Friday, January 23, 2009

Lessons on filmmaking : from the office peon

Now we all know how in most cases a student fiction film turns out to be – it’s almost an exercise in testing a viewer’s patience – (except a few rare student films or filmmakers who have genuinely dished out brilliant stuff.) The rest of us learn the hard way. Thus, the first cut of my final graduation student film was no different – it had some really bad editing, wrong choices of camera lens & angles, pretty ordinary framing, wrong lighting, continuity errors and if that was not enough – there were the wonderful amateur actors!

Agreed the thrill of working with a Super 16mm ARRI camera, the different kinds of lights, the AVID editing machine etc is something you wont get to do daily in life, even when you are into the film industry - but at the helm of everything lies the story – even with all the blunders you make while making a film – it is important that you are able to tell a story. The normal audience is not going to react to your ordinary lighting or the one odd bad cut. If the protagonist or the characters are not going to appeal to the audience – then it can be termed as a failure. Even the best of the equipments/filmmaking tools are not going to save it. Thus with all of this in mind, when I watched my final film made a year back, I thought it just doesn’t work for me now – along with the technical errors, which I cant undo now, the film was just way too long and dragging at times (which I think is a recipe for disaster for a short film) thus I thought its time to re-cut and trying seeing it in a new light. Probably adding a few aspects, which I have learnt by being in the film industry since last 7 months. With these thoughts in my mind – I started re-editing the film – thanks to the availability of an editing machine (read: FCP on Mac Pro) from a friend. Now when you have had made the cuts for the day, as a principle I never watch it then and there before retiring. I always prefer watching the next day – and see whether I can still stand those cuts. Its something I picked up from copywriting – if you have written a tagline or a copy for any product – if you read there itself, its always going to look great. But if you come the next morning and read it and even if then it appeals to you – then that line will be a winner, if not – its time to re-work. So with that thought in mind, when I was doing the re-edit of this film at a friend’s office place – the only person who came early morning there was the peon of the office. Now he used to see me working in early morning hours – but he kept himself busy in his daily chores but obviously if a film is being cut who can resist their eyes and observations. One day when I came and started watching the film, the peon joined me and I told him, am yet to cut so please don’t see and he said its ok, he wont give any reviews on it. After we finished the screening (read:15 mins) he was smiling, I looked towards him from the corner of my eye and as I was just going towards the computer, he said.
“itna achcha toh hai, badal kyon rahe ho?”.

How could I make him understand all those technical errors, which I just mentioned above and my desperate attempts to try and restructure the film – but as I started conversing with him, I realized probably for him as an audience this is working. He loved the fact that the Boy in the film is running and is tensed because his mother may get angry with him. What we call “empathize” – he could do with that character. I agreed to his points and didn’t touch the film then.

Agreed, this doesn’t make the film the way it had to be. It doesn’t make the film a good one. But what I learnt is as they say, “you never know how an audience will react”. I couldn’t judge how a normal film viewer may like it. I was always under the impression that if you have to show it to your contemporaries then what are the faults they are going to see in the film rather than watching the film. Have heard stories of how filmmakers say that “you should always make what you like to see” – and that’s why I was trying to modify but in the end I modified it a little and left the rest as for some particular individual it was working. And this aint an excuse to make a perfect film with all the technical finesse and the right tools to use while telling a particular story – but it is just one of the observations that I would like to share with the future filmmakers. Hope you like the film.

The film is called “The Homecoming”.

Part 1

Part 2

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