Friday, July 10, 2015

Day Five: That Absolutely Futile Process Called Planning!

[The Destination Film Shoot]

12 April, 2015

It was a Sunday and I thought I had it all figured out.

I had decided that the only agenda for today would be to go to the Heritage Village and do a rehearsal.

Why, you may ask. For the following reasons:

1) The licence had still not come, so it's not like we could actually shoot even if wanted to. But rehearsals without cameras should be OK.

2) We had a scene where the two characters walk along a row of shops and converse throughout. The only place in Abu Dhabi which had a suitable row of shops (I was looking for small stalls that sell trinkets) was the Heritage Village. Given that there is a lot of movement in the scene and a lot of dialogues, the cast would need to familiarize themselves with the location before shoot, and hence the rehearsal.

3) We had a tough shoot in the desert two days ago and we didn't get much of a rest after that. So today, I wanted the cast and crew to take a breather.

4) The weather forecast had predicted about 38 degrees for the day. Not exactly conducive for a shoot, but a quick rehearsal should be OK.

5) On the other hand, weather forecast for tomorrow is only 32 degrees. So it would be great to rehearse today and shoot tomorrow and we were optimistic that the licence would be ready by then. In fact I was so optimistic, I believed that  the licence would be available within today, so we can shoot at 8am tomorrow as soon as the shops open, in order to avoid as much heat and crowd as possible.

In other words, I had it all planned. Everything from  rehearsal to the temperature had been accounted for. Nothing could go wrong.  

At about 11 am, we set off for Heritage Village. As the cast, the cameraman and I started walking around the place figuring out blocking and potential framing, the editor said he will go and let the authorities know about the rehearsal, so that we don't get into any trouble. He came back in about 15 minutes.

Editor: We need to shoot today.
Me: What?
Editor: We need to shoot today here.
Me: What... why?
Editor: They have some festival here from tomorrow and no shoot will be allowed for another 10 days.
Me: Oh wow... but what about the licence?
Editor: They said we can shoot today and hand over the licence later.
Me: What time do we shoot?
Editor: Well, as soon as we can get back with your equipment.
Me: That would be about 2pm.
Editor: Yup.
Me: 40 degrees.
Editor: Excuse me?
Me: Sigh... nothing. Let's go.

So we rushed back to the hotel. The cast got ready, we grabbed the equipment and rushed back again to the location (I believe we forgot lunch in the process).

We set up and had a shoot that turned out to be quite tough for a variety of reasons. There were plenty of tourists around who would either cut across the frame or look into the camera or stare at the actors or in short, do things that we would rather they didn't. We also had issues with repeat takes because the people in the background would keep changing in every take, in very conspicuous ways. On top of that we had long single shots taken on a steady cam, which meant the cast had to remember really lengthy lines at a stretch and the cameraman had to meander his way through the crowd, the trees and poles supporting the thatched roofs of the shops occasionally bumping here and there. And to add to the woe, we also had to manage some of the shopkeepers who thought we were in their way (which was fair enough on their part, but still!).

The highlight was that when we were just about to melt in the heat, one of the staff brought us bottles of water. God bless him!

A shot from the Heritage Village, courtesy our cameraman

We shot and reshot and reshot and reshot until everyone was exhausted but still we were running the risk of not being able to complete the shoot in time. The shops were to close at 5pm, before the evening prayers but by 4:45pm we still had one entire sequence left. So we rushed to do that and I was extremely unhappy by how that scene turned out in the one camera that was set up to capture it. I was watching the take, cramped up in a tiny shop where the camera was set up, and completely freaking out because I knew what we shot wasn't going to sufficient for a convincing edit. In spite of what I felt, I had call it a wrap for the day, with maybe 30 seconds to spare, before the shop shut down.

I came out feeling rather dejected because after all that effort, we didn't have this particular sequence which was essentially supposed to connect two parts of the scene. I had no idea how we could possibly edit the scene without that sequence.

That's when the editor gave me the happiest news - he had used our spare camera to shoot the sequence as a over-the-shoulder take from beyond the shop. Because I was inside the shop during the take, I wasn't aware of this! I was HUGELY relieved! I watched the footage and realized that yes, we do have our scene! To celebrate the successful shoot and also to have the forgotten lunch, we went and treated ourselves to a good meal and my favourite masala tea from the House of Tea.

So yes! Every bit of planning flew out of the window, but once again, we managed to can a scene!

We were supposed to rehearse today. We didn't do any rehearsal.
We were supposed to shoot tomorrow. We shot today.
We were supposed to shoot in 32 degrees. We shot in 38 degrees.
We were supposed to have a master two-shot from inside the shop. We had an unplanned OTS shot.
We were supposed to have the licence before we shoot. We shot without it anyway.

In short, I planned. Then the universe made some other plan.

At the end of the day, the latter worked just fine.

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