Tuesday, 12 July 2016

Diploma Diaries: How to Make a Film With the World Against You

I would have liked `to write a happy post saying how happy i am because my final project in SRFTI, a short film which goes by the name 'diploma project' is over. This is usually done tagging all people involved in the shoot and announcing the venue and time of the wrap up party that is going to happen in the terrace. The truth is, i can't do any of this. I have been here for three and a half years. I have done the following projects: the DV project [a short film of five minutes], the mise-en-scene exercise [a long take exercise shot on film], the short film project of duration ten minutes [shot on film], the documentary project [incomplete because my editor decided to throw one day's footage away because he wanted to take 'revenge' on me], the playback project [a five minute long music accompanied piece in which you are required to play the music back while shooting]. This is in addition to the numerous exercises i've done as a student of cinema here.

So when it is time for me to thank people who helped me achieve this herculean task which was so because of the anti-cinema nature of SRFTI, i would like to thank all of you all who stood with me in this struggle and in addition to that i would, like to share with you, as a student of cinema, what the role of a director is and how SRFTI and may be other film schools as well teach students crap about directors and cinema in general. Like i said, i am only a student of cinema and will remain that even when i make my fiftieth feature film. But the learning i have achieved has to be shared because it is political as much as it is personal.

So, directors, are idiots, They are fools. They are wrong most of the time. They have sick children with them whom they call their 'story' or 'script'. They are, trying to bring back this sick child to health by making the film. They are convinced that the child will return to life. They are convinced that Ayurveda is crap and modern medicine alone will cure the child. Some directors believe homeopathy will. They will stick to that even when they see the script/story child gasping for breath and life. They might let the story die. But since they are fools anyway they will happy that it's not a distant uncle who killed it, but they themselves. That's the logic by which directors operate.

Yes, it's shitty. But there is no way you can do anything about it. For example, there is a reason why every line, every shot, every silence has been put into the work. It is not for an editor to chop off or a sound person to fill with ambient sound. The silence is there for a reason. The reason will be stupid most of the time because directors really are stupid. Doesn't matter, it has to be there. In my own diploma project for example, most of the props and costume have been chosen due to reasons only i am familiar with. Since my diploma film cannot be separated from the war i am waging against sexual harassment on campus, some of the props are there only because i want a record of things that happened here in my work as well. It's not as if i have put in the order throwing the guilty professors out as the title card of my film. It's rather like me using accessories of a co-complainant, a bag, for example, the name of a person who had accompanied me to police station (Suruma). There is a laptop which was used in the film which the cinematographer did not like one bit because of the flickering screen. In effect, his work would be considered bad if the laptop screen flickers. But the truth is that i wanted to use only that laptop because it was lent to me by a fellow fighter and most of the diploma work and fight against sexual harassment happened together on that laptop. The flickering screen is because of a virus, it is not the cinematographer's fault. It could have been easily avoided by getting another laptop but i did not and will not even if i was given another chance. Objects matter. Cinema is also about the relationship between objects and people as much as it is about relationships between people and people. This is all to be seen as an attempt to bring back to life a story that is dead because it's now only on paper. Cinema stories on papers are dead bodies. Only principal photography can bring them back to life.

So i would like to tell everyone who likes cinema something. It is not about the supreme power of the director. In fact it is not about power at all. I have edited a considerable amount of videos for a boss of mine who was my director in all those occasions. Once there was a time when i had to change the colour of the video from black and white to sepia to colour. I found the idea stupid. It was so not me. I tried to fight against it but realized that if i were the director i would have insisted the same way based on the conviction i have in my idea. So when a director sounds stupid while saying that let's go for a tele-er lens or that let's change the call time to this the next day, or that let's not have this person doing this job, it only means that their conviction is prompting these decisions and they truly want it to be done. When you sense authority, it is coming from the original idea that is driving the film. For example, when somebody is 'asked' to get things done it is not because the director thinks they are inferior to them but because by signing up for the project everybody signs up for getting the very same things done. It could be a helicopter or a boat. It could be nothing at all to an elephant. 'Get the elephant here' is not authority, it is just the same as 'it has to be a profile shot' or 'i want silence when i speak to my actors'.

A film is a group of people working together to bring many such elephants to shoot. Many such elephants have to be trained and fed and put to sleep and kept happy for the film to happen. While the director can only decide what the elephants should do or look like, it is the team's responsibility to provide good working/sleeping/eating conditions for the elephants. Actually, it is also the team's responsibility to make sure that the director has good working conditions as well. When a director is given the task of costume continuity or clicking continuity stills, it is far away from good working conditions. People make better films when they are left with the job they are supposed to do.

And also to clear another misconception, the job that directors are supposed to do is not easy. It is not about pretending to think all the time. Nor is it just about coming up with ideas. To come up with a good story or script - not easy. To constantly work on the script till it reaches a shape which is even satisfactory - not easy. To manage changes in shot breakdown during shoot - not easy. Fucking difficult to be clear. To manage actors and non actors together - not easy. To think while shooting - seems impossible. To talk while shooting - positive that it is impossible. Yet, i have worked hard, i have tried my best and i have accepted my failures and have decided to move ahead.

Even though i have been the blacksheep from the beginning due to my opinion on ragging which i think is a heinous crime, it was after i complained against sexual harassment that i saw consorted attempts to actually stop me from shooting my diploma film. Professors, students and other power holding people were party to this. I have not faced such humiliation in all these years of making films here in SRFTI. One or two student friends, one of my actors, my parent all know a PART of what was done to me. Every day was a struggle. So much so that until i yelled 'wrap up' and slept after that, i wasn't sure the project had happened. And yes, in spite of all that was done to me, it became possible only because of the collective efforts of a few people like the junior student who did the job of a line producer, a classmate who helped him and a couple of people from production. Otherwise, from the beginning till the end it was a story of humiliation and isolation. The crew was divided and it was hell to manage because of people with conflicts working together. By conflicts i do not mean a Bressonian and a Tarkovskian working together but rather like a feminist/a victim of sexual assault working with its perpetrators and supporters. It's unimaginable.

I am not sorry about even one thing i did. Not about calling some people names, yelling at some people, fighting with some others. Not unhappy or feeling remorseful about even one thing, one word or one look that i gave during shoot. I am a thankless bitch because i believe that making a film happen is the responsibility of everyone who signed up for the film and is NOT something i need to be grateful about. Of course, getting elephants is not easy. But it is necessary and that is what you signed up for when you said you would work with me. I am a cold blooded bitch who also happens to be a student of cinema and i have been a good student all my life, it shows.

Thanks again, everyone.
No wrap up party because i can't call the terrace 'ragging terrace' and i don't have money to spend on alcohol. Much love to all who made life hell for me as well as those who helped. More love will go to the former as a general rule. Now gradually moving towards the phase called post production which i am sure has no greener grass to offer me. Fingers crossed. I hope i survive.

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