Saturday, July 25, 2015

Day Nine: Shooting That Dreaded Scene!

[The Destination Film Shoot]

16 April, 2015

There was one scene in the film that I had absolutely dreaded shooting.

It's a critical one that comes towards the end of the film and I dreaded it because... well, I had no clue how to shoot it. It was unlike anything else I had directed before and even though I had already done some sort of a shot breakdown and a storyboard for the scene, they were too generic / vague to actually help with the shoot, and I was very aware of that.

I had been postponing its shoot as much as I could, saying that the actress, who is the only one in this scene, needs to be really warmed up before we shoot it. That was a valid reason, but the bigger reason was that I had to be better prepared.

It had now come to a point where it couldn't be postponed any further, so we decided to shoot it this night. Gulp.

There were a couple of things that actually worked in favour of the shoot of this particular scene. Firstly, it was to be shot within the actress's room in the hotel itself and hence didn't require any sort of shooting licence. Yay! Secondly, it was to be shot indoors so there was no issue of dealing with the rather hot and dry weather outside. Double Yay!

But we still needed a solid shot breakdown and storyboard. So, soon after breakfast, I sent the cast, the editor and the cameraman to shoot what I called the "inside car - montage scenes", which basically means just capturing the two protagonists going in the car around the city. That didn't require me to be present, so I spent the time to lock the shot breakdown and the storyboard instead.

I walked down to a cafe in the hotel, ordered myself a cup of latte, plugged in my earphones to listen to the "inspiration track" that I had chosen for this particular scene and I started to think. After a while, maybe a couple of hours, I had in front of me, what seemed like a pretty solid shot breakdown. I think I owe much to that piece of music, the inspiration track, for what finally came out of my head. I had listened to it as I wrote this scene during the scripting stage - to be precise, on a flight back from Cambodia to Singapore last October, so working again with that music seemed to help this time too. In fact, I almost feel like I choreographed the entire scene to that music.

Anyway, soon the cast was back after the "inside car - montage" shoot and we quickly got into a rehearsal session. I got the team up to date on the shot breakdown and spent some time with the actress working on the scene. There was a small dance sequence also involved and I choreographed that for her... she is a dancer herself, and quickly picked up the pieces, while I enjoyed whatever little dancing I did after what seemed like ages!

We felt ready to shoot and all we had to do was wait for nightfall. It was a night scene, so obviously we couldn't have the sun streaming through the curtains of the room.

Finally, post dinner, it was time to shoot! Phew!

We ran through the shot breakdowns and the storyboarding one more time, I played my "inspiration music" file a number of times so everyone got into the required mood, we did a few mock shots (I got to act out a bit as well for reference, which I always enjoy!), and then.... well, then we shot!
Rehearsing the dance sequence one last time before shoot

Editor cum DOP listening attentively to director's instructions! 

There were a couple of shots that required only the cameraman and the actress to be in the room because he was using the steadycam for shoot and the rest of us couldn't afford to be caught in the background. During these times, I plonked myself on the aisle outside her room and prayed that the scene would turn out the way it is supposed to.
Setting in the hotel aisle and praying for the shoot to go well!

It was a long and tiring shoot that wound up at 3 am or so. By then the team, especially our dear cameraman, was all bleary eyed. But we kept at it until we felt satisfied with the footage we had canned.

When we finally did wind up, it was with wide smiles all around! It was a tough shoot, I still was not 100% certain whether the scene would have the impact that it should (I was hoping any mistakes could be fixed during editing), but at least the dreaded scene was now fully completed! We heaved a sigh of relief and in spite of the ridiculously late time of night, we goofed around taking a few pictures.

A very happy actress, post shoot!

We still have have two more major scenes to be shot, both to be shot outdoors and hence requiring a shooting licence. However, by now we know for certain that we will no longer be getting a licence. Tomorrow, a Friday, the weekend starts in this part of the world, so no more hope of the licence coming through in time. Oh well.

But that's a problem for tomorrow.

As for tonight, I was a very happy person. The Dreaded Scene is no longer dreaded.

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