“Legally blind is a strange term,” says Peter Renzullo, who lost all but 3% of his eyesight in his teens. “The idea behind it is that you cannot legally drive. You’re not completely blind, because you can still get around. Most people who are legally blind have an issue with their eyesight that stops them from doing something like operating heavy machinery. But they walk around and adapt to the way things are.
“For my particular condition, which is called Cone Dystrophy, all my central vision is gone. So, if I look at a brick wall, I see the colour of the brick wall as a mash of colour. I don’t see the bricks individually. It’s just a blur. But I can still get around. My peripheral vision is not too bad, so for shooting a film, I’m using this little feature on the camera, the focus guide, which helps you highlight the edges of what’s in focus and I just look for that in my viewfinder. I can’t physically see if anything’s in focus at all without that, so that’s sort of how it works.”
Establishing himself as a musician, music producer and owner of Scudley Records in Perth, it’s truly phenomenal that Peter Renzullo’s aspirations lie in filmmaking.
Working with cinematographer Ben Knibb, Renzullo has produced an impressive trailer for Skylight – Caroline’s Tale, a feature film that he will be directing shortly.
“The idea behind making the trailer before actually getting into the shooting of the film is that we want to use this as a pitch to try and raise funds for the feature,” he says about the ambitious project. “With my very first feature film from a couple of years ago, Anticipation, we just started getting stuck in and shooting it. And we soon found that it was getting quite tight on our budget and also just on logistics of the thing. So we thought we’d try and do a different approach this time and just give them a teaser of what we can do off our own backs and with the funding behind it, we can make the full film a lot more sleek and time effective.”
“What happened is because Blackmagic Design got wind of what I was doing with their little production camera in the first film, and of course the fact that I’m legally blind too, there was interest to them that I was using one of their cameras and using the focus guide feature. They offered me their flagship model, which was the URSA Mini Pro G2. And they actually sent that to me, and I said, ‘Look, I’d love to shoot my next feature film on this camera’. We used that camera to shoot the new trailer, it’s a whole new level.
“For me, the main pitch, obviously, is the focus guiding. Every camera has it but for me, that was the biggest thing I needed to have control over. But even the way it shoots. In the previous camera, it shot in a format called Cinema DNG, which is a very large raw format. I actually ended up accruing about 80 terabytes worth of raw footage from my first film. It was huge. On the new URSA, they’ve got a new format called BRAW, Blackmagic Raw, and it’s about a third the size and same basic quality. It’s amazing. With the capacity on my drives, it’s much more lenient. And also, just the functionality of the thing. There are so many more options. It’s got an amazing slow-mo feature now. You can shoot in full 4.6K slow-mo at 120 frames per second.”
So, what’s Skylight – Caroline’s Tale about? “The inception of it was basically a concept album I’d written eight or nine years ago,” says Renzullo. “Each song would tell a different part of this story. It’s set in the 1930s in Perth and it’s a murder mystery around these two reclusive lovers who have an urban legend around their existence and what happened to them. And that gets turned into a play by some locals in the area at the time. So, it’s a depiction of the theatre – the play version of what actually happened – and also cuts to the reality of what happened.”
Naturally, Renzullo will place a great deal of importance on the sound design and soundtrack in the film.
“The soundtrack is going to be exploiting the new technology that came out around the time, stereophonic speakers, which of course, we just know as stereo speakers now. But back then, it was a massive big deal. I want to try to exploit that in the film by showing off the use of these stereophonic speakers, this new technology in 1939. The score is going to showcase the use of sound and the way it was perceived back in the day, like this other worldly thing.”
Watch out for Skylight – Caroline’s Tale in 2021.