Tom Hardy in Mad Max: Fury Road. Photo: Jasin Boland
Whether on the set of The Matrix, Skyfall or Mad Max: Fury Road, Jasin Boland has just one aim – taking a photo that tells a story.
The Australian stills photographer has been capturing iconic images on action films for more than two decades, including of Matt Damon in the Bourne movies, Tom Cruise in Mission: Impossible II and III and Keira Knightley and Jason Clarke in the coming climbers-trapped-by-a-snowstorm thriller Everest.
Keanu Reeves and Hugo Weaving in The Matrix Revolutions. Photo: Photo: Jasin Boland
"I don't go out there to try and make people look pretty," Boland says. "If they look pretty, that's a byproduct. I go out there and try and capture a raw emotion. I treat it like it's a real [life] environment and I'm there as a photojournalist."
Boland, who has just finished shooting stills for the Dwayne Johnson earthquake movie San Andreas on the Gold Coast, sees his job as capturing a telling moment that often ends up on the movie's poster. He thinks of a film set as "a game park for a photographer".
"To be able to go out there and see this wonderful process, everything from moving the company in to watching a director talk to his actors or looking at a storyboard then an actor laying lines out in front of you – it blows me away," he says.
Charlize Theron in Mad Max: Fury Road. Photo: Jasin Boland
When Boland speaks to emerging filmmakers at Tropfest's Roughcut seminar in Sydney this weekend, he will stress how important good stills are in promoting a film.
"Even in our digital age, most people are not necessarily seeing the trailer first," he says. "They're probably seeing an image first and that will pique their interest to go and delve deeper into the world of that film."
Even if his photographs are valuable later, Boland is acutely aware that sometimes the stills photographer is in the way on set. Some actors are happy with his taking photos during an intense scene, others prefer to be left to it.
Mad Max: Fury Road. Photo: Photo: Jasin Boland
"Nine-tenths of my job is actually knowing what to walk away from," he says. "It's about patience, timing and not being upset. If they see you as someone who's respectful of their craft and what they're delivering, they're more inclined to give you more further down the track."
To stay unobtrusive, Boland avoids using a flash and houses his camera inside a padded case to dampen the shutter noise.
"It's all about slipping into the cracks," he says. "They know you're there but if they can't feel your presence, they're going to give more. And you're going to get more out of it."
On set: Film stills shot by Australian Jasin Boland
Mad Max: Fury Road. Photo: Jasin Boland
Boland worked as a newspaper photographer in Australia, Hong Kong and London before switching to stills for a TV show in Queensland.
"It was everything that I got from working for a newspaper – all the action and the camaraderie – but I had a better chance of coming home at the end of the day," he says.
While film sets often involve long, slow periods setting up shots, Boland says it is never boring. "There's always something to do, there's always someone to chat to, there's always something think about. I do a lot of choreography of my images. I'll watch a rehearsal and I'll pick out key moments and try and pull those key moments off.
Jasin Boland on the set of Everest.
"A scene might be running for two or three minutes and the image I want is only going to be there for 10 seconds so there's quite a lot of planning.
"With the big action films, I'll mount a lot of [cameras on] rigs and set them off remotely. Plus I'll be harnessed to things: I might be up somewhere high or I might be on a vehicle."
As his first stills from Mad Max: Fury Road are released, Boland is particularly bullish about George Miller’s new instalment, which is due out in May. Tom Hardy takes over from Mel Gibson in a movie shot largely in the Namibian desert.
"The film is going to be epic," he says. "What [production designer] Colin Gibson and George have done creating that world, it's so exciting for people involved in the process. It quite possibly could reinvigorate the whole live-action action film again.
"And Tom is intense. He's going to be a great Mad Max."
When it comes to a favourite image from all his movies, Boland goes back to The Matrix sequels.
“It's a scene with Neo and Smith fighting in the rain. It's quite a slow shutter and they're in the middle of throwing a punch at each other and all the rain is flicking off their arms. That's an image which people seem to like."