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Behind the Scenes with Leo Kawabe

by Michael Cassara on May 10, 2019

Today we had the chance to sit down with Cinematographer Leo Kawabe about his latest piece, “Dust”. Leo used Tiffen Filters throughout the production. “Dust” is a short film that mixes poetry and visual drama to tell the story of Zen and Brooke; two souls connected by the same pain. Between the sky and the salt beds lies a world of dust; where sometimes, what is left is either death or a reminder of it. The reasons for choosing death are not always clear, but we can look deeper into the human vessels that reach this threshold.”

Tell us a little about the concept of this piece… What was the look you were going for?

First of all, this was a very limited film in terms of budget, crew, time and equipment.

It was done by me and the director (Renato Cabral). We rented a car and traveled from LA to Las Vegas to shoot in 6 days.

The first 3 days were used for tech scout which was crucial since the locations were very far from one another and we needed to calculate the logistics, especially to be able to get the best light.

The look the Director and I had spoken about was to have an organic feel to the images; making the most out of the natural light and the locations.

Were you inspired by anything in particular to create this look?

We had a lot of different references that we shared between myself and the director during the preparation process. It wasn’t really one image in particular… but more like mixes of different references to make up our look.

What the references had in common was the organic and natural feel that we wanted for the film.

What was “Dust” Filmed on?

The camera was a RED EPIC DRAGON. We used ATLAS ORION Anamorphic Lenses as well as a set of COOKE Panchro vintage lenses.

How did you use Tiffen Filters to enhance your vision?

Having very limited crew, I had to decide on using a really light set. I decide to go with a light Mattebox from Bright Tangerine having only 2 trays for the filters.

I went with using a set of Glimmerglass to break the digital feeling of the images and also to bring it some extra texture. I blended the Glimmerglass filters together with a set of the new Tiffen NATural ND filters to control the bright light.

In addition, I also used some closeup filters for the very tight macro shots. When paired with Anamorphic lenses, the closeup filters allow you to get closer to the subject by increasing the minimum focal distance.


Written and directed by – Renato Cabral
Director of photography – Leo Kawabe
Cast – Zen and Brooke Pascoe
Soundtrack – Pedro Jaguaribe e Zé Godoy – Carbono Sound Lab
Color grading – Serginho Pasqualino Jr – Bleach Post
Post production – Rafael Hernandes, Ailton Piuí, Edson Costa, Herique Freitas, Danilo Lirav,
Design – Rafael Monzillo

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