[The Destination Film Shoot]
11 April, 2015
And then we discussed the plan for the day.
The licence still hadn't come so we couldn't shoot in any public locations yet. The licencor still didn't have his driving licence so we couldn't shoot any of the driving scenes either.
So then, what could we shoot?
One of the required locations was a posh cafe in a posh hotel and we had originally planned it at an outdoor cafe at a leading 5 star hotel in Abu Dhabi. Even though it was a private property, they had asked for the licence before we could shoot. Which obviously wasn't available.
So the editor suggested that given that we ourselves are staying at Novotel, which in itself is rather posh with many posh eating outlets, why not ask for permission for shoot in one of those places? Sure, it would be a last minute request, everything would depend on the kindness of the manager on duty and they might still say a licence is required, but at least we could push our luck as guests of the hotel.
Me: But that's the very first scene of the film.
Me: It's a very critical scene. The performance has to be top notch.
Me: So..... you are telling me that on the very first day of shoot, we shoot the climax and the very next day we shoot the next most important scene which is the intro scene?
Me: So there is really no concept of building up the performance as we go along?
When he "Yup"ed the fourth time, I said "Ok fine, go and push our luck."
As he walked away to do just that, I walked around the hotel noting down potential places where we could shoot, in anticipation of a positive response from the management.
Soon he came back, saying we were indeed in luck! They have granted the permission but with the following criteria:
a) We need to submit the licence once it comes.
b) By tomorrow, we need to submit several other documents like details of cast and crew etc., letter from the licencing agency etc.
c) The shoot has to be from 2 - 4 pm today.
d) The venue will not be a cafe but their steak house.
It was already about 1pm, so things happened in a flash. The cast got into their costumes, we picked up our equipment and rushed to our newly found location. There I, once again, quickly revised the storyboard to fit the seating layout, we ran around turning the steak place into a cafe - which basically meant taking away the cutlery and wine glasses and replacing with sugar sachet holders and replacing the massive steak and wine menu with a simpler cafe menu. We also roped in a couple of the staff to do supporting roles - taking orders, bringing drinks, even memorizing lines etc.
After all that was done, we probably had about 60 minutes for the actual shoot. Theoretically, it should have been a smooth shoot given that both cameras were working today, but then it ended up being pretty rough. Half way through the shoot we realized that we had handpicked the table that was closest to the window so the sun streamed in various angles as the scene progressed. The scene started off with the actors in complete shade and now the actress was glowing in the sunlight that lit her up through the window, and the table was reflecting some sunlight on to the actor's face.
Oh dear lord.
So we moved the tables around a bit and shot again.
Anyway, long story short, we wrapped up around 4:30, half an hour late but the manager and staff were very kind about it and didn't throw us out before we were done. They were to open the place in another hour, so we quickly cleared everything, turned the cafe look back to the steakhouse look and got out of there.
Shooting at Novotel
We had canned yet another scene, licence-less!
We were so thrilled with the progress, we wondered what else we could do for the rest of the day! I suggested we do a little bit of a montage sequence somewhere. We could just have the cast and cameraman walk around some place, with just a handheld camera and that way it wouldn't need a licence as we are not disrupting any traffic or crowd flow.
Without thinking twice, the editor took us to the magnificent Grand Mosque of Abu Dhabi.
The editor and I waited in the car, while the cast and the cameraman walked about to shoot just bits and pieces here and there. In the film, the two characters were meant to be walking around as tourists and given it's a montage, there were no dialogues to be shot. So they walked around just as tourists would and the cameraman captured a few shots of them doing so. They were back in about 15 minutes and by that time the sun was about to set, so we wrapped up the shoot for the day.
Back in the hotel, I started to view the footage from yesterday's sunset scene. Given that we had shot the entire sequence in a huge rush, I wasn't too sure whether we had sufficiently good quality footage to cut a convincing edit. Many parts of the scene had just a single take, and that's a huge risk. In case we didn't have good enough footage, the plan was to go to a nearer desert and shoot just that bit again, but I really hoped that we wouldn't have to do that! We simply didn't have the luxury of time for reshoots!
So I viewed all the footage multiple times and mentally pictured an edit and wrote it down. I indicated when to cut each clip so as to avoid mistakes, keep continuity, trim dialogues etc. Finally, I figured out that with a specific flow of edit, we might just have the entire scene somewhat in the way it is meant to be. In other words, we have our climax.
Thus, yet another day came to an end and now we had both the beginning and most of the end of the film.
Only the middle remained.