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Blanking Out On The Set of My First Short Film

Behind The Scenes of My Short Film

Like many people starting out, my first short film was made with friends. It was nothing like a set. Just 4 guys hanging out at a friend’s place, shooting some things for a day on some camera. Nobody cared or payed any attention. We were doing our own thing. And as we were all friends, the channels of communication were pretty open.

By the time I decided to do my second short film, I was out of college and all my friends were out working. The story needed elder characters. So I brought in my parents, few of my relatives, 2 or 3 of my free friends and their parents and relatives. It was to be a one day quick shoot in three locations close by. Besides them helping out, I was the whole crew.

Briefing My First Short Film Team

I remember the morning of the shoot. No one knew what the story was, their characters and dialogues. I had to brief them. Everyone had gathered around me in front of our first location. A crowd of maybe 10. Oh I wish someone was shooting behind the scenes that day, then I could have shown you my plight.

I knew what I was supposed to do. But nothing was coming to my mind. I couldn’t open my mouth. I was so scared. Even if I did say something I don’t know if it would have made any sense. My mind was blank. Then I remembered that thankfully I had a bound script and I had printed it out. So I turned to read it. At least then I could say something.

The Future Director

I took it out and looked at the script that I had typed and printed myself. I could see the letters, but I could not read even a single word. It looked gibberish to me at that time. The letters seemed liked blotches of black ink on white paper. My parents were right there in the crowd, on my first ‘set’, looking to see this future film director and what a screwup I was being. I knew everyone in front of me. I wasn’t in a crowd of unknown technicians. These were my friends and relatives. Even then! Oh my god, what a day!

Finally I turned to my friend beside me, who was sort of Assistant Director-ing that day. I asked him in his ear if he could narrate the story. Which he did. Somewhere halfway through his narration, my mind cleared. I came out of my own head, my fears and got into the story. I took over from him and then the day went ahead smooth. I was there present. It felt natural.

Learning From Experience

By my third short film I was prepared for my mind blanking out. Instead of having everything written, I had everything storyboarded, stick figure sketches. Once I saw the frame I saw the whole film and knew what part of the film that particular scene was. I also had the script printed in English, which I am more used to reading than Malayalam. I no longer feared the blotches of black ink on the white paper.

By the time I was shooting Munnariv, my debut feature, I did not even need storyboards. I also had a crew of people helping me out. Though small, it wasn’t just me doing everything, from calling ‘camera rolling’, ‘action’ and ‘cut’ as before.

 

You might be able to learn a lot from these articles and tutorials, but it pales in comparison to what you learn by actually doing it. Do your thing your way and learn by making your mistakes.


Hey Aspiring Filmmaker,

I debuted my film career making a feature film for ₹5 lakhs ($7,000) on an iPhone. I’d like to help you do the same. So I wrote everything I learned into a book. It is now available on Amazon, called The Indian Indie Film (or Make Your Film for rest of the world). Enjoy!

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