America has Natalee Holloway, Romania – Elodia Ghinescu. Which is the link between the two names? You got it! The disappearance without a trace.
Romanian director and cinematographer Amza Moglan, godson of the famous Romanian actor Amza Pellea, had the great opportunity to be part of a complex and intricate project of the movie world in general, documentaries in particular. He left the narrative feature world for a while, and accepted the challenge that the documentary movie is offering. Amza Moglan got his start on ’There will be blood’ (2007) Oscar movie, and never looked back. The most recent succes is ’The Disappearance Of Natalee Holloway’, which premiered on August 17th.
Although he said in his first interview for the Romanian media that he ‘never takes Hollywood too seriously, being a funny place’, his passion for cinematography bears him on the British shooting studios.
He gave a helping hand by shaping as close as possible to reality the image of Natalee Holloway disappearance, a name which has become inescapably familiar 12 years ago to all American media landscape, when she went missing in Aruba. Now her story is once again told in ’The Disappearance Of Natalee Holloway’, a new six-part documentary series on the Oxygen Network that explores a new lead in the hunt to solve one of America’s most famous missing persons cases.
The disappearance of Natalee Holloway remains very much an open case — at least in the court of public fascination, horror, and outrage. Maybe a new documentary named ’The Disappearance Of Elodia Ghinescu’ could be Amza’s first project in Romania…
How have you been involved in this complex and intricate project? The disappearance of Natalee Holloway is still a publicized topic in U.S. even after 12 years since it happened… Is it the first documentary you worked on?
In February 2017, I had a conversation with Executive Producer Alex Weresow about a new crime documentary, ‘a live investigation of a cold case’, was all I was told at the time. Back in February I had already been shooting for a few months another documentary, ‘Islam & The Future of Tolerance’ based on the book with the same title, and it had been a pretty gruelling experience, hectic schedule, long flights between London & LA and a stressful all around environment. But I was intrigued about the possibility of filming a live criminal investigation, and adding my own cinematic vocabulary to what is possibly the most notorious murder case in the United States in recent history. Although it was to be a long haul, I was also going to collaborate with some very talented people and fellow filmmakers like Alex and Jeff Cunningham.
In a nutshell, the documentary features investigator T.J. Ward and Dave Holloway, Natalee Holloway’s father as they follow a new lead that promises to elucidate what happened to her in Aruba in 2005.
Did you make the cinematography for the whole series?
Yes I did, along with Jeff. You can see my touch specifically in the moody miniature work, re-creations, high speed moving shots etc. Following Dave around Aruba as he tracks back through the cold case, was eerie and heart-breaking. He is very humble and good natured, a straight shooter and to see him re-live those moments was nothing short of life altering.
You talk so passionate about everything you’ve done. Give us some technical details … for ’the connoisseurs’.
For the most part we shot on two Arri Amiras with Canon 17-120, very run & gun set-ups but I also got to use an Alexa Mini and a Red Helium 8K for the more elegant, fine tuned shots like the diorama of the island’s lighthouse or the night of the murder, re-creation shots out in the desert and on the beach.
We also made extensive use of a Sony A7s on a Movi gimbal for a lot of the slow motion work.
I’m in the process of color grading right now and despite the variety of mediums, the look is very consistent. I found the Red Helium 8K sensor to be amazing in low light and I was able to blend It seamlessly with the Alexa Mini. Both these sensors give phenomenal images. The Amira is a work horse, extremely dependable and I was pleasantly surprised at how well it rendered skin tones even in the most testing lighting conditions.
The lighting package was minimal, mostly LiteMats and KinoFlos, Arri Skypanels and Joker bugs for book lights when possible.
How much did you work for this documentary?
Although it was 6 months of hellish work, with constant back and forth flights from LA to Mississippi, New Orleans and Aruba, a very tense story that kept teetering on the brink of chaos at every turn, it’s one of the most rewarding projects I’ve ever been involved in.
With which personalities in the field have you worked with?
I’d like to thank Alex & Jeff, Lindsey Savino, LB Horschler, Dunbar W. Dicks and every single person that made this happen. It’s a very important story and I hope it brings much needed relief to Natalee’s family and some resolve to the case.
What can you tell me about movie costs?
I’m not at liberty to discuss numbers as far as the budget goes, but part of why I signed up for the job to begin with was the promise of a budget that would allow for cinematic images, which usually is rare on this type of documentary.
As for what’s next, I think I’m ready to move into the narrative feature world again, after two back to back documentaries. ‘The Disappearance of Natalee Holloway premiered August 17th on NBC’s Oxygen Network and it runs for six weeks, my other documentary ‘Islam & The Future of Tolerance’ should be released later this year, most likely on the festival circuit first, and I also have two feature films in post production, ‘Green Ghost’ which took a little longer than expected and ‘Colossal Youth’, a coming of age high school story featuring the members of the popular band R5.