A Doco and a DSLR

fall of the Berlin Wall

November 1989: Japanese language student Mitsui celebrates the fall of the fall of the Berlin Wall
Photo: Tony Forster

Over the next year or so while trying to raise funds to shoot the major part of the film, interviews with people I’d known in Germany at the time the wall had fallen, I was also seeking a producer. Thanks to a Writers Guild “Meet a Producer” speed dating evening, I found myself in touch again with Christina Milligan, whom I’d first met at Downstage in Wellington. I persuaded her to let me show her the promo. Her first comment was, “My God, your cameraman is good!”

The next day, she phoned me and offered to come on board.

I took almost three years to garner enough funds to return to Germany to shoot the major part of the doco: 30 days of shooting plus two months of archive research and so forth. Davorin was available and keen, and for mate’s rates, for all of which I will always be eternally grateful to him.

In preparing a budget under Christina’s guidance, I had planned for hiring a local to help with gear, translate when necessary and suchlike. But Davorin had a money-saving solution to that issue!

He introduced me to his latest acquisition – a Panasonic Lumix GH2. He was as ecstatic about the camera’s capabilities as he had been about his previous camera three years earlier. Initially I was quite sceptical.

Not too long before, I’d firsted a NZFC-funded short. When we turned up on location the first morning, the crew pulled a DSLR out of the van and set it up on a mini-tripod for a car passing shot. I looked around for the real camera.

Unlike that first scene, the majority of the shoot was at night, of teenagers playing basketball. Fast movement in very low light, a camera with a miniscule monitor screen, and no budget for a separate monitor, of course. It became clear early on that focus was a major challenge.

However Davorin assured me that the GH2 was a vast move forward in DSLR technology – and that I need have no worries, even shooting at night. The kit Davorin put together included the GH2, lenses, batteries, filters, tripod, two small lights, an editing laptop, sound gear and his “poor man’s steadicam”, a Blackbird camera stabilizer – all within two backpacks and two tripod shoulder bags. Moving from mini-DV tapes to SD cards also saved some space and weight. Thus I was able to cut out the cost of hiring of a local dogsbody from the budget.

Panasonic Lumix GH2

Panasonic Lumix GH2


  1. Hi Tony and congratulations,
    Thrilled to hear you have got your project completed.I was doing a doco on the Maori Battalion in Germany in Nov 89 when the wall fell.It must have been amazing for you in Berlin then.Davorin and I did a doco together on Dalvanius and he was a pleasure to work with. Please pass on my regards to him.Best Wishes.Mike

    Mike O’Connor 6 years ago Reply