Friday, November 19, 2010

In The Closet – 48 Hour Film 2010 (Mumbai)

How does a techie like me get hooked into doing music for a 48 hour film madness competition? Friends, that’s how! The Menacherry clan, Miriam (Chandy) / Mathew and their cousins, friends, husbands et al got together for the second year in a row to do this crazy event and it was only a matter of time before everyone around them got sucked into the vortex. This is the story of the mad 48 hour dash to the finish line for Filament Pictures, “In The Closet”, the 2010 submission into the 48 Hour Film (Mumbai). Here is a link to the live tweets that I did through the experience! Live Tweeting 48 Hour Film 2010 Mumbai - In The Closet - Filament Pictures

Friday evening, the team gets its genre, Comedy and there is a bit of a collective gasp since a) comedy is hard b) it doesn’t fit neatly into any early concepts that the team has brainstormed. The brain trust goes into hibernation and after being plied with good whiskey and an endless supply of treats from the house kitchen comes up with a plot, sequencing and rough dialogues that makes us laugh repeatedly. Is it the booze or are we onto something? The night ends with Miriam, the only professional film-maker of the lot cracking the whip and getting the shot division and shoot schedule ready. An early morning beckons.

Saturday crack of dawn, the out-door shooting team heads out to get their shots in Hiranandani, a ton of time is lost navigating security obstacles and they return with their shots but we’re already behind schedule. In the meantime, the indoor shot location is setup and ready to go and the music has been set to the scenes. It’s lunch and nobody has a clue of whats ahead! We launch into the biggest shot sequence of the day and before we know it, the creative process has dragged us all the way through late evening when the directors, Mathew and Miriam finally OK the shot. Long shots and close shots are taken, lines are altered, chopped and actors tone it up and down as we wind down the first big segment.

Already, exhaustion is showing on the team that’s been chugging along since Friday evening on very little sleep. We were behind where we wanted to be based on our shot breakdown plan, the directors had also added a sequence that would ultimately help in establishing a timeline and continuity, but time was a currency we did not have! This was all going like a software project ironically! On the fly plan changes alter estimation in ways that are not productive for hard deadline projects!  Techie gyaan applied!

The stage set for a mad finish, we dived into the most crucial scene of the movie, the sequence between the two lovers, this would make or break the film! Our lead actors, Sam and Paul were flawless and even as we watched them chunk through that sequence, the on-lookers were in splits! We wondered what the light-men and the track-dudes were thinking they were shooting! As shots were being canned, tapes were being ferried up to the makeshift edit room right above where we were shooting. Our ace editor, Susan, methodical super-woman that she is, had already laid everything out into sequences as she got them. We were now in deep night territory, it was obvious we wouldn’t finish all the shots till very early morning. Last shot, 415 AM, the sun was coming up and just like that, D-Day was upon us!

As soon as the final shots were taken, the actors simply collapsed. Sam whose day job had already kept him up before he ever agreed to do the 48 hour marathon, could barely stand during the final shot! Editing began in earnest and the shoot team decided to take a break while Susan pieced the film together using her ninja editing moves on Avid! This was all looking too easy..

At about 6AM IST, I hear Miriam calling out through the haze of the light slumber I’d fallen into. Woke up to find that the edit machine had crashed and all our work was on it! Nice. Susan who had turned hardware pro from ninja editor had the machine opened up in a bid to cool it and make it work for that last mile, but to no avail. Standing there, I realized that all those years I’d spent lugging hard-disks in my college bags and tinkering with computer hardware were finally going to pay off. Susan was calmly telling us how the disks had crashed and was going over our options, just then I realized that I had through some stroke of dumb co-incidence the very cables that we could use to hot-wire the disks.

7.30 AM IST, all the content from the crashed disks was miraculously recovered, we managed to install Avid on a replacement computer and just like that, we were back to the editing table! No time for high-fives, the directors who couldn’t believe we were back from the brink set about chopping the film with Susan. Rough cut in hand, Susan and I laid down the music, for once, planning ahead helped! We laid down the music per the sequence I had decided earlier based on the shot breakdown and wouldn’t you know it, everything fell into place, each piece of music we had gotten seemed to gel perfectly with what the actors were doing! I couldn’t believe it, pure beginners luck! :D

Things seemed to be going smoothly and we thought we’d finish in time, everyone was happy with the final cut and DVD’s were burned, credits were added and finishing touches were put. Aruna, our production controller was going to come over by 4 and ferry the final deliverable to Dadar for submission. At around 3, over lunch the team had a group viewing of the final cut. Amidst the cheering, we realized that there was a major sound glitch in the climax scene which pretty much ruined the film! Somehow a last minute edit had picked up a stray sound-byte that wasn’t supposed to be there! Yikes!

Drop everything, rush to the edit studio! Frantically each frame was analyzed and the bug was caught! Just as we were setting the issue right, we got yelled at by Aruna for the work we’ve done on the credits! We’ve credited a lot of the gang that helped to shape the movie and that includes a lot of people who don’t have a direct title towards the film (Ideators etc). This doesn’t sit well with the rules that states everyone who gets a credit must sign release forms and tons of other formalities!!! We also realize we’ve forgotten to correct the URL of the website from where the music was obtained! Everything was coming down to the wire!!

Susan, our ninja editor, at this point had not slept since Friday night and was working on fumes! We had our ultimatum, no more changes! So, additional release forms were signed, since the URL was at the end of the credits, Susan was able to perform some trickery to get the right URL to overlay. Net result, she didn’t have to re-render the movie and we rushed to convert to MPG and finally DVD. Finally, at around 445 PM or so, the DVD finally left Powai heading towards Dadar for submission while the team nervously waited to hear if we had made it.

Finally, as we all made our way back to our homes and we concluded a crazy weekend, we knew we had a fun movie. It was a bit crazy going through the whole process, with a bit of drama thrown in for good measure with the disk crash and the ghost sound byte making it through, but ultimately it all worked out! Now as I’m writing this, I know that we’ve taken home , Best Picture (First Runner Up), Best Costume & Best Use Of Prop awards, so its that much more sweeter knowing the effort we all put into it!

A total team effort with everyone pitching in at one time or the other! Team Filament is already looking forward to next year’s entry! In the post-mortem, I wonder about many of the choices we made about the film and my film-maker sister points out some interesting stuff about the film, but heck, it was a fun ride and super experience!

In the Closet

Team Filament

Director: Mathew Menacherry (Author of "Arrack In The Afternoon", Harper-Collins)

Co-Director: Miriam Chandy Menacherry
Check out the trailer for her up-coming documentary, "The Rat Race", adjudged the best documentary amongst the six selected for the Cannes MIPDOC Co-Production Challenge, an international pitching competition for makers of documentary and factual programmes.

Sam Varghese
Paul Menacherry
Pubali Sanyal
Maneesh Verma

Mathew Menacherry / Paul V. Menacherry / Miriam Menacherry

Akash Saxena / Annie Antony

Annie Antony

Malini Dassari

Susan Zachariah

1 comment:

Mee said...

Loved reading it, cld almost see the drama unfold! :)