Diego Dezuttere  shoots Hidden Assets   

Hidden Assets is an Irish/Canadian/Belgian crime drama. A spinoff of Acceptable RiskHidden Assets follows the Criminal Assets Bureau as they are drawn into an investigation with Antwerp at the heart of the events. DP Diego Dezuttere captured the Belgium sequences.  

Dezuttere left film school in 2000 and then began working as a camera assistant. “I was Lou Berghmans camera assistant for years,” says Dezuttere. “Then I told Lou I wanted to operate myself and I took a step down. I did documentary, current affairs and TV. That was interesting. A crash course in a way as you step into the room and you have an idea of the story you want to tell. Every day a new subject and a new opportunity to do and try out things. In the meantime, I did some B cam operating jobs with Lou, but also with other DPs such as Michel van Laer. In 2008 came my first big television series project. It was just a matter of good luck and opportunity to jump the gap. I did lots of B camera jobs for ‘Skyline’ a production company. They had a project called De Rodenburgs and that was my first time as DP. The idea was to do it with two cameras and I started as B roll and then I upgraded and became the DP of the show. The creative director Frank Van Mechelen decided I should do it on my own and it became a single camera TV show. There was a really experienced gaffer, Tom Van den Abbeele with me. We started together and then after two months he left for other jobs and I was on my own. You swim and you survive and that’s how it started for me. I always had a love for cinematography and lights, but that was my first experience and role as DP.” 

Dezuttere first got involved with Hidden Assets during Covid and had little time to prepare. “Tim Fleming, the UK based DP was originally attached,” notes Dezuttere.“There was a personal issue and he needed to go home. I was the replacement. I started on the show. The ship was sailing and they had already eight shooting days when I replaced Tim. It was not a romance or anything and I had to handle it together with the great crew and marvellous cast. They also asked me to shoot the second season. I was very happy when they called me. Tim had a different way of working and had a more British approach, which means a large lighting truck full of gear. They had 9kW HMI’s, skypanels, lights ‘à volenté’. That was really impressive for me because I’d only ever used more than two 4kWs or something like that. There was also a grip truck with a crane full time on set.” 

“The way of working in Belgium is a little bit different,” Dezuttere continues. “Of course, we have a lighting truck with gaffer and light technicians and a key grip, but it isn’t on that big scale. We have a crew of around 15-20 people and with Hidden Assets it’s more like 35 to 40 people and that’s just crew. It was a big difference for me, but a good experience and I enjoyed it. If we need a crane in Belgium, then we rarely have 1 or 2days on a show with a crane, but if you permanently have a crane then you can instantly choose to do a crane shot. It was like a little boy in the toy shop. You can do whatever you want as long as you finish on time. It was a really nice experience. The tricky part of it was keeping an eye on the storytelling and to not get lost with all the rings and bells of having Steadicam shots, gimbal shots and crane shots. We managed it and they were happy. It was really fun, but it was also during Covid. It was a good opportunity for me and I’m very thankful to the directors, producers and executive producers.” 

Fleming did all the recces for the first season as Dezuttere was brought on late in the process. “Tim originally decided about the equipment that we would use. I only had to pick what we needed, but it was there. Together with the two directors, Thaddeus O’Sullivan and Kadir Ferati Balçi. I had already done some TV series with Kadir, he’s a good friend. So we already knew each other. We have the same film language and approach and we don’t need many words, we’re already on the same page. Thaddeus was new to me. He’s Irish, but London based. I was a little bit excited because he is extremely experienced and is now in his 70s. He has done quite a lot of films and TV shows. His last film The Miracle Club had A list actors such as Maggie Smith, Kathy Bates and Laura Linney. He told us lots of stories and anecdotes about working with them. I was very impressed at the start, but after the first day we became friends in a way. He’s a very funny guy. As I missed the recces on the first season, my input wasn’t very big at that point and most of the decisions were already made, but the further we went along I could start to make it my own. So, it was different from what Tim did. They are actually talking about a third season now and hopefully they call me again. I hope Thaddeus will be there. It will be wonderful if he does the third season as co-director with Kadir.”  

As production had already began when Dezuttere came onboard there was little time to look at any references. “It’s also just a police series. I don’t want to say ‘just’ a police series, but sometimes it is what it is, I love to keep it simple,” says Dezuttere. “The scripts are good and it was Peter McKenna who did the outlines and he’s a good writer. He also wrote Gangs of London. When I read the scripts the visualization comes quite automatically, it’s instinct. With Kadir, it was easy to get onboard. I had more to figure out with Thaddeus. I needed to get used to his way of working and his language as a director.” 

The first season was captured with the Sony Venice, while season two was captured using the ARRI Alexa Mini LF with Leica R Cinescope TLS lenses. “I’m more of an ARRI lover,” admits Dezuttere. “As the second season was more my show, I chose the Mini LF and I also really like these lenses. The depth of field when you use them wide open and their focus roll off. They are very characteristic and that’s the look. Actually, I did it together with a DIT/onset grader Maxim Van de Sompele, an onset LUT. That was the look of Hidden Assets for the second season. It was based on the first season, but I adapted it and it was nicer.”  

For Dezuttere the most challenging sequence to realize was the Antwerp fashion show in the first season. “We were shooting during covid 19 and so we weren’t allowed to get many people in one area. I think we were restricted to 100 people in one big room, but we had to shoot like it was really crowded, so that was the biggest challenge of season one. We took long lenses all the time with a lot of foreground and extras just passing by, so it looks crowded and busy. It was a huge sequence. It was shot in a big hall in Antwerp, so top shots weren’t possible as there were not a lot of people there. We needed lots of movement with the extras. We shot it with two cameras. There was also the bomb explosion which we did with a combination of VFX and special effects, but that was really manageable in a way, and we storyboarded. It turned out well and people believed it.” 

Dezuttere was responsible for shooting the Belgium sequences throughout both series. The Irish sequences were shot by Simon Walsh for season one and Richard Kendrick for the second season. “It was 61 shooting days in total and I did 40 of them,” notes Dezuttere. “Richard and I talked a lot through and I was the leading DOP. It’s an Irish-Belgian-Canadian series. The post-production was in Montreal and that was a nice surprise that I had to do the post-production over there.”

Working with an Irish and Canadian cast was a fun experience for Dezuttere. “The actors are different. They are exceptionally well trained, very professional and they only need one or two takes. Not only great acting, they hit their mark and feel the light. And precisely this is also a very big challenge for my crew. We also have to perform flawlessly. All together and all on the same time. It’s demanding, but at the end of the filming day, it gives a wonderful feeling. That was the most fun part of Hidden Assets. Next on my list is the fourth season of Professor T, and I’m looking forward to filming with a British cast. You are forced to prepare extremely well and I love that.” concludes Dezuttere.

By Oliver Webb 

HIDDEN ASSETS (s2), a TV-series cinematographed by Diego Dezuttere /Richard Kendrick, directed by K.Ferati Balci & T.O’ Sullivan from SBC on Vimeo.

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