"Who in the World am I?Ah! That's the great puzzle"

Friday, July 8, 2011

A WeekTo Remember: Film Making Workshop With Prashant Rasaily

Over a month in Gangtok and the monotony, with the repetitive idleness was killing me. I felt like Sisyphus...trapped in a constant world of futility! That's when I heard about the Film Making workshop that Prashant Rasaily, the renowned film maker from Gangtok was organizing. I called him, we met and then, there was no looking back. We were seven of us all together...all amateurs, bound and brought together with one passion....film making!

DAY 01: We left Gangtok on the 25th of June, shortly after 9:00am. We headed to Teen Talay, a resort in Rumtek. We settled into our rooms and freshened up. After lunch and a little recreation, we started with our work. Day 01 was a theory class on how to write a SCREEN PLAY. Prashant taught us the format and detailed us on how a screen play should be written. He also told us how important it was to keep the pace and the tone of the film in mind while writing the screen play. Immediately, he gave us an example and asked us to write the shot for that scene. After a lot of discussions about modern films, we sat down, as a group to do our first task together. Prashant gave us a character: A young man and the location: The woods. We began work immediately. We all had ideas and most of it, were related to the thriller or horror genre. The location and the eerie atmosphere around helped us develop our story further. Taking everyone's suggestions and ideas in mind, by midnight, we were done with a screen play for a five-minute film. Prashant was happy with our work and that first night, we all slept like logs!
Prashant teaching the group about SCREEN PLAY while Adarsh and Anant listen intently. 

Adarsh aka 'Poday' & me, working on the the screen play

 On the first day of the work shop...Yes, We had to pose in front of the poster! 

Priya and Anant, seriously listening to Prashant on DAY 01. 

DAY 02: Location Scouting or Recce was the plan for the second day. Keeping in mind the script and the character, we had to go look for places to shoot. Which meant, that we had to walk uphill, deep into the heart of the forest and decide on the locations for the various shots. At 7am, we head off. Initially, It wasn't much of a task. We checked the near-by locations and decided on a few, with the shots in mind. Then, we started climbing uphill. That, was when most of thought that we were in the wrong place! Climbing up a hill is one thing, but then when one is climbing and there are about ten leeches doing everything in their power to stick onto you and suck your blood, that's another. So yeah, imagine us, in the forest, tired, panting, out of breath and trying to do away with the predators at our feet! At first, we (Priya and me...the only girls in the group) screamed and shouted but then after an hour or so, we had gotten so accustomed that we were picking the leech ourselves and throwing them away! We climbed up, walked through the woods, let the leeches bite, took pictures, decided on various locations. As we walked through, Prashant kept entertaining us with his home-made jokes. We didn't feel like we were working on any project, in fact, we felt like we were a group of friends, out in the wild, trekking and hiking. That's how comfortable Prashant made us feel and slowly, all of us had started getting closer to each other and formed a bond. We helped each other climb up or down and even helped one another with the leeches. After more than hours hours of location scouting, we head back to the resort....tired but satisfied and happy at what we have achieved within a short time. We knew, this was only the beginning.

Priya, Raj da, Phuntsog and Anant during the Recce :

Location Scouting around the hills in Rumtek. This Pine forest is where we shot the first scene of the trailer. 

A Proud Priya, showing off the dirt and bruises she accumulated during the Recce. 

Deepen Daju, taking shots of the locations around the hills. 

Walking through the leech infested forest, armed in Phuntsog's jacket and my Benetton Wellingtons! I had only 3 leech bites, which was nothing compared to Priya's 20 plus bites on her legs and Adarsh's 30 plus! 

DAY 03 Morning: We were frigging tired by the third day but that was only a physical exhaustion. On the inside, we were determined and motivated. I had never walked like that ever before! This workshop was not only a learning experience but It was a place where we were getting to do things we'd never imagined! The previous night, we did a shot break-down and decided to shoot the trailer which would be for two minutes. So on the third day, we set our early. We carried the equipments, with some help from the two technicians and set out into the forest again. This time we took another route and climbed up hill. We'd found this almost abandoned monastery and even though we didn't need a monastery in the script we'd written, we decided the place was too beautiful to be left out. So, we did what we do best, we let the creativity flow and then we used the location for few shots. 
Prashant, teaching us how to operate the camera and adjust the scene, using the natural lights of the surrounding.

The crew, exhausted after taking the first shot for the trailer. . . 

Prashant, explaining the shot that was just taken as Phuntsog, Me, Priya and Pavi Daju look on. Adarsh aka 'Poday' in the background, doing what he does best....Resting! LOL

One of those random yet busy moments at the shoot! I think That's Priya Namchu's hands in the bhuja packet! 

We began to work. The first shot we required was a long shot of the pine woods. So with the technicians' help, we set the camera and Prashant taught us how to operate the gadget. The technicians placed it in the angle and then we adjusted the focus. We got the characters ready and then took our first shot. A tilt, long shot of the forest. Priya, Phuntsog and I took turns to take the same shot. After that, we used the forest, in ways we thought would be helpful and took many shots required for our script.

 The Crew trying to take shots in the rainy weather. The light above the camera was obstructing the frame so Prashant taught us ways to divert the light.

DAY 03, Late Noon & Evening:  After lunch and a little rest, we headed for shoot again. This time we didn't have to climb uphill but then we had to serve ourselves to the leeches again! Prashant said that we would add a montage of a lot of creepy shots and he wanted each one of us to take one shot at least. We got really excited and began looking for things around that we could take shots of! Everyone came up with brilliant shots. Adarsh aka Poday took this amazing shot of a dead butterfly, surrounded by ants while Priya had a beautifully eerie shot of a white mushroom with blood dripping from top. Phuntsog had a shot of an insect moving in a dirty water; Pavi daju took his morbid shot of an old tree while Deepen daju had a fast moving shot of mushrooms grown on a bark of a tree. I took a shot of a lot of worms in the mud, wriggling. Prashant was very happy with all our shots and after that we continued to shoot for the trailer. We walked to a place where there was a small pond. We thought that would be a perfect place to shoot the last scene of the film. We got our things ready but then it began to pour heavily. At first, we thought the shoot was going to get cancelled but then, things like that don't affect Prashant and while the rain kept falling down, we all stood there, the camera protected under an umbrella and us, dripping wet! Our actor, Anant Pradhan (Gladrags Man Hunt 1st Runner-up 2003) was beyond professional. He had no airs about him and was a natural actor. 

Priya probably laughing at Prashant's joke, while Pavi daju tries to get the leeches off his leg. Phuntsog looks on. 

Poday tries his hands at Set designing.....

Prashant, giving lessons on film-making as spontaneously as his mind works:

When we got back to the resort, the technicians started to set up the crane. Phuntsog and I helped them put the equipments together and they taught us how it was supposed to be done. Even though we did not take any crane shots for the trailer, Prashant wanted each of us to get a feel of shooting from the crane so he let us experience that as well

Prashant, giving Pavi daju tips and lessons on using a crane:
Deepen Daju, looking professional on the crane:

Our actor, Anant Pradhan tries his hands behind the camera:
Phuntsog on the crane:

DAY 04: We were done with most of the shots but then we had a small problem. We had this shot of an invisible figure walking in the woods, disrupting the shrubs around. Prashant came up with a very bright idea. He said, we would use green threads and tie bunches of the grass together real low and people would stand at the end of the string so that when the string is pulled, one after another, it looks like someone is actually walking on the grass. We were all so amazed and awed by Prashant's creativity. However, the fascination stopped right there. We had to make 50 plus green threads with a loop at one end! We got to work but that wasn't enough. It started pouring again. So after getting the threads ready, we went to a location near-by and set up the place. That took us quite some time and when we were ready for the shot, the rain came down on us but we took the shot in the rain and the result was very very gratifying! 

Prashant, letting his creativity flow and teaching us how to use our heads for the shots that we require, without using any special effects while editing! 

DAY 05: By the time the fifth day arrived, we were done with the field work. We didn't have to walk the jungle path or serve food to the leech. On the fifth day, Prashant gathered us all in a room and we did an exercise on SOUND. What most people don't realize is that SOUND is very important in a film. Emotions, you can show on the face but for that emotion to create a deep impact, you need a background music/score. Prashant made us sit and close our eyes while he played music and told us to imagine whatever we wanted to.  For this particular exercise me played the background score of Memoirs of a Geisha and we let the oriental music flow into our heads. I don't know what the others imagine but for me, may be because I knew It was a soundtrack of an Asian Film, I imagined the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings! Yeah, yeah....the planes, the bomb dropping, the mushroom, the ringing silence, the explosion, the people...some dead, some alive and some, in-between! The exercise proved to be very helpful because after this, I realized how the sound that we hear around, can mean and express many situations in a film. 
In the later half of the day, Prashant taught us how to edit the raw footage and convert it into a film. We learn to use Final Cut Pro or FCP. He taught us every bit of the step and since Pavi Daju, Deepen Daju, Adarsh and Puntsog had already done a bit of editing before, It was easier for them. While Priya and me took quite some time to learn. Then we got together and chose the footage and files that we thought would be appropriate for the trailer. Sitting there, working together while the rain hit the roofs, provided a perfect atmosphere for us to do the work. Admist jokes, discussions and some serious work, we had managed a rough cut of the trailer (without the sound) by nightfall.

DAY 06: The sixth day was all about editing. When people just hear the word, "Editing," they may assume, its taking the rough cuts together and putting them in sequence. Easy! But that's not what editing is about! When Prashant teaches us any work, he teaches us well! So while we sat there as a group and edited the footage, we kept in mind, the concept of the film; the curiosity that was necessary in the trailer; the appropriate images; the text that would create the intensity of the film. With all these in mind, we had to find the perfect background score as well. So that took us the whole day and while some of us fell asleep in between, the rest worked. Then we woke up, the rest slept! It was one tiring day, even though we didn't go out of the room! Editing means total dedication with full concentration on the work. That was what we learnt and that helped us edit our first work!
The group begins to edit while 'Sensei' Prashant looks on

DAY 07: I have to admit, the pace at how the week passed was nothing less than the pace of a supersonic concord! Or well, at least It felt that way! So seven days were over and we had a two minute trailer completed. On the 7th morning, we woke up early and headed to the hall for some theatre exercise. We didn't have much clue about what we were going to do and most of us were conscious and didn't want to do any sort of acting. Prashant made us gather in a circle and we started with some stretching exercise and voice modulation exercises. I was really uncomfortable in the beginning and was wondering what we were gonna do. Then, we started with the two extreme emotions. Prashant said he would slowly count from 01 to 10 and we were supposed to show our levels of happiness, 01 being slightly pleased to 10 being extremely happy. Then we did the same for sadness. We, then used props and learnt how we could use basic everyday items to replace something else. Slowly, we realized that we didn't feel shy or conscious anymore and then we realized that most of us could actually act! Therefore, this exercise on the last day brought out many hidden talent is us! It was really interesting and all of us enjoyed it thoroughly! 
Then, we had lunch and head back to our rooms to do the packing. After the packing, we got together and took photographs and enjoyed the last few minutes together, more as friends, less like team mates! Initially we'd been strangers to each other but one week in the woods together, had made us more like friends and to some extent, even as close as family. 

Deepen Daju, Adarsh, Phuntsog and Pavi Daju strike a pose before clearing the room. 
The happy film family :)