Friday, November 23, 2007

making 6 - part I

I didn't expect to say this a couple of months back, but here I am saying it anyways : I have written and directed my first film, a short film of 60 seconds (70 if you include the start and end credits). I'm not sure what I feel. At one level, it's good to get it off my chest, to finally make one. At another level, I feel I could've done better; yet, there are a few things I'm quite impressed with. But more than anything else, I've enjoyed it and learned a lot. I know what to look out for the next time I make one. And I will make another one !

Making a film is tough. Even more so when it's supposed to be just 60 seconds. It's like making a commercial; them ad film-makers don't have it easy. Why only 60 seconds, you ask ? Because those are the competition rules. PFC is hosting an online short film festival in December. Honestly, it's nothing fancy. But it's an opportunity for me to get up off my ass and make something worthwhile.

Coming up with a story for my short wasn't as tough as it seems. Part of the concept is borrowed from my own experience. I think one just needs to observe and take note of all the little incidents that one experiences; every unique incident is a short film in itself. Every time I come across one of these incidents, I'm intrigued by its on-screen possibilities.

Once I had a couple of story ideas finalized, I needed to look for a cast. There was no way I could've done this on my own. Also, I never saw myself playing any character in my short film; I wanted to take the reigns of the camera. So I pitched the ideas to my very good friend Manan; he's a cinema connoisseur, just like me, and we're always exchanging ideas about alternative movie endings. One of the stories seemed to appeal to him and I thought he fit the main character's look and more imortantly, he was game for it. He provided invaluable creative feedback, including the perfect ending I was looking for; he also suggested the title for my short : 6. In addition, he volunteered to be the casting director : the other principle character is a pretty (and) young woman. I only see such species in my every-day life and have no acquaintance with any of them; luckily, Manan knows a few and promises he'll find one. Initially, I planned to shoot the film with my digital camera; the videos aren't so bad. But then, I started getting greedy and realized it would be awesome if we had a camcorder. I nudge Manan to ask his contacts and soon enough, we have a Sony miniDV camcorder (courtesy : Vickram) - beautiful, the wheels are in motion!. Manan, I only have one thing to say : you da maan !

Even though I was clear about the story idea, I still had no script. I mean it's a one-minute short - script ki kya zaroorat hai ? It turns out I needed one. My actors needed to know what I had in mind; Manan knew the story, but Karina (the female lead) had no idea what she was in for. So I sit down and start putting it all on paper. I have all the action in place but I'm not sure about how much dialgoue to incorporate. My first visualization had little or no dialogue at all; the actions and expressions of the characters spoke louder than words. But suddenly, the time constraint of 60 seconds is nagging me and leaves me in a spot of bother. This whole script-writing idea isn't such a good one after all - it's bloody tough ! So I add a few more dialogues. While writing the script, I find myslef stuck at the end. I know what the end is but I don't know how to get there. I ask my friend Rahul for possible ideas and I realize that the ending needs to be very direct. In addition, I also have doubts if I can fit the whole film in 60 seconds. I'm playing the short film in my head and it runs for 75 seconds - dammit ! This whole film-making idea isn't such a good one after all - it's bloody tough !

I've added a third character and ask my casting director to look for an actor for a bit role. One of his work colleagues, Atilla, is willing to help us out. I mail Karina and Atilla the final script - I still hadn't met them in person so I have no idea what they think of it. My short film also requires an elevator so I reserve one in my apartment building on a Saturday morning. I inform the management that I need to 'move some furniture' and will require the elevator for 3 hours. We try to be as tactful as possible but I get the feeling it's no use : there's a security camera perched in a corner of the elevator - there is video evidence of us shooting a film !

The morning of the shoot, I'm a little nervous. I don't know what to expect. Rather, I don't know if I can realize my own expectations. I'm trying to be as active as possible, running around getting the props ready. I'm roaming around without any footware to make myself comfortable (also for some odd reason, I thought the chappy sounds of footwear would cause unwanted sound effects). I haven't made any notes about shot division, what camera angles I'm going to use. This means we have to improvize. And that means you have to be in that frame of mind in which you try out crazy things, in which the circumstances enthuse you. Usually, such energy is contagious. That morning, I didn't have it; I was nervous.

We're shooting on the 6th floor and since it's Saturday morning, there's hardly any crowd around - exactly what we need. I had asked Manan to come to my place a little earlier (9 am) than the rest so that I could shoot some of his individual portions. We're testing our elevator and find that there's a problem : we need someone to stand inside the elevator and control the doors. On such short notice, we had to get someondy living in the same building. Luckily, Sujt had a day off from his MBA duties and was available.

Things seem to be going on the right track, that is until our first obstacle. Our actress is an hour late (I thought such things only take place in big showbiz, not little showbiz). There's talk of postponing the shooting to the next day; Manan has a 1pm appointment with his cable guy and Atilla can't stay for too long. Yeh kya ? Shuru hone se pehle hi The End .... ??

to be continued ....