Tag Archives: Short film

The Orange Tune – Martin Sommerdag

I have been following Martin’s work since a few years now. And his unique perspective on various subjects never fails to intrigue me. And right from the scripting to the choice of subjects to camera angles and movements and to the final look of the film, everything about his film, “The Orange Tune” made me admire his scope as a filmmaker.

The Orange Tune, is not an extravagant feast. It is minimalist on many fronts. But at the same time, it wears that grungy look with pride.

The opening shot of the film, in which you see a girl dressed in orange coming down from a staircase. The staircase is emerging from a strange source of light. I felt the director wanted to signify birth over here. Then the girl starts performing the same action over and over again. Like playing the same song on repeat. The Filmmaker, purposefully changed his angles making the days look a little different from one another. But we know that as the action performed doesn’t change, all the angles are the same.

David Brower, the narrator captures the eerie tone that the film wanted to create very well. The voice over itself puts you in a pensive state and the visuals do the rest of the job quite well.

If I have to criticize the film a bit, I felt the opening credits are too long. Sometimes the audience might lose interest if nothing exciting happens in the first few seconds of the film. Apart from this minor suggestion, I felt the film did it’s job tremendously well. The job of leaving me with some unanswered questions.

The film is weirdly motivational. At the same time it is dark. There is no silver lining. It feels like the film is a warning to all the viewers to stop listening to the same song again and again and change the channel once in a while. Or maybe it is just an experimental film that tries to pull you out of your comfort zone. I don’t know that. But I don’t want to find out. 🙂

“Life is like an old vinyl record and if you don’t change track or melody once in awhile you will feel trapped and maybe go a little crazy. THE ORANGE TUNE is about the danger of daily routines and how hard it is to break free from once comfort zone.” The film description says. And I believe no matter what you do, your life cannot be a cycle. Even if you’re doing a job that is perceived as interesting by the world, you cannot paint the whole picture of your life in monotone.

Life cannot be a box of set rules and perfect corners. It needs to be a playground.

“Insanity is doing the same thing. Over and over again. And expecting things to change.”

This is one of my favourite quotes from the Far Cry franchise. And it always made me wonder about our day to day lives. We keep doing the same thing over and over again. And yet we believe in the fairy tale that tomorrow will be different. But it rarely happens. Do get something that we haven’t achieved before we need to do something that we have not done before. I have been trying to implement this in my life for a long time. And I think, now is the time to stop procrastinating.

Check out Martin’s previous work over here:

TUNGUSKA DIARIES – A Different Take

The Unknown Bunker – Martin Sommerdag

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TUNGUSKA DIARIES – A Different Take

The whole idea of my blog is to appreciate films that push the envelope and learn something while I do so. “Short films” is a medium that is really close to my heart and when I see a short film, so passionately made, it simply inspires me to make more and more films.

TUNGUSKA DIARIES from Alpha Hawk Films on Vimeo.

The film TUNGUSKA DIARIES is based on the true event near the Podkamennaya Tunguska River in Russia. It was a large explosion caused by an asteroid and it is the largest impact event on or near Earth in recorded history.

The first thing I did after watching the film is to read more about this strange incident. I suggest you to read about the incident first and then watch the movie so that you can enjoy it even more.

The film actually combines the “found-footage” method of filming with an impactful sound design. I could really sense the presence of something, which is not supposed to be there due to the whole POV treatment. And although not realistic, it works quite well for the film.

The cinematography of the camera needs to be appreciated as well! The camera is never static. And there is always something happening on screen. It really kept me intrigued. A few suggestions would be to search for a few facts on the technical aspect before filming, such as the aspect ratio and the quality of the footage to make it more believable. However, the short is a stylish and satisfying version of a real incident, so nevertheless it works for me.

Well, I can’t help but to go back to the music of this film. While watching the film, I knew something is about to go wrong. And the music built the suspense tremendously well. It felt like I was watching Cloverfield made by Alfred Hitchcock.

I feel it is never too easy to make a found footage film. And I also think that a found footage film should be as open ended as possible. The film does score well in that manner. The film is smart, scary in a way and showcases a creative twist. It brought this strange phenomenon to my notice. And now I cannot stop thinking about it.

Over here I want to give a big shoutout to the makers of the film, especially Martin Sommerdag, the Director. Their film – A Beautiful View is coming out shortly and it is already on my must watch list.

A Beautiful View [Teaser] from Alpha Hawk Films on Vimeo.

#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!

#2 The Last Great Fighter

“From where we stand the rain seems random. If we could stand somewhere else, we would see the order in it.”

~ Tony Hillerman

 

Some things make you sad for no reason. By God’s grace, some things make you happy for no reason. It seems like it is all fair in the end. The granddaddy of all the accountants sitting up there looks down and says, this guy has worked a lot this week, he can have this and sends something like this!

The premise is set in the chilly mountains where Bruce Wayne trained himself, or to be more particular, 50 miles off Tokyo. It is the year 2222, and the weather conditions are just like they are today, or probably the way they were in 2002 when the film was shot. A sense of optimism bloomed inside me as I realised this – Global warming is a myth after all.

The film begins with two great warriors who have taken shelter in an empty flat, who have a dislike for each other. It turns out that the dislike is not reciprocated by the other warrior who prefers grunting over wordly pleasures. Maybe that is because he has already sinned enough by stealing the other warrior’s Bible and shooting his dog.

Nervousness builds in the air as we run out of words. Nervousness builds in the air. But as Sherman Alexie has said in The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, ‘Scared means you don’t want to play. Nervous means you want to play.’ They enter into a battle which involves no weapon but their bare hands. And with a swift move of his palms, the warrior on the right sends the warrior on the left to his final resting place – the deadly wall.

It is rare to find a video with such a genuine raw feel to it! I would love to know the backstory of this film because I know there has to be one. I want to know what inspired these guys to invest their time in something so experimental like this. It takes us back to the time when YouTube was a simple video sharing site without the glamour it has today. We have come so far and the journey has been great. But every once in a while, it is nice to look back and enjoy some moments like this!

(I hope you wait for the post credits scene.)

#2 My Creation – For a change (2012)

FOR A CHANGE NEW

It makes me smile when I look back at my early works. It has been more than two years now since I made this. And I can’t stop laughing when I look at the foolish mistakes visible on screen and the major cover ups made on the edit table, minutes before our presentation!

Here are a few technical and a few creative tips to myself in the present from an enthusiast in the past:

1. Troubles with the crew:

There are all sorts of people in the world. Some may prove as an asset to your film and some are just troublemakers. They do not contribute towards anything but ruining your plan and raising your temper. It is essential to determine “your crew” and get rid of the troublemakers at first instance. Things get really tricky when you’re not paying anything else but your gratitude. All that diplomacy seen in TV soaps comes real handy in such conditions. I wish I was more manipulative then!

2. Getting a 50mm prime was the best and the worst decision:

Why it is the best lens? I think DigitalRev can explain better. They’ve explained it from a photographer’s perspective but most of the points are valid for a film maker too. To make a long story short: fast aperture – better lighting; small and lightweight; bokeh; as cheap as my camera bag (then!) Now some things others might not tell you. The flip side of the coin. Since buying a 50mm it’s been a task to move to any other lens. I don’t think I used my kit lens 18 – 135 to its fullest potential for a long time. And frankly speaking a wide angle lens provides a variety of angles to your film. It is necessary to opt for a stylish wide look to show your sets, to establish your settings.

3. Class 10 Transcend:

SanDisk happens to be the market leader in SD Cards but for me, Transcend at a cheaper price has been a reliable companion. I think I purchased a class 4 card out of sheer ignorance but I was lucky to get it replaced. For my camera, Canon 550d, I require a class 10 card with about 45mbps speed. I purchased 2 SanDisk Ultra 16 GB cards later on and I was pretty disappointed. If you are ready to spend, go for Extreme or Extreme Pro only. I’ve heard a lot about Sony but never used any.

4. What happens when you’re pulling off an Orson Welles?

Yes! I acted in this one. No! I wasn’t the lead. It is considered as the director is the best actor on set. I was the worst. I have done my share of performing on stage and even in front of camera before. But when you have the responsibility of Directing, Shooting and handling the Mics as well; things tend to get into the weird zone. I think I was the most awkward character on screen. This multiplies my respect for directors such as Orson Welles, Mel Gibson, Charlie Chaplin and many others who pulled this off with mastery.

5. Music made this film what it is

This film was fundamental for my learning because I learnt how music can enhance the overall cinematic experience and how it can convert an ordinary video into a decent short film.

6. Good casting lends you a sigh of relief

A very senior actor upon watching the film praised my casting abilities. Whatever I had done was unintentional and intuitive. Taking up actors on the go, making my classmates act on the streets et al! Whatever it was, it worked. When I see the film again I know how important such decisions were.

7. I work pretty well under pressure (only on the edit table)

When I have 5 hours to finish the edit I can do a better job than having a week for it. Or maybe it just feels like it. But I have not finished many films in absence of a deadline. This worries me immensely. I hope I can change that with time.

8. Not just the white balance but the tint!

People suggest you to check three things before you press the record button: exposure, focus and white balance. I don’t have a manual white balance option in my camera. I always stick to auto and most of the times get away with it. It was sunny when I was shooting and there is a green cast on my actors because of the sunlight reflecting off the leaves in the foreground. Fixing it is pretty difficult and cautionary measures during the shoot are the only way to survive.

9. Take your time but hide that mic!

I knew the mic was visible. It was just the tip of the lapel mic. I thought it will go unnoticed. I notice it every time I see the film and it is pretty distracting.

10. Keep your friends closer (there is no enemy part to this one)

Keeping in touch with all the people who lend you equipment is like your second job. You can make a film because these people put aside their interests and simply let you use their houses, mics and sometimes even cameras for free. I think I owe all of them whatever I am and whatever I may be.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

#1 My Creation – Argument (December 2011) – Backstory

A Shot From The Film Argument

Before this film, I helped a friend of mine in the edit, sound design and visual effects for his short film ‘Pause’ in which I acted as well. And the film had a very warm response from the audience. We decided to make one more short film, which failed miserably. I had a really clear idea about the story of the film and the dialogues as well. But for some reason I couldn’t convey it very well. My friend slept the entire afternoon and I was demoralised.

I realized the importance of having the script in writing. Even when you are writing, directing, shooting and editing the film on your own, you are not the only mind working on it. When you direct your actors, they give their suggestions. They may be brilliant but not in sync with the demand of the script. When you have your script in your hand you can simply ask your actors to stick to the plan when it is necessary. It is very important for the director, the captain of the ship to have a command over his vessel. A hard copy of the script in your hand is your map, your compass and your wheel.

I also had a very simple shot division plan and a storyboard this time. I borrowed a camera, a Canon 550 from a friend of mine, a 50mm 1.8 lens from another friend in a different part of the city, I asked my dad and a friend of his to act and was all set to shoot.

The shoot was in the afternoon at Juhu beach and I was running around everywhere since morning. When we reached at the location it struck me that I forgot my script at home! I hadn’t explained the script to the actors by then. But we were losing light. We had to start. So again, even this time I was without a script even after writing it so precisely.

I struggled while directing but everything was alright. I had to come back on the next day to take a few inserts. The treatment changed drastically on the edit table. But I am glad we could finish this. The film was screened at Usha Pravin Gandhi College during Aahan International Short Film Festival in January and that was my first screening. The film got the second best film award and thus it all started.

The film was screened at a few more festivals in 2012. I tried sending the film to Berlin Short Film Festival but it couldn’t work out. Quite recently, all of my films were screened back to back at My Mumbai Film Festival. I couldn’t go for the screening but my mother and my younger brother did. My brother said that out of all the films, Argument received the best response. By many aspects, my work after this film was more substantial for me in terms of quality and reach as well. But I think the first step, the first boost was essential.

As I look back, when I made the film I did not know whether I was shooting at 24 fps or 25 fps. I spent at least 15 minutes in changing the lens, which doesn’t take more than 5 seconds. I almost lost my friend’s SD Card. I was turning the focus ring when it was on auto and I thought I broke it. There were so many retakes just because I kept my tripod in the frame. And many more mistakes, which taught me more than any institute would have.