Monday, December 24, 2007

making 6 - part III

And then the next day ..... oh well, that's a story for another day ....

Today's another day and so the story continues.

Now that the dust has settled on the chaos in my life the past month, I can enlighten you all. There shouldn't be a part III to my story. Some stories have a twist, some don't. Fortunately or unfortunately, this one does.

So the next day, I get to work and I was laid off. Yep, laid off! Seinfeld has a theory about breaking up : "You should just do it like a Band-Aid. One motion! Right off!" And that's pretty much how they chose to break up with my colleagues and me. I was out of the place in an hour. This includes clearing my desk and stuffing all my so-called valuables in a plastic bag. You know how you find junk while packing when you have to move to a new place. It felt the same. I found so much junk and I only worked there for a year. Imagine the number of bags I would need if I had gotten laid off after 10 years or something! So in principle, all I lost was some storage space ... In principle, I've also lost my head a little ... But that's not the reason I didn't have a job then - I was laid off. It's like a UFO - no one can explain the science of it, it just is. UFO's are real because! I was laid off because! .....

On the way back home, it was snowing, the first snow of the winter ahead. It wasn't snow actually, it was like little, solid dots of ice, just pelting down - very odd. This could be a very long winter ....

I didn't know how to react to it all. I certainly didn't see it coming, it was a surprise. Despite that, I was pretty cool about it, unlike some of my other colleagues who were also let go. I'm good at being calm. I pride myself for it. I remember, a few months back, my friend Deepti was visiting the US and she forgot her passport at a Dunkin Donuts. She realized a couple of hours after and she freaked out. I guess, rightly so. I mean, who am I to say you can't freak out if you misplaced your passport. Just because I wouldn't doesn't mean you can't. So my other friend Saurabh, who in normal circumstances can make anybody laugh, gets all serious and starts reassuring her that we'll find the passport. I, on the other hand, want to turn up the volume on the car radio because I like the song (I think we were listening to Dodgy - Oddly enough, it pisses them off. But it's all forgotten because we did find the passport. Why wouldn't we??!! The Dunkin Donut employee was kind enough to keep the passport she found lying around. Who wouldn't do that?!! I would!

Anyways, this feeling of getting laid off is one of those that sinks in real slowly. Little by little, day by day, you grow into this idleness of unemployemnt. I've been through this before actually. Not the lay-off, the unemployment. I didn't feel an iota of shame then. So why now? In times of idleness, one does a lot of thinking. One must. It struck me that I could actually make a profit out of this lay-off. If I found a job quick enough, say in a month, I'd actually have more money than while being employed. Amazing innit? See? This is what idleness does to a man. So I thought what the hell - let's be positive! And as luck would have it, I do have another job now.

This is supposed to be part III of making 6, my first short film. I couldn't quite stop thinking about the irony of it all. The day after I submit my short film I get laid off from my job. Is this a sign? It's like I was waiting in line at Mcdonald's and someone pulled me out of the queue and said "sorry, you can't be doing this." Somebody tell me it's a sign!

I had all the time in the world to follow the reactions to my first short film. Refreshing the page every minute of my waking hours, I'm waiting for the next comment. But alas - there aren't any comments. Nothing good, nothing bad, nothing. It wasn't like it was trashed. It just didn't seem to get any reactions, which was a little disappointing. One guy found it "wacky but underdeveloped", with which I agree. My friends liked it - what are friends for anyways? Well, it's not like the end of the world. It never is.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

making 6 - part II

Things seem to be going on the right track, that is until our first obstacle. Our actress is 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 .... ??

Manan receives a call from Karina; she'll be there in 15 minutes. We give ourselves another chance and wait some more. I'm a little anxious myself, for other reasons. The first time Manan told me about Karina, he mentioned the word 'melancholic.' Since I didn't know what the word meant, I presumed it was a good thing; 'melancholic' has a very musical sound to it. The day before our shoot I'm a little bored and I look up the defintion; says 'gloomy' and 'expressing sadness.' I'm having doubts if Manan has actually understood my story; I was hoping he'd know that we didn't want a melancholic face. I'm pleasantly surprised when she walks in through the doors. Manan's done a good job at casting, much better than his 'definitive' abilities.

We get straight to work. I'm explaining the elevator to Sujit. There's nothing to it really : the elevator stays at the same floor and he just needs to hit the DOOR OPEN and DOOR CLOSE buttons at the cue. Initially, he doesn't open the elevators at the cue. Once it's too early, another time too late. And yet another time, the elevator's gone off to some floor! This is driving me nuts! This is supposed to be a very simple shot! So I say screw the elevator doors - I'll just cut them out of the shot.

Then, we have to take the shots from inside the elevator. One thing about elelvators : they are cramped as hell. Apparently, it can fit 8-10 people. I'm not so sure about that. We need some different camera angles from inside the elevator so I try taking some shots while standing on a (rather shaky) chair. They turned out really well. Finally something to be happy about.

We're getting close to our deadline for the elevator. On top of that, the camcorder battery is running low. So while I leave the camcorder for charging at my place, I'm asking Manan and Karina to throw off some ideas for an alternate ending. Manan's totally barren with ideas. Karina's suggestion has a good feel about it so we decide to try it out. The office receptionist comes up to remind us that we better finish up with our 'moving.' I think she's a little perplexed to see just a chair and a man with a camcorder in hand. We pretend to move the solitary chair and assure her that we'll be done in no time. I think she's about to call our bluff, maybe even complain to higher management, but I'm not so sure. We have a couple of shots left and we hurry through them. I think Manan's a little unsure about how to portray his character in the last scene. I'm trying to explain 'dazed' but I'm not completely happy with the final take. It's all happening in a hurry. I wish we had more time but I guess that's the way it's going to be.

After all that shooting, we're off to Panera Bread for lunch, discussing a little bit of foreign film and bitching about our colleagues at work. Manan insists that he pay for lunch since he's the producer. "Producer and you? Who said so?" So he enlightens me about how his ancestors had a film studio in pre-Partition Lahore and distributed films India-wide. It makes for great reading in a newspaper : "grandson revives family-owned film studios with phenomenal success of short film". But I'm afraid this film can't, in fact shouldn't, have a producer. Maybe our next feature .... :-) On the way back home, Manan's feeling a tad apologetic because I felt his performance was below par. I meant to say it as subtly as possible, but I'm not a good actor! Or maybe I'm just too honest. Manan saw through my disappointment. I had a feeling that he'd make a good actor and he would. The whole atmosphere that day was chaotic. It's not like I did a great job at handling everything either. So shit happens. Despite all that, everything's cool. All said and done, it's time for a few days' break and get cracking on the editing.

I'm giving myself around 15 days to make the final edit. We don't have so much footage, just over 15 minutes. More than half of that is just footage of stairs and elevator doors opening and closing. My first cut, where I'm trying to be as stingy as possible with the shots, turns out to be 90 seconds long! Screwed! My earlier doubts have been realized : this is not 60-second material. So I'm stingier still the second time round. I'm having to remove shots which add to the build-up, making the climax less effective. The story is basically taking place on 3 days; in my final draft, the first day alone is taking up nearly half of the film. It's very hard to set up the end. I'm having to fight for half a second of footage - that's how miserly I had to be.

The most fun part of editing was picking out the background music. Now I can't just pick any of the few 1000 mp3's I have. The competition rules state that we have to buy rights for copyright music so the only option is royalty free music and sounds, of which there are plenty of sites on the net. If I had the money for it, I would've bought the rights for the theme of In the Mood for Love ( - listen to it with your eyes closed and the violin just melts you within. The funny thing about background music is that everything works. The music will create the mood. I'm especially conscious of background music whenever I watch a film. I can instantly feel it when the music adds to the impact of images displayed on the screen. So selecting the right track should be a piece of cake - I knew what I wanted .... apparently. All I had to do was sample as many different tracks as possible. So as I'm sampling each, I'm thinking "this is good, this one fits beautifully." This goes on for almost every track I sample. So I stick to my old policy and pick out a classical music track. I'm looking for something like the In the Mood for Love theme, but not quite like it. Something with a violin. Had I used the theme, it would've created a melancholic (!!) mood, which I didn't want to. So thank god for royalty free music. I stumble upon "Concerto for Violin and Oboe" and "Symphony in C Major 30"; I have no idea what all these names and numbers mean - but hey, it fits my short film and that's all that matters for now! The background music elevates the film to another level altogether. It's not perfect, but it's a huge improvement.

The best part - I have a final edit and it's surpisingly better than I had earlier anticipated! I wasn't completely convinced with the footage we shot. But I think it's turned out pretty OK during the editing process.

Phew ..... So here it is finally. Presenting 6 (trumpets, drum rolls et. al) -

Give me feedback people. I want feedback! Good, bad, everything.

And then the next day ..... oh well, that's a story for another day ....