Tag Archives: documentary

#Crowdfunding – THE NAPOLEON: A Story of Artillery’s Evolution

As much as gunpowder and gasoline is interesting to watch on screen, the making of such a legendary weapon is always an interesting story. At the beginning of the Civil War, the Napoleon, the Model 1857 light 12-pounder gun, was the state-of-the-art.

And just like any other modern revolutionary invention, the story of this gun is full of twists and turns: politics, technology, wars, and memorable characters. The Executive Producer of the film, Robert L. Silverman wanted to tell this story ever since he helped restore a 1861 Napoleon at the National Guard Militia Museum of New Jersey. And when a person with such a keen interest in the subjects takes up a project like this, you can place your bets on it!

The documentary intends to describe the Napoleon’s design, capabilities, and place in history. It will let the audience experience all the movement, fire, smoke and sounds that the artillerists did while in battle. The subject so intense and interesting needs to be well researched to be the best of its kind, and it will definitely be.

It is surely going to be a documentary that will make some serious buzz in the historical and military weapon space.

This month the creator of this documentary started raising funds through the innovative use of crowdfunding. His crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo will help him produce a high quality documentary and will allow him to film on location and to pay for first rate production and post-production work.

Raising money for a subject that requires such an intense amount of research followed by hours and hours of meticulous execution is not an easy task. That is why I want to use my Blog to promote such ventures that are ambitious and different from the redundant world of cinema. And if you feel that such new subjects should someday reach the theaters near you, this is your chance…

So what are you waiting for? Be a part of this groundbreaking new and innovative documentary and visit the The Napoleon-A Story Of Artillery’s Evolution campaign site here, where you can become eligible to receive great perks from the creator of this new historical documentary!

Link to the YouTube video

Link to the Crowdfunding campaign

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16th Mumbai Film Festival – Lessons in Dissent

“Blind belief in authority is the greatest enemy of truth.”
Albert Einstein

There are two kinds of people in the world. The first kind is just like you and me. Whatever comes by our way, thrown by our superiors; we accept it. We are at the receiving end. And then there are people who consider it as their responsibility to be the change.

Lessons in dissent is a documentary by Director Matthew Torne and it was screened in the Real Reel section at the festival. The film is a portrayal of the fight of a few Hong Kongers against political oppression. The film mainly revolves around the group named Scholarism. It is a group of secondary school students formed to serve as an alliance against Moral & National Education.

Opening Sequence here

Trailer here

To be very frank, I did not intend to watch this documentary. I wanted to attend another film and I had to enter this screening as I couldn’t catch my desired show. After checking out the opening sequence I was quite amazed that the film is a non fiction film. It was quite unbelievable to see a 15 year old Joshua Wong addressing an audience of 1,00,000 Hong Kongers with such an aggression. When I was 15, my goals, my dreams were completely different. Witnessing the passion of these school going kids was totally exhilarating.

The film, is a completely political film with a one sided message. Judging from the film itself it appears that the school kids and their activism is a representation of all good against evil. My lack of knowledge regarding the subject prevents me from making any judgement out of it but I have a belief that every coin has two sides.

What I really admire about the film is, to convey the message in an appropriate manner, the maker has taken full liberty of using lots of text emphasizing subject matter and directing the audience. Also, the whole documentary is divided into chapters (lessons) justifying the fact that the film is against compulsory national education and the government interference in it.

The film lacks those stunning shots which would give it any acknowledgement as a brilliantly shot film. But it is surely a very well organized and a daring film altogether. This is taking run and gun to the next level. I could only imagine the kind of problems a film maker with western background would face while shooting such a sensitive subject in a country like China.

One has to admire this format of storytelling; a real hard hitting documentary. It acquainted me with so many social issues in Hong Kong and in China as well. It introduced me to the culture gave me a glimpse of the power of the youth. And at no point it made an attempt to preach any particular thought. Apart from a really important subject, the film also is important in the documentary films genre.

#6 My Creation – Pardes (2012)

I had just finished my first year in college. I was getting a few assignments to shoot. I had an agenda of making a film every month. This is the movie I came up with. It started as a simple following assignment. And it turned out to be a short and sweet documentary which earned me multiple awards in the years to come. And most importantly it showed me how difficult it is to even think to produce one short film per month.

Pardes

It is the story of a man who came to Mumbai in search of a better and comforting life. The main character is a bhelwala (street chat seller) who is selling bhel in Mumbai for 16 years. The story explores the problems he faced and how his roommates helped him find solutions from time to time. Furthermore, the story explains his thoughts about his wife and his four kids which stay in village. Why doesn’t he bring them in Mumbai? Doesn’t he miss them? The story explains.

I am listing down a number of things I learnt while making the film:

1. Get your character right: Find an interesting enough character and your job is half done. Well, not literally. But a character with multiple personal challenges commands attention.

2. Multiple locations: I had a number of options open. The fact that attracted me with this particular subject was that he roams from place to place. I had the liberty of changing the location as I shoot him. I had the liberty of making him stand anywhere I like and take a timelapse. In the end my choice of locations made it look even more cinematic.

3. Small crew, small camera: I like to work alone. But a small crew of dedicated members is always welcome. Smaller the camera, lesser the attention. When using a DSLR, it is really easy to go around taking shots that you like. If you can manage to do so with a camera even smaller, nothing like it. At times, the complexity of the shot, the locations demand the use of smaller cameras with inferior power. But if the end result is going to be interesting enough, it doesn’t really matter.

4. The story is made on the edit table: After the interviews I was trying so hard to make him look like the hero of my film. It didn’t work out. I had to change the story by a great extent after taking his interview. And that actually worked in my favour.

5. Hide that lapel mic: Pretty simple actually. Take 5 seconds out of your precious time and pay attention to these smaller mistakes you can easily avoid.

6. Inserts and cut aways: I finished off the interview in a day. However it took me two and a half months to finish the documentary. I was roaming all over Mumbai collecting small clips for my film, making timelapses and staging some shots as well.

7. Hardwork, hardwork and hardwork: It’s a simple formula actually. To make something, anything, you have to devote your time. You cannot produce anything worthwhile without putting in your heart and soul. It is just not possible. That’s why I feel making a film in 1 month is kind of unrealistic and cruel. It kills the art.

8. You can’t make the films you don’t like: And the opposite of this is also true. My father disliked the film as I showed him the first cut. This was the first film, he told me that he did not like. It was a major blow. Yet towards the end I was eager on finishing it. I just wanted to know what have I invested in…

9. Take care of that hard drive: Luckily I had the export of the film on my laptop. My portable hard drive crashed and it had my FCP files. I could never retrieve the edit. I wanted to make a smaller version, I couldn’t.

10. The best compliment: As I stated above, this started as an assignment at FX School. We were told to follow any interesting character and ask him questions about his life. Making a documentary out of it came much later in our syllabus. When I showed it to my professor, she asked me for the FCP edit file. I told her that it wasn’t possible for me to retrieve it. She refused to accept my submission saying she does not believe that I made it. This, by far, is the best compliment I have ever received for my film. (Although it wasn’t intended to be one!)

#3 Within 40 Hours (2012)

This was the first documentary I was involved in. And it was based on the students of Kamla High School in Mumbai.

1. Pre-production: It is important to invest a good amount of time in pre-production. But that does not mean we can spend 90% of the time on deciding what to do. In our case, the school that we worked for was supportive by all means. We could shoot wherever we want, we could go in a class in the middle of a lecture and interact with the students very easily. So we were sure at least there are no hindrances from the organisation. We could focus on the creative aspects. We chose the right organisation.

2. Best time to shoot: In photography it is known as the Golden Hour. Luckily enough for us, to match the timings of our college and the school, we had to shoot either early in the morning or just before sunset anyway. And in the month of February, the climate was just beautiful for a shoot. I’ve taken some of the prettiest shots out of sheer co-incidence just because the time was right.

3. Some people are camera conscious: Some kids are natural in front of a camera. Some are not. And that applies not only to kids but to everyone. As this was a documentary we could get away with the hesitation as it acted as a character trait to the person. Also, the subject was psychology so we actually used this to convey our point more convincingly.

4. You don’t need to get it right in the first take: We were interviewing ourselves. We were making a presentation where we were telling the audience about our experiences and what we learnt during these 40 hours of work we did at the NGO. So we had the liberty to note down the points so that two people don’t repeat the same ones. And we did so. That worked so well while editing the film. But on the other hand, it made everyone very conscious while they were talking. The best way to deal with this was to cut the shot a line before they fumbled and then ask them to start again just before the line they said incorrectly. I added a movement in the middle so that I could get a cutting point. And it did not appear as a mistake while everyone watched it.

5. The above only works when the subject is ready to coordinate: As we interviewed the professors, we were running short on time. We had to do it in one go. So we had to settle for a simple cross fade to cover up.

6. Double tap: We were using Lapel Mics for recording the interviews. It is important to check that there is no necklace or any element for that matter which is constantly banging on the condenser.

7. Shoot a lot of inserts/ cut-aways.

8. Cinemascope (2.35:1 ratio) adds a really professional look to your film.

9. Music can make or break your film

10. The film was awarded as the best project and it marked the end of our first year in BMM. It left me on a high and inspired my next Documentary, Pardes. More about it soon!

The Uninformed States of America

Screen Shot 2014-07-03 at 2.13.21 PM

In the world wide mess that we call as the Internet, it is difficult to find something which is informative, thought provoking yet intriguing. Which brings me to this trailer that I came across yesterday.

Even my country, India, witnessed an election that changed the political scenario by a great margin. It just proved how important it is for the country to make the youth aware about their rights and responsibilities.

The project, directed by Mike Riley comes across as an interesting political science experiment bringing some very interesting causes of political apathy in the USA in the Sizzle Reel itself. I am sure there is a lot to come in the full feature. when we talk about this film, we are looking at some raw, unbiased views of American citizens.

The treatment of the Sizzle Reel is very catchy with a very interesting host that keeps you glued. The most important part of a documentary is to keep aside your own opinions as a maker and put forward the truth. And in these terms, the project sounds very promising.

The makers at Finally Free Media are about to launch a Kickstarter campaign to fund the project on very soon. They’re also accepting submissions and requests for interviews and appearances within the film on the official website at www.theusafilm.com.

So you think you are not a part of the Uninformed States of America? Check out this awesome quiz and find out yourself.

 

 

#4 Learning from the experts – Nishtha Jain

For those of you who are not familiar with one of the prime candidates for the best documentary film makers of India, Nishtha Jain; she is a former student of Film and Television Institute of India (FTII). She has directed critically acclaimed films such as At My Doorstep, Lakshmi and Me, 6 Yards to Democracy etc. Along with Smriti Nevatia, the duo runs an independent documentary film company named Raintree Films.

I had the privilege of meeting Nishtha Jain at a film screening of Gulabi Gang in Mumbai. Here are a few points I noted as she interacted with us!

Nishtha Jain with Sampat Pal (the real leader of Gulabi Gang)

1. Making a documentary is an unpredictable job. You will never get what you wished for but you will certainly be rewarded for your patience. But Nishtha Jain believes in having everything in writing. No matter what, having a blueprint of your day will help you in deciding how to lead your crew.

2. Others might think otherwise, but making a documentary rather than anything else requires time. The crew spent five months with Gulabi Gang to produce this 96 minute marvel.

3. (I strongly contradict the following point) Nishtha does not believe in giving a direction so as to conveniently reach a desired climax. She believes it is essential to be neutral and non judgmental as a documentary film maker while conceiving a documentary.

4. People in the villages were casual with the camera. Being camera conscious is more of an urban-middle-class obsession. For the villagers, it was more threatening that Sampat Pal was about to interfere in the matter. And they focused on the boom pole; stared at it aimlessly. That worked just fine for the sound.

5. Most of the flow was decided on the edit table. It will not be wrong to say that documentaries are written on the edit table. (The film is edited by Arjun Gourisaria. This amazing documentary won its well deserved recognition for Best Non-Feature Film editing at the 61st National Film Awards. Nishtha was an essential part of the actual edit team as well)

6. You need to be a rebel. Being safe all the time will not get you a good sunset shot. Having said that, nobody appreciates a dead filmmaker with a half baked documentary. So, that!

 

The screening of Gulabi Gang was followed by a screening of the film Yellow. Although I enjoy fiction more, because of the ridicule Yellow produced in me, it heightened my experience of Gulabi Gang. Overall, it was a colourful evening.

 

The film Gulabi Gang was completed (shot) in 2010, first screened in Dubai at the Dubai International Film Festival in 2012 and later in India in 2014. It is based on a women activist group in Bundelkhand, UP. It was distributed by Recyclewala Labs. The same guys who brought you Ship of Theseus which is available for a legal free download over here (at least in India).

If interested, do not miss the trailer of Gulabi Gang over here!