentaries on YouTube.”
Zarfati cites leveraging YouTube as a distribution platform as life changing for both “Law of the Goat” and his work as a filmmaker.
“For me, it’s been a huge help in producing the content that I want to make. There have been a lot of things that I have learned in my journey as a filmmaker, and there’s so many things that I wish I had done differently. I want to help young filmmakers avoid the same mistakes I made, show my journey along the way, and hopefully help the community from my experience,” he concluded. “YouTube is not easy, and in the beginning, it’s a lot more work, but if you stick with it, you can not only make money but actually follow your creative vision.”
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