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Sunday, August 7, 2011

Direction Part 1

One of my friends asked me whether reading blogs, books would help him to make a low budget digital movie. I responded affirmatively and also cautioned him that if he is only reading and thinking about movie making and not doing anything then nothing will help him to make a movie.
“The toughest thing for a beginner is to begin”, and to begin only resource a person needs is confidence!!
Confidence to believe that one can independently make a movie with whatever resource one has.
Confidence to believe that would one can be passionate enough to persist through all ordeals while making a movie.
Confidence to believe in one’s work and be ready to move forward without worrying about criticism, failure, rejection and many other things which our mind has the ability to construe.
Before I start sharing my experience about direction I will make a list of directors whom I personally admire for their CONFIDENCE.
Christopher Nolan started film-making at the age of seven using his father's Super 8 camera and his toy action figures. His first feature film Following was filmed in on black-and-white 16mm film stock. Following was made with little money, limited equipment, and a cast and crew who were all in full-time employment on weekdays, the shoot took a full year to complete. He had the confidence that he will become a film maker and he persisted to prove it.
Robert Rodriguez, American Film Directory, earned a spot in the university's film program from his award-winning 16 mm short film "Bedhead" . He made first independent feature film El Mariachi in Spanish with $7,000 raised by his friend. El Mariachi gave him the start and he has never looked back. Rodríguez has described his experiences making the film in his book "Rebel Without a Crew" . I personally recommend this book to any independent filmmaker as this book is widely considered important touchstones of the independent film movement of the 1990s.

Robert’s confidence about becoming a film maker is so much that he never worked on his term papers in his school instead work on making short films. His books give very interesting and captivating details about life of an independent filmmaker.

Satyajit Ray, Indian Bengali Filmmaker, has directed 37 films including documentaries and shorts. Satyajit Ray entered theater determined to be a film maker though he had many fields to prosper. Pather Panchali(Song of
the Little Road) which won many national and international awards was shot over a unusually long period of three years. Ray gathered an inexperienced crew and amateur artists for making this movie. Ray, hoping that if he could complete his initial shots he could obtain financial support for the movie, used his personal savings to make the movie but he didn’t get any such funds. Ray persisted for three years to complete his movie and he didn’t accept funding from sources who demanded a change the script.  Pather Panchali was first part of Apu’s trilogy, here is what Martin Scorsese had to say about Apu’s trilogy: “Ray’s magic, the simple poetry of his images and their emotional impact will always stay with me”.

Peter Jackson:

Sir Peter Robert Jackson,is a New Zealand film director, producer, actor, and screenwriter, known for his Lord of the Rings film trilogy. He was a keen film fan from his young age and started shooting short films using a super 8 cine-camera and made his first feature film Bad Taste using a 16mm camera. Peter Jackson started from making a low budget splatter comedy like Bad Taste and Brain dead and got into mainstream prominence with Heavenly Creatures. He has never looked back and has created memorable master pieces like Lord of the rings film trilogy, King Kong.
I can list on more such directors/film makers who have carved their niche for themselves by being confident in all circumstances.
Every directory has to develop own style of making a film. Direction, though requires everyone to follow certain rules, not everyone follows such rules always. Every successful Directory has tried and tested his/her own style and has succeeded in this highly competitive field of film making.

When a director embarks on a new project he starts with 3Cs(this is just a simple mnemonic I created to remember) or 3 Connects and they are:
  1. Connect to the Script
  2. Connect the cast to the Script
  3. Connect the script and actors to the schedule
Connect to the Script: Acquainted with confidence and persistence the very first thing a director needs to understand is the script. If the story/screenplay is written by the directory himself/herself then the director will have a clear understanding on what the script is trying to express whereas if the script is written by someone else then the director needs to work with the script writer to understand the core of the script. There have always been many complaints that the directory couldn’t connect to the script or didn’t visualize the script as the writer, such difference can spoil the film even if the script is very good. The Director needs to first connect to the script, visualize it (if required have a story board) and digest every bit of information in the script.

As I had written the script(refer to my article on script) I didn’t have to spend much time on grasping the story but I spent most of time arranging the shooting location to meet the needs of the script and to get the proper camera angles for all kinds of shot I had planned.
Connect the cast to the Script: Once the crux of the story is digested and the director has visualized the script in his mind the very next thing to do is to connect the cast to the script. This brings us very interesting part of movie making, Casting. Casting is a very exciting (if you are casting for first time) and very boring process (when you have been conducting audition for a long time). Casting the right actors for the movie is like giving life to the script in the real world. As soon as director assigns the artists to respective cast in the script his visualization of the script becomes more vivid.
There are many ways to call for artists for a movie. I used the free online entertainment classified website to select the cast. I was lucky to get good cast who were ready to work free/less remuneration, they were very helpful in me completing this MM. My Actors took care of the costume; make up etc thus saving me a good amount of money.
Since every actor in this MM was an amateur we needed some amount of practice before the actual shooting so every actor was trained and guided before they started the shooting.
The Film Director's Intuition: Script Analysis and Rehearsal Techniques by Judith Weston is yet another book I recommend for detailed study of how a director analyses the script and takes the core of the scrip to the actors.
Here is a sample from google books:

Connect the script and actors to the schedule: Plan!! Plan!! And Plan!! A practical achievable schedule is very essential for successfully completing the shooting of the movie. An independent film maker generally dons too many roles so the schedule has to be prepared taking all work items into account. Getting the actors/crew on time and completing the shooting as planned is very challenging phase for any film maker.
Time is money so your schedule decides your budget to a very significant extent so any change in the schedule will impact your budget.
Before preparing the schedule one needs to lock the script with the script broken down into scene number, location, character, props etc.
Scheduling the shooting for a film is an art in fact most of the production house hire professional shooting schedule planner to make sure they don’t face any problem while shooting. Too much can be written about scheduling the shooting but I will cut short and give some tips to remember while shooting/directing and write how I shot the MM AEPA.

PS: Don't forget to watch the completed MM posted in the following blog.