Different Stages of Film Production
PART II – PRODUCTION (Shooting the film)
Hi everyone! I am Piyush Pande, an Indie film director and now a commercial film producer. I have directed and produced short films, feature films, web series, documentaries in the past and have hands-on experience in film production for more than 10 years. There are many things which I learned while working on the projects, those things which no one ever told me!
There are 3 main stages of Film production.
Out of all the three stages of film production, no one stage is less or more important than the other one!
So let’s talk about Production (Shooting a film)
After all the planning in the pre-production stage, it is now time to brings those plans into actions. This is real physical work which will consume you mentally and physically, both! So be prepared to work hard in this stage where the actual shooting of the film takes place with live sound, camera, and action! This stage will screw your personal and non-personal life till the time you are in there and if it does not, then something is seriously wrong with your film or with you. Because shooting a film is like going into a war. The only difference is you are going to get fucked even if you win the war. You will need months to recover from the impact that the shooting stage has on you. And when it is finished, it will leave you with loneliness, cast away not knowing what to do next in life. Because this stage of shooting a film is like a roller coaster. At one moment you go up slowly like everything is going fine, waiting to fall down and suddenly a rapid turn down the rail and you are gone! All that you had planned so well in the pre-production stage seems like crashing and not working. It’s a roller coaster of emotions. At one moment you feel so energetic and the other moment will tear you apart. So many emotions are being exchanged while shooting a film. Anger, love, pressure, hate, jealousy, tension, hope, fear, anxiety, etc. Imagine dealing with all emotions at the same time with so many people all around, everyone trying to do their job perfectly. Imagine the pressure and still working precisely. When two creative geniuses work together, something genius is created. But when so many creative humans work together, what is expected of them is chaos. The chaos that everyone sees but still ignores it and not talk about it because if you talk of the chaos, it will only increase. This stage is a perfect example of coordination and teamwork. Coordination between you and your mind and the teamwork between your and others mind! Its all the mind game in the end. To shoot a film, to complete the shoot and winning it, against all odds!
Whatever I wrote above was yesterday. Today I write more logically. So keeping the above emotions apart, what exactly happens in this second stage of film production? In simple words – the director directs, actors act, cameramen shoots, sound man records, and the producer spends. But all is not that simple.
1. Director: He is the captain of the ship. The drowning ship that he has to save and keep it floating. A director directs. When we say directs, it means he gives order and everyone on the set listens to him and do what he wants them to do. If you don’t have the capacity to listen and follow your leader blindly then don’t get into the film making world. Because when you are not a director on a set you will have to listen to the Director and do as he wishes! That’s the truth. And remember if you are here for the glamour of film making, god save you! On the sets, there is everything but glamour. There is sweat, smell, breeze, blood, dirtiest slang you never heard before and chaos. In between all this if you still find your glamour then you need to wake up!
The director of the film has his own direction team on the set, working with him. The first ones are called the ‘Assistant Directors’. These are the people who are directly working under the director. There may be one, two, three or more than that assistant director to the director. Let me be very clear. There are no fixed roles of an assistant director. ADs have to do everything and anything because the more you do the more you learn. The ADs share a very professional bond with the director. They are like the right and left hands of the director. Usually the work of the ADs are to brief the actors beforehand about the scene, to see if all is set before the shoot starts, to bring tea for the director, to do his personal work like dropping his child to the school or driving his family to shopping, when the director is busy at the shoot. You must be thinking, I am joking? No, I am not! What I want to say is be ready to do whatever work is being told to you as an AD. Don’t ask questions. I have worked just once as an AD and it was the toughest job in my life. Creativity was nowhere in that job. What I was asked to do was to take print outs of the script and distribute to the team members and actors. So I was mostly in the stationary section while the shoot was happening somewhere else. Then I was asked to accompany the actor to his vanity van and stay there in case he needed anything. So I was sitting outside his van, playing Ludo, while the shoot was happening at some other place.
Speaking of the director, he is the only captain of the ship. I have seen in many shots that the director is interrupted and is guided by many people on the set on how to shoot and what to do. It is always a disaster when there is more than one person directing the film. As a director, you have to make sure that you take your decision single-handed and do not allow other people to speak on your behalf. In one of the shoot, I saw a director being continuously told by the cinematographer how to shoot. The DOP was a senior person and he was literally directing the film. So remember directors out there, you are the boss and it’s your vision. So no matter what, you direct the show and no one else.
2. DOP (Director of Photography): Many people get confused between a cinematographer and director of photography. A cinematographer is a person who shoots the film with his camera. A DOP is a person who directs the cinematographer. Many times, DOP and Cinematographer in the film are the same person. The person who is operating the camera is the DOP of the film too. He or she handles the camera and also directs his team in terms of light placement, camera placement, equipment set up, etc. Some time the DOP sits behind the review screen and directs the cameraman to set up the camera and lighting. DOP is one person the director is most dependent on. Not only the director but also the whole cast and crew. It is the DOP’s responsibility to make the actors look good on the screen, to light the actors and the location cinematically so that it looks like a film and not a flat video. It is his responsibility that less time is wasted in setting up the shot because until he is ready and gives a go-ahead, the director won’t be able to take the shot. The DOP should be the most technically sound person in the set. He should know everything about the camera, how lights work, how to set up equipment, etc. He should have worked in other films before and should have hands-on experience in shooting a film. If your DOP is good, there will be less time wasted in the film.
Imagine, the director has to take multiple retakes just because of the DOP’s mistake. That the focus was lost during the shoot. Wouldn’t it be exasperating to you? The DOP has a fixed team with himself. The most important person to the cinematographer is the Focus Puller. A focus puller is a person who rotates the focus ring of the camera during a live shoot so that the focus is never lost. I have seen a focus puller, pulling focus with the same cameraman his whole life. Believe me, it’s an art to pull focus. By pulling focus I mean when your actor is moving towards or away from the camera, the focus is always changing and the focus puller makes sure that the focus is always on the actor and he or she looks sharp always.
3. Actors: They are the face of your film and you don’t want them to look bad. During the shooting of the film, treat your actors like you would treat your newborn babies. Pamper them to the fullest. Give them enough space away from the chaos of the shoot preparation, where they can practice their scripts silently. Don’t indulge them with unnecessary things of shoot production that will divert them from their characters. Everyone on the set is dependent on the actors. If the actors don’t perform well, all is wasted.
As an actor, it is very important that you learn your lines and know the script in and out on your fingertips, even the scenes and lines which does not belong to you. It will only help you as an actor perform well in the film. Now there are many people taking care of your costumes, makeup, look, etc. But don’t just completely depend on others. Make your own checklists of your character, dress, look, etc. This preparation will only help you as an actor.
As an actor, the most important thing is to be on time. Punctuality. Till the time you are in the shooting phase, there should be nothing more important in your life than your film. Millions of people in this world want to become actors and want to act in films. You are among that 0.001 % of people whose dream of becoming an actor came true. So don’t let that opportunity go like that. Work hard. Give your best. Live the character of your’s during the film and you will succeed. Don’t show tantrums on the sets. The less the better. I have seen actors throwing so many tantrums on the sets like they own the film and some I have seen sitting quietly in the corner and observing all that is happening around.
Actors are fully responsible for their actions and therefore if you as an actor feel that you have not given your best shot then go and ask your director to take another shot. You have full right to ask that even if the director likes your acting. Until you are not satisfied how will the audience be satisfied?
Actors have their own set of people with them accompanying them everywhere. They are their makeup team, Manager(s) and stylist. These three to four people will always be there with the known actors as they are equally responsible for the actor’s look and are getting paid for that by the actors.
4. Art Director: This person is responsible for all the set production. Nowadays Art directors are also known as Production Managers as they are the one who manages the design of the set. An art director has a set of a team which includes visual artists, interior designers, painters, carpenters, sculptures, etc. They decide the look of the set beforehand by discussing the scene and script with the director and DOP of the film. The tuning with the DOP is the most important thing for a production manager as the DOP tells the art director what and how exactly he is trying to shoot the film and likewise he designs the set.
There are professional art directors in the film industry who have done their art direction course from the film and architecture schools. Usually, they are one of the highest-paid in the crew and demand a certain respect in the production. The work they do is all physical. There is a lot of pre-production work for the art directors. They need to design the set on paper of computer before actually doing it. In big-budget futuristic films where a lot of films is shot on green screen and later the background is designed in the post-production stage during editing, art directors play a very important role. Once they design the set on computers then according to it the shoot is done on the green screen with proper markup. For example – The sets of Bahubali were designed on-screen way before the actual shoot happened.
5. Sound Recorder: A sound recorder or a sound engineer on the set is as important as the DOP. First, the sound recorder confirms ‘Sound rolling’. Then the cameraman confirms ‘Carema rolling’. And then the director shouts, ‘Action’. So usually on the film set, you will hear this a lot. Sound rolling – Camera Rolling – Action. The sound engineer on the set is responsible for recording the dialogues of the actors, ambient sound and folly sound. There is a central sound console with the sound recorder, which is connected to the mick which is attached to the actors. Sometimes the mick s are cordless and sometimes corded. Sometimes the sound is recorded with the help of boom mick which a person holds just above the actors.
The sound recorder has to make sure that the right quality of voice is being recorded. There is no echo or disturbance in the recording. Or there is no distortion in the sound. With each cut, there needs to be a new sound recording file and each sound file needs to be named according to the scene number and takes. Sink sound recording is the most technical aspect of sound recording. As in sink sound, the actual sound recorded during the shoot is used in the film. There is no dubbing later in the post-production stage. Usually, most of the films are later dubbed in the post-production stage at the sound studio. Only use sink sound recording if you are shooting in a controlled environment. For example, inside the studio where there is no outside noise.
So in this production stage of the film where actual setting happens, it is very important that the director, DOP, Actors, Art directors, Sound recorder, line producer and the producer are in perfect sink with each other for the film to successfully complete its shoot and go to the next stage of Post Production.