Wednesday, March 12

Not all addictions are bad...

First of all, I don't have half a fucking clue as to why my title's in Hindi. For the uninformed, it spells out a variation (such as my own lackluster Hindi writing ability would bear) of "Not all addictions are bad." On to the post.

Now wait, second of all, I apologize for not writing for so long. The aforementioned not-so-bad addiction is to blame. Now before the lot of you bring out your torches and pitchforks, and I turn around to see this chick who blogs less than I do now running away after having glued giant screws to the neck of my addiction, understand that the addiction is a good addiction. Also, someone tell me why the fuck the first chap who got the torch and pitchfork treatment had giant screws on his neck anyway. I never got it, or the green skin pigmentation. On to franken-addiction.

Hello everyone, my name is Renovatio, and I'm a workaholic. Not just that, I love my job. Every bit of it. From the lack of sleep to the obscene hours, the creative freedom to the trust and respect that flows through my ever-changing cast and crew and myself, to the opportunity to meet a myriad of smart, talented, hard-working and equally addicted folks. I, the ever-present production chap, the future film maker, am currently working as a freelance Assistant Director. Not just that, as I work with smaller production houses and directors, I get to be sole AD, and I couldn't be more elated.

For those not so well-versed with film and television production, the work of the AD is all-encompassing. While some may assume the AD is everyone's shared mundoo, experience would say that the AD actually turns everyone else into his mundoo. Now perhaps I'm wrong, perhaps I've only been fortunate enough to work with good directors, especially the one whose organisation I find myself fast becoming a partner of.

How that happened, I'm yet to understand, but the man and I work together well, he respects my opinion, gives me creative license, and immense authority. Someone once told me that they hated authority due to the flak that accompanies it when shit hits the fan. I have to say, in the last week, a lot of shit hit the fan. It hit it, spread around for miles, got carried by the wind, fertilized a few fields, and provided heat for a couple of kettles of chai.

I digress. An Assistant Director , well a good one, which I hope I am, knows all the ropes of a production. He or she should know how what looks good on camera, what angles work, how to achieve what looks good on said camera, how to deal with the asswipe senior producer from the larger client organization *cough*miditech*cough* the grand high client deemed unworthy to produce the particular segment we were working on, the same senior producer chap who looks down on the AD, despite said AD being a good eight inches taller. This same AD also needs to anticipate production disasters, such as same larger asswipe *cough*miditech*cough* organization's generator door tearing a hired twelve-by-twelve foot skimmer, the big white sheet thingie used to cut off sunlight, among others. The sole AD, part of a smaller production, say a 35-person crew, also doubles up as an AD in another sphere of production, the Art Director. Now I will admit quite openly and candidly that I'm pathetic at art. I can make a stick figure look sickly. But when the time came, or rather, when the chap who owned the mud hut and staircase we wanted to shoot against came out armed with a stick and a few large rocks, the cameraman, who I had somehow managed to strike a decent rapport with, and my own artistically-challenged self had to make a very bland set of stairs presentable. My aforementioned authority came of immense use here. I got the first three steps painted with dung, followed by mud, and then painted with a large flower, so large that it was nigh-impossible to screw up, all without lifting a finger myself. That isn't to say I wasn't doing anything, but I'm working on not digressing from the point here.

There's a new show coming up on Doordarshan, one which has left me with immense respect for the creative heads at Unicef. It's written as a K-serial, a saas-bahu piece-of-shit, but with a progressively greater message of women's empowerment. It's being produced by the larger *cough* oh alright, I see this joke's getting old now, it's being produced by Miditech, and we were called in to do the opening credits. A day was spent in a studio in Noida, which the brief informed us as being forty-four by twenty-seven feet, a production dream come true. On reaching the studio, bright and early, at six in the morning, having left the house at a quarter to three to fetch lights while my colleagues fetched the cameraman and camera, the studio was indeed its promised dimensions. Unfortunately, however, it contained an enormous and tenacious pillar bang in the middle. This pillar effectively split the most promising and dreamy studio into four separate mini-studios. Through some clever thinking on the part of our camerman, one of the more experience light boys, a South Indian chap who was after my life to see his PCR room and FCPs, and a slight adjustment of the chroma sheet of my own, not to mention a little kid who tripped over a power cord and dropped a stray Sony Cybershot, we managed to salvage one entire half of the studio for use. There was a camerman from Wilderness Films on site, who had accompanied the Digi-Beta 790i we had rented for the day, who was unfortunately relegated to camera assistant, and even more unfortunately, turned into a spot boy on my behest as there was already a senior camera assistant from Wilderness present, and the fact that I had no one else to force to run around to get stuff. This chap took his role in those circumstances rather well, and was rather good-natured about it. He even went so far as to tell me that I'd make a great director because of my honesty and passion. What was the source of my honesty? Threatening to hit our cabbie with a brick if he hit the puppy napping under the cab with a rock. Ah well, live and let live. That sure made my day, if nothing else, assuring me that there's hope yet. I also had a moment, an epiphany, if you will. Production is the work for me. I really connected with a subject. We needed to shoot a girl jumping in silhouette, but she had a problem with her knees, so I took a call and put another actor in a similar skirt and dupatta, had the make-up guy tie her hair in a braid similar to the little girl's, and made her do the jump. She was a bit apprehensive of the limited space, especially considering the fact that there were three rather large lights at the end of her jump site, which had been on for a few hours and were quite hot. Trust came into the picture here. I had spent some time with the whole cast over the day, and convinced her that I'd stand at the lights and catch her, provided she ran as fast as she could and jumped as hard as she could. We got a great jump out of it, despite the Unicef chap telling me that he needed his actor for a few days of shooting, so I had better catch her. At this stage, the entire crew also revealed to me that they had assumed I was twenty-eight. A look at my license, and the realization that I was a full nine years younger brought a look to their faces I rather enjoyed. Still, they accorded me more respect from that point on.

The following morning, my colleagues had (thankfully) deigned to fetch the lights and camera themselves, and met me on the outskirts of NH8, rather close to my own house, so I didn't have to leave too early. We were headed to bum-fucking-nowhere Sohna Village. Our crew arrived on site by 6:10 in its entirety, and the slightly shaken producer, his AD (no prizes for guessing who) and the camerman surveyed the site and blocked our locations for the nine shots we had to take. As we had a nice big skimmer and three hours of soft sunlight, we were all pegged to be heading home by eleven. Unfortunately, the cast waltzed in at a quarter to ten. The camerman had to run to his full-time job at this point, so we were desperate for a camerperson to replace him. A small note to be made; 95% of freelance folks in production have a full time job, and their organization is either unaware that they're freelancing, or else they don't feel like firing them as they're that good. A tiny bit of those freelancers with a production organization, such as our replacement camerman, joined their organizations on the condition that they get to freelance as well. Something for me to keep in mind for the future. Someone remind me about this in a year or something.

Regardless. We were about to start shooting with what available sunlight we had, when the costume chap piped up with an admission of having neglected to iron all the costumes, and as there was no power in bum-fucking-nowhere Sohna Village, he had to travel the thirty-odd kilometers to Sohna proper, and get the costumes ironed. At this point a senior asswipe production chap from Miditech popped over to breathe down our necks, and inform us in full detail as to just how useless we were. We wasted two hours with him, and another hour planning amongst ourselves, when we discovered that Miditech didn't intend to feed us, and so we were going to have to hope the producer's wife would be quick about acquiring extras, not to mention food, and get back to us soon. The rest of the day involved sporadic shooting (read nearly none, we shot a grand total of 300 frames that day), and much waiting around for the lights to arrive. The lights finally did arrive at 10:30 at night, which the cameraman and I had gone to fetch from the main road, and having once reached location, the generator refused to start. The gen-set chaps, the (new) light boys, the producer, and the cameraman and I spent the next two hours taking turns climbing up the truck to give starting the generator a shot. Right before the generator finally got fired up, we had just finished parking all four of our cars in front of the gate we intended to shoot at with headlights on full, in an attempt to secure enough light to shoot with. Around this point I met and befriended the ADs of sets and production from Miditech for this show, my own direct counterparts from the much larger (330 vs our measly 35) production crew that had arrived to shoot the next day. The sets chap was a decent guy, helped me out a ton the following day, including letting me crap in their loo, and the production one, a rather dashing young lady with rather manly hands (I needed some hands for a door-opening shot the following day) was a bit on the shy side, but she ran around as much as she could to help me out.

Having spent a full thirty-eight hours at the location, our crew limped away and headed home-ish. I came home to shower, the cameraman visited his boss who had suffered a heart attack, and the producer and his wife went off to get their kid from his grandparents' place. We reconvened at my house to do a final shot at around 10, and packed up the whole production around midnight. Time well spent, and immense learning.

I hope this sort of makes up for my absence, my last month has involved work in similar settings, situations and circumstances. I know I mentioned a Street Devils post, but if you'd notice my profile now contains a Street Devils blog. I'll write about it there.