Tuesday, July 6, 2010

The Nightmare of a job called Script Supervision and my worst moment on the movie shoot

I have almost always refrained from writing on this blog about the ‘job’ I do in this big bad ‘stereotyped’ world of bollywood. And what job do I do. Hell… I want to make films that’s all I know. So before making them whatever ‘job’ I do or I will do is of not much consequence as far as the world goes. And Mumbai is a city that doesn’t allow you to live your dream without giving away a part of your soul. So different people do the ‘survival thing’ in different ways till that one fine good morning when the call comes that ‘your movie is on’. So measuring this predicament that every wannabe filmmaker in Andheri West goes through, I chose the nightmarish job called ‘script supervision’ – in the garb of ‘at least it allows me to be in the director’s mind’. The other options were already out, coz, believe you me, screenwriters are paid so badly that it’s not surprising that bollywood comes with the kind of shit that every Friday comes up at your nearby theatres. Also, I was not so confident about my screenwriting abilities so I kind of don’t want to die in poverty and keep whining and screaming my way about people and concepts, so I turned my eyes to Assistant Direction. But then came the reality. Assisting in Direction is the most fuck-all job on a movie set. Better to be an Assistant Editor, someone told me. After all, all that ADs (Assistant Directors) do is ‘breakdowns’ and ‘take the shit from director’. For more read this blog by a friend who has been in the same predicament and have been through that muck.

Yes that’s the reality. I have seen Assistant directors with no fucking knowledge of the medium yet having the balls to take names of ‘Wong-Kar-Wais’ and ‘Almodovars’. “khair, koi baat nai, jaisi uparwaale ki marzi’

And then one fine day, ‘Road, Movie’ gave me this chance to be a script supervisor. Now the world doesn’t know what a script supervisor does. Of course koi rocket science nahi hai yaaron. But frankly, I don’t even want to get into that. So simply put – it’s the girl or the guy who is besides the director with the notepad and keeps reminding him/her of the script and actor’s action continuity –
- like if there are any shots remaining for the day or location
- If there is some action written in the script that is not visually captured on the camera or
- If the shots taken for the sequence will be able to make a smooth edit or not.
- And of course she/he takes a note of everything that happens – that doesn’t include ‘how many times the director burped post-lunch’. So now you know how this job can lead to the kind of stress sometimes. Oh am I romantizing it? ‘khair chhodo, aage suno!’

Yesterday we worked overtime and completed a given a number of scenes at a location that was given to us for only a certain amount of days. So as the director was about to call out for those 2 wonderful words - ‘pack up’, he asked me ‘just make sure if we are done with all the shots, sequences and scenes written in the script for this location’. I quickly went through my check notes and lists and after a while told him – that it looks like we have achieved all the shots here. He smiled and we left for our respective rooms. I slept and suddenly in the middle of the night I got up with a start
– ‘Was there one shot in the shot division that I didn’t mention to the director’?
– ‘What if we will have to get that location again’?
– ‘What if the scene on the edit table doesn’t give a completion sense’?
– ‘The producer will kill me’.
I checked the whole script again and thankfully no shots/scenes were remaining. But it reminded me a moment in my favorite movie ‘Road, Movie’ where I did forget to mention one such important aspect of the script to the director. We just had the location i.e the beach of Mandvi, Kutch for a day and we had to get the final scene of ‘Road, Movie’ in that one evening. Not even evening, it was the magic light time – the final minutes when the sun is about to set. So we took the shots and returned happily to the hotel. The shooting at Mandvi Kutch was the second last day of the shoot for the film and the next day most of the crew was retuning to Mumbai except a few of us who were going to Dholavira, Kutch for the final shot of Vishnu on his green motor bike. At night, post dinner I went to the director’s room to pass him some camera battery charger or a certain firewire cable. But as he took that cable from me and was about to close the door, he said: ‘hardik, we forgot one action to cover – of Vishnu splashing the seawater on the truck’. I heard him and ohh..!! yeah we forgot.

What we!!! It was ME who forgot to tell you sir, it was a part of my job. Now if the reader has been lucky enough to see ‘Road, Movie’ than during the film, Vishnu takes this lumbering elephant-like truck through the dusty landscapes of Rajasthan and Gujarat. And the dust and heat of seven days must have made it really weary. So, logically when a tired and transformed Vishnu jumps into the sea for a quick bath, it is apt for him to bath the truck too along with him and splash some water on it. After all, the truck had been his best companion all along, so what if it gave him so much trouble. In the script too Dev Benegal had clearly written these lines:

“VISHNU strips his T-shirt off and jumps into the water.
His head underwater all the sounds disappear. He opens
his eyes. The sounds of the fair come back to him. An
echo in reverse.

He stays underwater for an uncomfortably long time.
And just as we are giving up- his head bounces out. His
loud gasp for breath comes as a shock.

He splashes water on the truck and cleans the dust off. “

So once I turned away from him saying sorry, I realized what a grave mistake I had made. I wouldn’t know then that how much of a difference it would make to the film, its impact or the absence of such a gesture on Vishnu’s part. All through out the post production of the film, I kept thinking ‘how can I bring that moment back to the film?’ The whole journey of Vishnu culminates when he makes the truck too bath with him in that sea. But I was helpless. And everytime I think of this moment, I cringe within. ‘Would that have made a difference’? How will I tackle a low-budget film production tomorrow if I forget these small details of my film? But then life has its own way of teaching you important lessons. And amidst the many many lessons that ‘Road, Movie’ taught me, this was the most important one. But I have made it a point to myself that post 2010 I am not doing this hell of a job called script supervision, if am lucky I will make my own stuff however small it maybe or I would rather sing on Andheri station and fund myself for an all India tour on a general compartment of a train starting from CST Terminus. Believe me, the later is much more fun than making movies!

The only thing better than making movies - traveling.

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