Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Magic of Movies and what if you made one...

In 2010 we launched ourselves into a serious project - movie making. We had a story, and a script that converted the story into dialogues and we had found experienced volunteers willing to give not just time and effort, but their 1000$ equipments as well. Movie making could not have been any more of a reality.

The story was from one of my older blog posts- Americaan Courthouse. Additional punch lines were included to make it entertaining and a script was readied. Ads were placed in craigslist for actors and they were found. Talent is overflowing in this bay area and waiting to be showcased. I decided to get the title role of the Bengali female caught by a cop for red light violation and faced with the difficult task of a court visit, something parents and culture had warned her to stay away from.

Rehearsals happened only twice - all the involved people were day time engineers in the valley and couldn't give more than weekends for this project. The project called for enormous project management skills - it was infinitely tougher to motivate and influence people who were simply volunteering. There was no money to be made. Except for YouTube fame, there was very little reward. It was lucky that everyone was equally driven.

From the stands, movies are alluring. An unsuspecting audience is easily consumed by the magic of the movie. He sees each scene in a seamless manner as if it was all done in a day. The story engulfs him and of course no one chronicles the real struggle of making something this magical. The actors of the industry always appeared as beautiful stars to me. I assumed they loved enacting their parts and their passion was the driving factor. ( Of course I must not forget the big bucks they made)

When we started the project, no one was going to pay us. In fact being the producers, we had to pay for renting locations, cars, and supplying food to the actors and volunteers. Food was the very least we could give these people working for free.

I memorized my lines, all the monologues, with expressions I thought fit. I chose my own costumes and did my own makeup. We had a volunteer managing Continuity and Script Accuracy. He noted down the costume details of every actor in case we had to shoot the same scene at a later date. He was also the most annoying person when you missed a word here and there. He was sure to bring it up, just when you thought you were capable of an Oscar.

Eight days, Four Saturday and Sundays for nine hours each day, the shooting lasted. Honestly if you loved acting, like I did, once you were through this rigors, all love was sure to take flight. Every scene were shot from three different angles and repeated between Standard and High Definition cameras, because we had two directors for this movie! At the end, only one of them stuck till the end with the same notions. And God forbid, if one of the actors even belched, the whole thing had to be done all over again! Because cameras don't lie. To my agony, in multiple actor scenes, one of us was sure to grin at the wrong moment in this comedy-drama (dramedy) movie.

The thing that enthralled me was the the process. Just as it was frustrating, it was equally exciting to see people come together to create the first motion picture we could all feel proud of. This movie obviously made me realize that effort is never directly proportional to the final outcome. I loved playing the distraught Bengali girl saddled with friends with mind boggling ideas for escaping a traffic ticket. The actors became friendlier and friendlier as we all stumbled through our lines and followed our hapless director's instructions. The camera man, lights man and sound guy had the worst plight. They had to hold the camera, light and boomer mikes throughout the nine hours, each day. At the end of shooting they had developed lean bicep muscles!

The onlookers for our outdoor shoots were few. Americans aren't as interested in independent movies as Indians are, be it a nondescript one. In India you are a celebrity if you are holding a video camera with a bunch of crew, shooting anything. Bystanders would clamour to get into the frame and look upon you with utmost awe, scratching their heads to recall, where they might have seen you. If you per chance need to use some one's shop to shoot your scene, he would offer it to you delightfully and might even serve hot tea! But california's south bay is completely different. We needed a Coach shop as one of our locales. When we approached them, we were very courteously refused. Frowning in irritation at our insistence, they gave us several forms and names of departments to appeal to, before we could so much as near their shop with a camera in hand. Our indomitable director,angered by this opposition, decided to resort to guerrilla shooting techniques! He had to drop his plan when no one joined him.

The shooting was a minuscule part of movie making. Four full weekends later, thoroughly exhausted, we came close to giving up. But most important work awaited. We needed to find an editor. Among the people who acted voluntarily, we found an experienced British guy, who volunteered his services. Reels were provided to him and coordination had to be done. When the director was shooting, he had a vision. But when the editor sat down to edit, his vision was sure to be different. A common ground had to be set before the movie made any sense.

Our editor decided to take off on a world tour, leaving our movie lying on his editing board. No work was done for five months. It took eight months before the first video draft was ready. Needless to say it came out way different from what we had in mind. Seven revisions later, it was close to what we wanted to see in the movie, true to the script. And then it was posted! On YouTube.

Every time I look at it, I recall the hardworking men and women who toiled to make it a reality. I am reminded of the amateur acting skills and some mature acting from people whose day jobs make them code and design. I am reminded of myself and my naivety in front of the camera. But most of all I see freshness- in every one's eyes. It's a dream to make a movie and being able to translate that to reality, deserves applause.
Despite the movie's nondescript YouTube life, I am proud. It feels great to create the Magic of Movies!

Americaan Courthouse:

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