Prepping for my first feature films without a penny in my pocket has its own thrills. The most thrilling,well, thrill is that I can spend any amount as long as I draw imaginary cash from Bank of Fantasy. You should try out this bank. It runs no credit check, demands no collateral and and imposes no limits on cash. Incidentally, such banks do exist in the real world where they are called banks.
Jokes aside, I am indeed in very early pre-production of two full-length feature films, one I am sort of helming as executive producer and the other I am writing and will direct. The one I am executive producing and touching up a bit in terms of its dialogue, pacing and content is set in Chicago. It is inspired by true events which happened in the life of Dr. Bharat Thakkar, a dear friend and well-known engineer, teacher and expert on quality control.
We are preparing to shoot some 10 minutes of this film’s promo in the next few days. It is a drama whose impact comes from the fact that it actually happened. I am not at liberty yet to disclose any details of the plot other than saying that it unfolds quite like it happened with Dr. Thakkar. The plan is that we will use the promo as part of the material to raise funding for the film.
The second film, which I am just about finishing to write, is a political thriller. The plot of the film had been rattling about in my mind for three years or so. Other than saying that it would have a truly serious political feel to it simply because I have written it based on my 30 plus year as a journalist, I cannot say much more. The main cast of the film titled ‘The South Block’ is in place.
Preparing for a film is quite an exercise in very diverse management. Creativity and content are just one, albeit the most crucial, part of it. Those are in my complete control. However, as the project gradually unfolds so many details tumble out, from the kind of equipment to use to which cinematographer to assign, from locations to physical feel of the film, from the background score to the various permissions, filmmaking is so much more than just about a neatly bound script. And yes, did I even mention funding? It is all a conversation until some moneybag has blessed the project.
Apart from the script, cast and dialogue, for me the most exciting thing is deciding which camera to use. The choice has come down to between the Alexa and the Red. The consensus among those who know such things is that I should go for the Alexa, which is currently the most preferred camera among high-end professionals. Going through the Alexa website, one discovers that some recent signature movies were shot on this camera. They include ‘Life of Pi’, ‘Skyfall’ and ‘Zero Dark Thirty’. If these three do not underscore the range of this equipment, what does? So the Alexa it is for my movie. Of course, in the end it is as much about the camera as it is about who is peering through the viewfinder, namely the cinematographer, and the director.
The whole movie is already made in my mind, right down to its individual frames, background score, dialogue, performances and so on. If only there was some way of directly transferring it from the brain to a computer hard drive without the hassle of actually filming it, I would have released it right now. But until such time as, technological singularity has advanced to that level of sophistication, I will have to stick to the traditional route.
One of the major advantages of digital technology is that one can create a storyboard that is actually in a moving audio-visual form rather than in words and drawings on paper. For instance, my 13 megapixel HTC phone gives amazingly good results for this purpose. I have shot a 44-second clip using my phone that I will use to illustrate a particular shot in the film. I could have easily described it in words but showing the would-be cinematographer how I have conceived the actual shot is so much better. With a background score, which I have not used in this clip for reasons of copyright, this would be quite compelling in its final version once done with professional lighting, actor in that chair, and the Alexa. See below the rough cut: