Filming: Day 2

Today, I filmed the scenes in the living room between Anamika’s mother and the therapist, Mrs. Chopra. This included them talking while sitting downstairs and then getting up and running up the stairs to Anamika’s room upon hearing the crash. As these shots all took place in the same location for the most part and there were only people involved, it took much less time to film than yesterday’s scenes. These scenes are also shorter in length and dialogue-laden, with almost no physical action involved, which made them easier to shoot in many ways. I started at about 11 AM and wrapped by 3 PM.

For warm lighting, I used the tube lights in the room that had yellow bulbs. This had a much different look than the tube lights in Anamika’s room which were bright and fluorescent, but I specifically wanted milder, yellow lights as this would work well with the warm color scheme. Apart from this, large glass panes allowed a solid amount of natural sunlight to liven up the room as well and create the feel of a bright morning.

In terms of make-up and costumes, I had the mother wear simple black jeans an Indian-style kurtha top. The therapist, Mrs. Chopra, wore a formal saree, earrings, and had her hair neatly pulled back with a clip. Both the kurtha top and the saree help give the film some cultural context, as they are traditionally Indian. Also, I wanted both of them to wear pink as that would fit in with the warm color scheme and they would play off each other well.

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For all my filming, I used a Canon EOS 5D Mark III camera, a 24-105 mm lens, and a tripod. To record audio, I did not use an external mic. I adjusted the settings in my camera to eliminate as much grain as possible and just recorded the dialogue using my camera’s mic. Before rolling, we had to spend some rehearsing the dialogue as these scenes were mostly dialogue. I ran through the script with the actors several times before filming, working on memorization and delivery.

The different kinds of shots that I experimented with today include:

Close-ups: When snippets of the conversation are heard, often you will see just the person’s hands, eyes or lips, and a voiceover of the dialogue. I don’t establish the full face right away to create a sense of mystery and draw and viewers in. I shot these extreme close-ups of various body parts and also of the coffee mugs and the coffee.

Over-the-shoulder: The over-the-shoulder shots proved to be tricker than I anticipated. Positioning the camera over one person’s shoulder, and getting the other person’s face in the center of the frame took a bit of time to get right. I had to do a lot of adjusting and careful framing, but in the end it was worth it. These shots are visually interesting and create a sense of perspective and dimension.

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Aerial: When the mother and the therapist hear the noise from upstairs and look up, I wanted this to be an aerial shot, because with an aerial shot we can get a clearer sense of them looking up. It gives a real perspective to the shot.  To film this angle, I extended the tripod to its fullest length and then placed it on top of the coffee table. I too then got up on top of the coffee table and filmed.

Running up the stairs: For the running up the stairs sequence, I used the match on action technique. I filmed the actors several times from the bottom of the staircase and from the top of the staircase, and I will edit it together to look like one continuous sequence.

On average, I did about 5-6 takes of every shot. However, several dialogues required a lot more takes to get right because the wording and the enunciation proved to be a challenge at times. However, on the whole, I both were successful days of filming and I have wrapped by short film on schedule. I have learnt so much from this process about time management, directing, cinematography and patience. This was a long, but rewarding two days.

Filming: Day 1

Today, I filmed all the scenes involving Anamika and her alternate identities in her bedroom. The characters present in these scenes are Anamika, Arya, Ashvita and Ashwin. As I could only get all these actors together in the same place for one day, I had to work efficiently and smoothly to get all the footage I need for these scenes within a span of 8-9 hours before the sun went down. We started in the morning at about 10 AM and filmed until 6 PM. By the end of the day, I am happy to say that I was able to get done everything that I had planned.

As my primary light source, I used artificial white light from the fluorescent tube lights in my room. Apart from this, a small amount of natural sunlight filtered in through the windows. Overall, I tried to make the room as bright and brilliant as possible in order to achieve the effect of high-key lighting.

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Then, before starting to film, I had to get the actors ready with costuming and makeup. Anamika was put into casual shorts and a loose t-shirt with no makeup on her face as she was supposed to look natural and like she had just woken up. Arya wore black tights, a sleeveless grey top, dark eye makeup and smeared red lipstick to look like grunge, dark and psychotic. Ashvita dressed like a child in a colorful dress and pigtails, while Ashwin had a casual, natural look in shorts and a black shirt.

img_4819Once the actors were ready, filming could start. Before rolling, I spent some time blocking and rehearsing the script so that the actors would know what to do and be confident. It would also give me a chance to fix where I wanted the camera and how the camera movement was going to work. So that the actors would always hit their marks correctly and land in front of the camera in the right place, I used sticky tape to mark their starting, ending and/or standing points.

I did all my filming using a Canon EOS 5D Mark III camera, a 24-105 mm lens, and a tripod. The tripod was used for most of the shots but there were certain shots, such as when I had to climb on top of a shelf to film Arya speaking, wherein the tripod was too cumbersome and impractical to use. In such situations, I rested the camera on some other steady surface or used a very steady grip to film. To record audio, I did not use an external mic. I adjusted the settings in my camera to eliminate as much grain as possible and just recorded the dialogue using my camera’s mic.

There were a lot of different kinds of shots that I experimented with today, such as:

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High-Angle shots: For high angle aerial shots, I climbed on top the closet and filmed the room below. Shooting Anamika from this perspective made her look small and diminished, which serves as a metaphor for the fact that she was weak and powerless in the face of her disorder, and the other dominant personalities. Also, it suggests that when Arya looks down at Anamika from the closet, this is how she sees her – weak, small, inferior. When Arya takes over, Anamika can do nothing but watch.

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Pans/Tilts: One of the trickiest shots to film was the simultaneous pan/tilt up from Anamika’s bed to the top of the closet while simultaneously adjusting the depth of field and keeping the characters center frame. Even though this was one of the shots that I practiced prior to the day of filming, this shot took over 15 takes for me to get right. It took a lot of patience and a careful, steady motion to achieve, but finally I was successful.

Action sequence – Slap: Filming Arya slapping Anamika was another tricky shot because it needed to look like a violent slap, and my actor was not willing to slap anyone at any cost. Therefore, I had to figure out a way to create a realistic looking slap without hurting anyone. To do this, I filmed Arya first coming to slap Anamika, until she stops short of just hitting her face. Then I went to the other side and filmed Anamika’s face with Arya’s hand on her cheek and then filmed her reaction. Edited together, this will look like one continuous slap.

360-degree pan: I filmed a 360-degree pan shot from the center of the room. I had each of the characters in different parts of the room doing crazy things like singing a nursery rhyme, playing with a ball and hitting his head against a wall. In the middle of this, Anamika stood, motionless, with her eyes closed, as though she was in the eye of the hurricane. I am not sure if I will actually be able to use this shot in my final film, but it was very interesting to try out and created an unusual, striking effect. I could perhaps try to fit it in somewhere in hazy fragments to show the chaos going on in Anamika’s mind.

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Disappearing Effect: To make it look like the three alternate identities disappeared into thin air, I needed to have the three of them get up and leave after saying their line, leaving only Anamika behind. The tricky thing was that Anamika could not move at all, and had to sit perfectly still. It took several trial runs to fix how each of them must sit and practice how they must all speak in unison.

On average, I did about 5-6 takes of every shot before moving on to the next one. I learnt a lot about what it takes to be a director and cinematographer. Having to fulfill both those roles at the same time was a bit tricky, but I soon got the hang of it. I understood how to communicate with the actors in a way that would get me the kind of performance I want for my film. It was a very collaborative process between the actors and myself and this turned out to be very rewarding indeed. Overall, this was a very productive day of filming