Filmmaker and Sony Artisan Michael Rubenstein has worked on documenting crafting projects for a long time. A central focus of his work includes capturing and telling the stories of interesting people – including artisans who are handcrafting really nice things. In his latest short film, “The Knifemaker,” Rubenstein gives us a glimpse into the life of knife artist and handmade culinary knife creator Chelsea Miller.
Using a Sony Alpha 7C hybrid camera, 3 small primes and a still photography approach, Sony Artisan Michael Rubenstein creates a cinematic look at the life of a handmade knife artist.
“I had always wanted to tell the story of a knifemaker,” Rubenstein explains. “So I began researching small batch knife makers and her work really stood out to me. It was very beautiful, organic and artisanal. Most of the stuff she uses is recycled and the wood she uses for the handles comes from her family farm in Vermont. It just couldn’t be a better story.”
Rubenstein’s Compact Filming Setup
Rubenstein shot most of the footage for the film with the Sony Alpha 7C and three compact primes – the Sony 24mm f/2.8 G, Sony 40mm f/2.5 G and Sony 50mm f/2.5 G. “I had to travel to shoot this and wanted to pack light,” he says, “and the Alpha 7C with those prime lenses made that pretty easy. It’s probably half the size of the other Sony camera bodies I use and way less than the FX9. It still had a lot of features that I typically use and worked well in the low light situations that we had. It was just really easy to use.”
The compact prime lenses worked great for Rubenstein as he captured footage of Miller making the knives. The lenses provided a cinematic look that he says fits better with the storytelling. “These were visually appropriate lenses for what I was shooting,” he says. “Because we were getting so far in and close to what we were filming, I didn’t want to use a f/1.4 or f/1.2 the whole time. I wanted to have a little bit of depth to the images so you could actually see what they were making. They were the lenses I used when I wanted to be a little bit deeper.”
A Still Photography Approach To Video (& An Unexpected Pivot)
The Sony Artisan’s typical process for creating a video includes creating a storyboard and shot list so he knows what he needs to capture. Rubenstein also has a background in still photography and he uses that approach when planning out a film. “I think the first step when people go from shooting stills to shooting [motion] is they think of each shot as a still picture – and that is still how I approach things. I try to close my eyes and visualize the whole piece from beginning to end and how I want it to go and what story I want to tell. But each step of the way I have an image in mind and a frame might move depending on how I want to tell the story.”
He continues, “With this project though, things changed. I had originally planned on cutting back and forth between Chelsea making her knives and a chef using her knives. I just wasn’t able to get the footage I needed of the chef to make it work. But we had a ton of footage and audio of Chelsea talking about her dad and how he played a part in what she does. It was all so compelling that it was an easy pivot. There was still an amazing story there with depth and I think it turned out even better.”
The Sony Artisan enjoys using his craft to highlight the incredible skills of others, and getting to learn and tell the stories of interesting people is a lot of fun for the filmmaker. “It was an honor creating this video,” he says. It was a really fun project – Chelsea is a really cool person and is just talented all around.”
See more of knife artist Chelsea Miller’s work at chelseamillerknives.com.
See more of Michael Rubenstein’s work on his Alpha Universe Profile.