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How I Shot That: Lyric Cabral on Shooting an FBI Sting Operation in ‘(T)ERROR’

How I Shot That: Lyric Cabral on Shooting an FBI Sting Operation in '(T)ERROR'

Co-directed by Lyric R. Cabral and David Felix Sutcliffe, “(T)ERROR” gives viewers unprecedented access to a covert counterterrorism sting, through the perspective of a 63-year-old Black revolutionary turned FBI informant. It is the first documentary to place filmmakers on the ground during an active FBI domestic counterterrorism sting operation. 

“(T)ERROR” premiered at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival where it won a Special Jury Prize for Break Out First Feature. It was also awarded the Grand Jury Prize at the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival. It will have its theatrical premiere on Wednesday, October 7, at IFC Center in New York before a limited national theatrical rollout. 

Earlier this year at the Sundance Film Festival, Indiewire asked Cabral, co-director of “(T)ERROR,” about how she shot the tense thriller.

READ MORE: This Award-Winning Documentary Needs Your Help to Support Journalistic Freedom

What camera and lens did you use?
 I filmed on the 5D Mark II and on the Canon C100. I used mainly a Canon EF 70-200 mm lens, Canon EF 50 mm lens, and Canon EF 24-70.

This was the most difficult shot on my movie — and this is how I pulled it off: As a photojournalist accustomed to documenting a decisive moment captured in a still image, it was initially difficult for me to not turn off the camera while filming “(T)ERROR.” I missed a lot of moments during initial shoots (though we had the audio) as I transitioned from creating still to moving images. While our main character gathered intelligence for the sting operation actively profiled in “(T)ERROR,” he was often guarded. I consider many shots in the film to be difficult — not in the technical sense — in that they required a substantive time and effort to achieve. In order to visualize the complexities of the informant’s role in the active sting, I had to be patient and roll picture without attempting to turn the camera off.

This is my favorite cinematographer, and why: I really like the cinematography of Bradford Young, particularly his work on the films “Pariah,” “Mother of George” and “Mississippi Damned.” The intentionality of Bradford’s use of color in each film is impressive. His color palette reflects changes in both narrative and emotional resonance throughout a film.

Editor’s Note: The “How I Shot That” series is part of the Indiewire and Canon U.S.A. partnership at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival in Park City, where we celebrate cinematography at Canon 
Creative Studio on Main Street. Read the entire series here. Note that this  story was originally published on January 25, 2015.

READ MORE: Bradford Young on How He Became One of the Busiest Cinematographers Working Today

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