With 13 plus years in Indian television production, I was curious to know, what would it be like to work on the other side, with an international crew. I had worked on international formats and heard a lot about how pat on they were, they stuck to their schedules, each and every person knew exactly what their role was and how they had to execute it. Pre-prod seemed to be absolutely strong. I had only heard these things, never experienced it.
Part of the opportunity came through while working on the show, ‘Pokerface’ India, an U.K based format show. I got my hands on the much treasured ‘Show Bible’, the production schedules and some other documents. I started looking through it, scavenging for information on what made them so ‘professional’, to say the least.
8:30 am- car arrives at studio gate.
Contestant 1-walks from gate to studio door- 30 secs.
8:31 AM-contestant 1 will be met at studio door by AD 1. Briefing 1 minute.
8:32 AM-contestant 1, meets with panel. 5 minutes.
8:38 Am-contestant 1, leaves studio.
8:40 AM-contestant 2 arrives at studio gate……
And so the schedule continued.
The pre prod was run like a tight ship. With this sort of preparation for the shoot, the concept could go wrong but not the execution. Everyone knew what everyone else was supposed to do! Actually, let me correct that- everyone knew what they were expected and supposed to do.
1. Pre Prod is key, invest in it. Each crew member should know what their responsibilities are.
Experience no.2, was working on IIFA 2011, with Wizcraft. One morning I got a call, I was told that we were to shoot an episode in Toronto. I really didn’t have to think much, I said yes. I was on my way to Canada, ready for my 1st shoot experience with an international crew and little idea what to expect. Very much like Eddie Murphy’s character in Coming To America.
My first trip ever, to a 1st world country. I got off the flight, completed the formalities, waited for my ride and headed straight to the studio for my 1st shoot.
I worked with 3 crews, all from Toronto and the teams (except for me) worked in shifts. Each team comprised of 1 director-me, 1 cameraman/woman, 1 sound engineer and 1 assistant.
The team I worked with the most was Eric Schumer-DOP, Gary Oppenheimer-Sound Engineer and I’ve been trying to remember the assistants name-Ben, If i’m not wrong. Hope Eric or Gary if they read this post can shed some light here.
We were armed like a stealth unit, ready for anything that came our way.
Eric had his lens kit & backpack-in it was all the camera lights he could need, possible filters, required gels, pd lights, even filters for these lights, etc.
Gary packed in a strolley, with 3 bags, every kind of mic, boom rod, covers, noise filters, cables, etc. Anything required to get the perfect sound, he had it all.
Ben-who drove the car, figured out the parking, labeled the tapes, handled it and did everything else possible.
2. Be prepared and Multi task. Smaller teams do tend to be more efficient.
Everybody carried their equipment, I carried my weight and took on the tripod, the least I could do.
We got some good footage around Toronto, shot some backstage action, interviewed Kings and Queens of Bollywood on the Green Carpet. Shot some terrific anchor links around the city with one of the finest, glamourous and absolutely professional host-the beautiful Lisa Ray.
The DOP Eric, called her a Liz Taylor look alike. He was right, she is a dream to work with. Her working style reminded me of another talented Canadian born anchor I had shot with years ago, Ruby Bhatia.
The experience on the whole was phenomenal. The crew was absolutely professional, we dined together-they stuck to the no drinking at work policy and I broke it with a cocktail, one dandy afternoon lunching at Jack Astors. Cheers to a good shoot and many more to come. Definitely look forward to working with them sometime soon.
On returning home, comparisons were inevitable. I wouldn’t be naive and state that everything was picture perfect, but some things do tick me off. Compared to a DOP or a Sound Engineer, who packs all he requires in a bag, I am amazed that, back home we still use a sun gun attached to a battery. It weighs a ton and requires an additional person to carry it. Better options are available such as LED sun guns mounted on the camera sans the battery.
Quality equipment will definitely yield better results as it opens out your shot options. Any cameraman or producer/director would agree that it would be so much better if we had the right lenses, lights, etc. How many times have you been out on shoot and had to compromise on the shot you wanted? There is only that much magic that can be created without spending much money.
In India, crews are talented and efficient but we cut costs on equipment that could enhance the shoot. Why? It beats me.
3. Do not compromise on essentials. Remember the old adage ‘penny wise, pound foolish.’
These points are just the tip of the ice berg, but probably the easiest to kick off changes with. We could conclude that better budgets would solve many issues.
Are just better budgets a real solution? Or would that make the producer richer while the crew would still be stuck with the guy holding up a 5 kg battery light? Would you then shut up and put up with it? What would you do? Rather what do you do?