Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Seaplanes, speedboats, soccer, chinese food, earthquakes and malnutrition'd children (and director)

While the Red One MX/Epic/Alexa/F3 battles in my head were finally put to rest, thanks to some input from Ms Sara Liza Baumann, she did convince me to help her go shoot part of her Save the Children documentary in Barisal, a small town south of the capital.

I have never been there before, so I really I had no idea what was in store for me. Firstly, I was thrilled to get on a seaplane again, since Barisal only has an abandoned airport and amphibious air transport is currently the safest option to get there. Its been ages since I got on a Cessna airplane (as my faded PPL would indicate). But within 20 mins after taking off in Dhaka, Capt. Emille got us down on Barisal waters. Then came the speedboat that picked us up from the plane. Now these aren't the Scarabs you LA peeps see up by Santa Monica pier either. Think of them as Kawasaki superbike engines put on rickety ass (locally built) mini SUVs, i.e they pack a punch but are unstable as hell.

We got to the jetty, met the Save the Children peeps and were down in the mud and rain shooting within an hour. This was Ms Baumann's new 5D Mk II's first gig. She decided to name him Max. Along with Marisa (my 7D) we began shooting the doc. The 5D was pretty much the A Cam used for the interviews armed with a Rode VideoMic, on a tripod and the 7D was handheld, shouldermounted by yours truly as the B cam. I came up with a way of making my own steadicam, handheld and shouldermount all-in-one system using a Noga Israeli Arm and a RedRock shouldermount. Change the arm settings to 90 degrees vertical and you have a steadicam with the shoulderpad acting as a balance for the 7D, or the 180 degree horizontal and you have a shoulder mount and finally a V shaped arm making a chest support that helps in unwanted shakes when taking handheld shots. Yeah, ingenious....I know.

We sometimes shot in the pouring rain and sometimes in extreme heat and humid conditions. Max and Marisa never dropped a beat or frame for that matter. These DSLRs are beasts. Good job Canon. Also, Baumann only had one spare battery and I had none. Only 3 16GB CF Cards were used. We shot for 3 days and ended up with about 200GB worth of data getting every shot that was needed and sometimes even more. Shooting conditions weren't ideal. Lots of mud making movement kinda hard. The indoors were dark, since these houses can only have one 50-100W bulb on at any given time. Having a blonde director made the locals flock over and ruin almost all my steadicam shots. At one time I even had to get on the hood of a moving minivan since we didn't have a dolly. Improvise, implement and execute.

Then there were the other stuff. You see these UNICEF ads on TV all the time. They show these little kids, suffering from diseases and malnutrition. You feel for them and then move on and do your daily thing. Maybe sometimes you even donate. But when you're 3 feet away from a near dead baby and visibly feel the situation, boy is it different. I try to keep this blog about film related posts (most of the time) but to all those who are reading this, please donate whatever you can to your nearest health organization. I personally guarantee you that: a) it'll be put to great use b) these people really need it and c) you owe it to the world you live in d) I promise to dance in your wedding (which, if you know me, is not an easy thing to get me to do)

There were some other stuff that happened too. We found a great Chinese restaurant and the waiter was awesome and even served us beer, risking his job (cause local restaurants can't serve alcohol without a license). There was a minor earthquake that freaked out my director. The director herself became anaemic and had me freaked out, so I had to force her to take iron pills (thanks Pops). We took an evening walk through a village neighborhood and the local kids forced me to play soccer with em after I dazzled them with some Ronaldo-like moves on the street. They might have not gotten the chance to see Messi, but they sure got to see some MK. Btw, the tea in Barisal sucks.

All in all, another shoot done. I was really happy with the results, depressed with the many problems infants face in these remote areas, glad for organizations like Save the Children caring for these kids and with so much time without any internet, without my favorite TV channels on TV and a semi-lonely hotel room, got some insights on the foreseeable future. And thanks to my mom for suggesting a name for the new camera I plan to buy. What is it you ask? Thats a another post for another day.......

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