Nicholson Ren | Cinematographer & Colourist

Mummy's Boy

Mummy's Boy

Mummy's Boy is an Australian short film based on a play written by Daniel Hayward.  The film is about a mother and her gay son, and the hot guy that enters their lives... briefly.  It's about family and control, sexuality and secrets. It's about relationships and lust... and doing whatever is necessary to survive.

I first heard about Mummy’s boy back in April 2018 when Scott came on board as 1st AD on Bunker. From there we had a 2 month pre-production phase before filming began. The crew consisted of all familiar faces I had recently worked with before which made me more confident going into longer form content production. I made a point to be as involved as I possibly could even attending auditions and callbacks. This was also the first time we produced a short scene for crowdfunding purposes to launch our successful Kickstarter campaign with.

The Kickstarter

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We filmed the teaser scene in a milk bar using mainly practical lighting and a 4-Bank Kino Flo. I was trying to re-create a 90’s film style look with some slight green-yellow tinge to the highlights so that it was a little off-putting. Exposure for the scene was set to T2.8 except for the slow-mo which was set at T4. The slow-mo section was shot on a Canon 5D MK III at 60 fps and the colour was matched during colour grading to the Blackmagic picture profile. Filming the teaser was a great way to introduce backers to the world of Mummy’s Boy and to generate interest in the project.

Interviews were conducted at an arts-friendly cafe after the teaser scene was shot and consisted of just 2 Aputure LED lights with CTO. An initial interview with myself, the director, Scott Membry and the production designer, Yvette Bereton was also recorded but ultimately did not make the cut.


View the Kickstarter campaign here -


The Interview

This scene makes up around 40% of the film. Tammy and Trevor are being interrogated by the police about the disappearance of Guy and at the start we’re not sure if they are telling the truth. I went for a softer diffused look in order to make them look cleaner and as if they don’t have anything to hide similar to their characters intentions with the police. The position of the camera was dictated by a requirement from the director that both frames needed to see both characters to indicate that the interviews were done at different times of the day. Both actors were covered in a static wide shot and close up.

Trevors’ Set up

Setting up the background for Trevor’s frame was more complicated than setting up for his foreground. When shooting on location my first concern is the position of the sun for the duration of the shoot. For this particular day the sun was pouring into the background and I had to prop up some blacks to block it out and recreate it with a couple of red-heads with CTB gels. If we didn’t control the sunlight we would lose the initial pattern on the kitchen wall as the sun moved over the house and the background would change during the day. As the scene would be around 1-2 hours in the characters life I couldn’t have the background changing too drastically or there would be continuity issues. The 2 bank kino was brought into the house and closer to Tammy in the background to highlight her more and to make the sunlight feel stronger. I also decided to keep the laundry door open for more depth and a little variation of colour. For the main subject; Trevor, I had both my Aputure LED lights bounced into a reflector alongside the sunlight coming in through the window to key him. As this side of the window was not in the direct path of the sun I did not need to black it out, just enhanced to the level I wanted it to be at.

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Tammy’s Set up

For Tammy’s interview, I kept a similar approach to lighting the main subject. The background was just natural daylight and we had a small LED light to try and balance out the sunlight coming in so that I could see more detail coming in through windows. We had to position the table out slightly furthur than normal in order to frame Trevor nicely but it didn’t look like it was too much out of the ordinary.

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The Dance


This scene was meant to recreate the vibe of a 90’s suburban dance party. We had some party lights brought in to throw some movement and shapes on the walls while we used two Skypanels set to party mode to have an atmosphere of changing colours. All the multi-coloured lights were brought in ourselves and decorated as simply as possible. Initial ideas about how the scene was shot were thrown out as we decided we didn’t want to see the whole room. All the shots were limited to one direction and all the crew remained at the back of the room the whole time. The scene was also to be the introduction of "Guy” - our mysterious man that develops a relationship with both mother and son.

We used the Ursa Mini Pro exposed to F2.8 at 800 ISO because we needed a more realistic environment. When the characters became more intimate and were dancing together I went with an easyrig to try and move with the characters to try and keep up with their energy. Any shot that we did with the Trevor and Tammy, I replicated that with Guy and Tammy to show a comparison between the two males and how they are in a similar position with Tammy.


Date Night

We had to fake day for night in this location and make it look like dinner-time at a diner. These set-ups are always the most interesting as it involves more intricate set-ups to create a realistic environment. The location was only open to us for a couple of hours so we took a very DIY approach to getting the set ups we needed. Our shots were focused on the middle booth where the couple sat but the angle of the camera would make the whole cafe visible and so we had to make sure it was consistent with what we wanted to show.

Cafe Location with China Lanterns on C-stands

Cafe Location with China Lanterns on C-stands

Blankets were hung over windows at the front and the back so that no light spill would hit the walls and subject (below). This enabled us to control the light levels in the room and also the colour temperature of the scene. We use lanterns (above) that had dimmable 4200K 1000 Lumen bulbs to act as a key and back light. T-shirts were used as skirts to prevent spill on to the wall and keep the light focused towards the booth. I chose to use these soft china lanterns to light the scene in order to create a more romantic environment. A beanie was placed over a wall light directed towards the table to stop it spot-lighting.

Digidolly with Wei Feng Tripod

Digidolly with Wei Feng Tripod

Our Digidolly set-up was very rough. My tripod was not wide enough reach the leg holes and had to be secured to the middle of the tubes using gaffer tape. It still served it’s purpose and gave us a smooth shot.