Panasonic VHS-C Movie Camera NV-A1 - hero image - photograph by Egmont Contreras
Panasonic VHS-C Movie Camera NV-A1 - hero image - photograph by Egmont Contreras
Panasonic VHS-C Movie Camera NV-A1 (photograph by Egmont Contreras)
Stories & Ideas

Mon 08 Feb 2021

THAT fish tank scene in Romeo + Juliet & the Panasonic VHS-C Movie Camera

ACMI Collection Behind the scenes Exhibition Film Personal Response Preservation
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Egmont Contreras

Visitor Experience Officer

On seeing this camcorder in our collection, Egmont Contreras recalls working under the direction of the meticulous Baz Luhrmann on the set of Romeo + Juliet in Mexico City.

While photographing the objects in our new centrepiece exhibition, a colleague and I were talking about all the details in film production that sometimes pass by our eyes.

Displayed within the Moving Minds section of The Story of the Moving Image is the Panasonic VHS-C Movie Camera NV-A1. During the production of Romeo + Juliet (1996) at the historic Churubusco Studios in Mexico City, I often saw Baz Luhrmann carrying around a similar Panasonic camcorder. He was frequently accompanied by two teens, who I later learned were Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes.

I was lucky enough to be working at the props workshop in the studios during the production. Luhrmann used to come by once a day, camcorder in hand, to check every single detail of what was being built in the shop. He was so meticulous with details. I remember that we had to change the paint colour on the coconuts that would hang from the palm trees at the Capulets' party several times until Luhrmann was satisfied. In the film you can see the palm trees in the party scene but not the coconuts.

One day, I was asked to remove the paint off a tiny little red ship that was painted gold. The ship was to be placed at the bottom of a fish tank. However, they realised the paint was harmful to the expensive exotic fish. It took me two full shifts to remove all the paint and leave the red plastic colour. Nobody wanted fish dying during the production. Unfortunately, the two seconds the ship appears in the scene could never do justice to all the effort I put in to removing the gold paint.

Next time you see this wonderful film, pay attention to the scene where Romeo and Juliet see each other with loving eyes through the fish tank, you’ll see a sunk red ship and happy, healthy fish swimming around.

Romeo + Juliet fish tank scene
There it is! Repainted partially with a less toxic gold paint (still from Romeo + Juliet, 1996)

– Egmont Contreras, Visitor Experience Officer*

*Many of the beautiful hi-res photos of the objects in our collection were taken by Egmont. Browse our collection to view some of his work.

See the Panasonic VHS-C Movie Camera and other film objects on display in our new centrepiece exhibition

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