Thursday, August 16, 2012

How to make a commercial in 48hrs

The Dhaka media industry is all about one thing really...who gets the TV commercials for any one of the 4 top Telecom companies. I've never been "lucky" enough to work for any of these projects. Sure there was a music video for Airtel and a little graphics work for BanglaLink, but not much apart from that. The reason these ads are so high up the chain, is because everything from their budgets to the QC are the only thing the media industry can compare to foreign counterparts. Mostly, they are shot on 35mm, rarely, do they shoot on digital, and almost never on a DSLR.

After the craziness that was the India trip with my fellow Trojan, David Milburn, I needed a few weeks to recuperate. Fat chance. Maasranga called me up as soon as I landed about a commercial for Robi, another telecom giant. As soon as I went in, I was told that they needed the product within 2 days. While I smiled and nodded and accepted, every bone in my body yelled the F word....really loud. MediaCom was providing the script, with the commercial itself being about the cheap nightly packages the carrier provides during Ramadan. It was about young boys from a colony playing "front desk" by giving wake up calls to everyone via their cell phones, since the rates were so low. The ad starts off with a static shot of a window as lights up then goes to different other windows in the same and adjacent buildings being lit up, showing people waking up to a phone call and get ready to fast. The next few shots would show the young boys of the colony doing this service to the fellow colony dwellers, in the festive spirit of Ramadan.

So we went head on. Met the CMO, who is from India and only speaks English, hence I acted as a translator for my team, explaining the shot division that was drawn up. He seemed a little skeptical and just wanted us to give him something that wasn't verbose and linear like the script. Luckily, we had MediaCom's Asif Akhbar Khan (or Asif Mama, as I call him), who's kinda the best creative directors in the land. He assured the CMO that we weren't going the way with it. Handshakes and "good luck" comments were exchanged. Oh and we were reminded that the guy who made the previous Robi Ramadan ad did a marvelous job and we were stepping on a landmine, if we couldn't provide results.

So lets get this straight. A 48hr timeframe, a script the CMO is skeptical about and someone else's unfinished project. And since this was my first telecom ad, if I messed up....deathwish.

We started the day of the shoot with hordes of models, all being screen tested. By we I should say me. I knew I didn't have enough time, so I just had them run through the entire script with the 2 already selected actors from the previous ad. I literally just graded them, Bs or above gets to be in front, C's and below, get to be at the back, when I was doing my blocking. Once I was done with that, I rushed to the shooting spot, a colony situated in Mirpur.

Olivia, my 5DMk3 was entrusted for this one. DSLRs! On a telecom campaign ad that was previously shot on 35mm!! By the time we got everything ready and started shooting it was already 8pm. After shooting nonstop, we finally finished by 4am.

While the rest of the crew went home, the director NI Razoo, me and the ADs went straight back to edit. By 10am the next day, we had a proper first cut done, with a color grade and a scratch music track. By 3pm the clients got the first preview. Even though I was passed out by that time, I heard that collective jaws were dropped at how we'd achieved such a feat within 24hrs. By 10am the next day the final cut with the final color grade the final audio track was released. I just saw the ad on TV 5 mins ago. There are also murmurs that we are getting 4 more ads now. I met Asif Mama the night before the release and he congratulated me on the DSLR (!) footage, that apparently looked just as good as the 35mm ad shot before this one, something even the Robi clients voiced. I suppose miracles do happen, not often enough though....hehe. Anyways, heres those screen grabs we love so much.

So I suppose by making a telecom ad I've finally done it, and by "it" I mean make it big...just kidding. Now I look back at the madness that was. From quitting big time jobs to starting a post production panel (by which I mean just a Mac Pro) at my mom's boutique after she was done with it, to getting Dhaka's first 444 workflow and Dhaka's first external camera recorder, to introducing DSLRs as B Cams in my shoots so clients can use them as A Cams now, to completely shunning 35mm and spreading the digital revolution, hoping everyone I've worked with embraces it as well. Yup, its been a good trailblazing life....Shane Hurlbut would be proud.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Things that make me go WTF....then LOL hard...

I know I haven't bitched much in this blog the last few posts, even though it's my "Bitchin'" blog. A phone call form my maternal uncle (or mama, as we bengalis call it) got my blood boiling though and I couldn't help but write this up.

My mama is a rockstar. He's a big celebrity here in Dhaka, as well as Kolkata, since his a big name in the food industry. He has countless TV shows, hundreds of publications and most importantly, he's one of the coolest people I know of. A true inspirational figure, something this country seriously lacks. I should point out that this post isn't about him.

It all started when my mama hired me to DP/Edit a music video he was directing, starring his friend Iman Chakraborty, another celeb, from Kolkata, who was touring Dhaka at the time. She had just released her album which was a tribute to Rabindranath Tagore. I must admit, unlike many Bengalis, I don't have a "thing" for Tagore. One of the few fights I had with "big time celebs" here in Dhaka was when I told a prominent actor/TV host, how I felt Tagore was boring and in terms of music, guys like Miles Davis and Johnny Coltrane were far superior. To him it was almost blasphemous, that resulted in diatribes about everything from me being a snob to how inferior my upbringing was. Anyways, thats for another post.

So after a month or so of talking over the video and the feel of it, we finally got into shooting it. No crew, no lights. Just me, my (now stolen) 7D camera, the director and the artist. Since we were in a time frame, it had to be done quick. No time for tripods and elaborate lighting. So I thought I'd go the Bruno Aveillan way, since almost everyone is doing it these days. Long lens, handheld shots, something in front of the lens blocking the scene. The shoot was done in about 2-3 hours. Then I went home, edited and color corrected the material and brought it back to my uncle. He saw it, along with Miss Chakraborty and my cousin, who is a photographer. They all liked it and my mama was very happy with his first directorial debut. The finished material was then put on a DV tape and sent back to India to premiere.

That was 2 months ago. Today I got a call from my mama and he said that the "TV" peeps over in Kolkata said the video was too dark and way too jerky. Too jerky I can live with, since thats the effect I was going with and its a hit or miss with most people. It wasn't like murder/thriller jerky, but you can definitely tell it wasn't put on a tripod. Clearly, David Lynch, Darren Aronofsky and Bruno Aveillan himself can't make a living in Kolkata.

Now, this is where I got really pissed. The lighting was apparently too dark. ROFLMAO. Here are the color corrected screen grabs that made their way to Kolkata. Please feel free to comment.

The funny thing is I actually wanted to grade the shots so they were at least a little more on the darker side. But this was a love song, so bright saturated tones were necessary. I couldn't go the Fincher route and make the next Judith. 

The song got rejected for the "darkness" and the "jerkiness" and a disappointed phone call from my mama followed. I was at a loss for words when he said those thing, so I really didn't have anything to say after.

Clearly, this level of bad production is not fit for the glorious Kolkata scene. They'd rather see videos like the rock remakes of Tagore, where chicks are "trying" to sing and play instruments on stage, with smoke coming out from the background and some HMI lighting that and some christmas lights hanging on the background. Oh wait, it's handheld too. Well played Kolkata, well played.... 

Thursday, July 5, 2012

CSRs, Super Markets, Milburn and Olivia

Sorry for the long wait since my last post. Lets just say, hectic doesn't even begin to describe my life right now. Even my mom told me the other day I should take a vacation, something that is unheard of in the Khan household.

The last few months since the Panther Condoms shoot I was busy shooting and editing 4 Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) commercials for Square Group. Since Square is the biggest company in Bangladesh, maybe SE Asia, and pretty much owns everything starting from production companies to advertising agencies, I wasn't gonna let these babies slide.

The problem with CSRs are that they need to be cheap, short and somewhat poignant. That's the anti-MK attitude. The director for these CSRs, NI Razoo had done a few before, but those were well, mediocre. For these TVCs, I wanted something drastic - WTF Camera angles, minimal/almost no lighting and finally handheld/steadicam movements in the tightest of spaces. The director liked my ideas, but as always there was the "well, show me what ya got" look when I brought up some of those.

The biggest thing was that I was working with my new 5D Mark III and after spending a few days tinkering with her, I was quite amazed at the footage and the camera itself. Some vast improvements over the 5D Mark II and the 7D, had to be the new I-Frame 90mbps codec and the internal cooling of the camera. The 5Dmk2 and 7D's old 35mbps codec was really difficult to grade. It would never hold up in Resolve or any other color grading suite. Heavy grading usually ending up looking silly. The Mark III video however, can be pushed and keying for flesh tones and blown out sources are way better. The old sensors could only be pushed upto 1600-2000 ISO on the 5D and 1250 on the 7D without getting blocky grotesque noise on the footage. On the CSR shoot, I pushed the Mark III to 3200 ISO without getting any of that. Finally, all the commercials were either shot outside in destructive Dhaka summer heat or indoors in small spaces with Tunsgten lighting.....i.e. crazy hot temperatures. The number of times I had to turn off the camera because of the heat sensor warning = 0. Simply amazing. Oh yeah, where's the aliasing issues?? Its still kinda there, but vastly improved. Overall, the 5D Mark III made me again think about digital camera technology and the direction where the companies are headed. Personally, I think Canon, with their DSLRs and the new EOS C300/C500 is headed the right way by listening to what their customers (i.e us DPs) are saying and making cameras that don't need a backup or don't cost a fortune. Apart from the Rode Video Mic, this is the only piece of equipment that I would put my reputation at stake due to its price, performance, reliability and finally, form factor.

The other toy I recently got was the Zeiss 35mm 1.4 Prime. What can I say....its worth the arm and leg you're gonna be spending on it. I love it so much, I shot about 80% of the "Reckless Driving" CSR with it, something I've almost never done, but played to my idea of using odd angles, like barreling a face on closeups and also, lighting an entire wide shot by ambient (and natural) moonlight and a small oil lantern (affectionately known as a "hurricane") with an ISO setting of 1600. WTF indeed.

In a shoot where the budget was tight, I saved the production from spending anything on lights. All of the outdoors stuff was shot without any artificial lighting. One outdoor part was shot in gloomy weather, again with no lights and the director and client were worried about the footage. Once they saw it back at the editor's desk, big sighs of relief were head. Most of the indoor lighting, especially inside the bus consisted of a KinoFlo 2 bank as a fill.

Here are some snaps from the first 2 CSR shoots, "Reckless Driving" and "Poisonous Fruits". Notice the dynamic range, which I measured to be around 11 stops, about a good full stop above the old 5D/7D. The good thing that Canon's been working on with this camera (and from Vince Laforet's Mobius, shot on the C300) seems to be the sensors' handling of the highlights. While it doesn't roll off like an Alexa, it still looks way better than the old DSLRs and REDs. No nuclear blow outs.

I'll post the other 2 CSRs once they've gone on air. They are almost done, just awaiting approval. The other ad we finished was a Radhuni Spice commercial, where I did get proper lighting and a dream set....a real supermarket. We went in after they had closed down and it was an awesome experience. The first air conditioned set in Dhaka I've ever been in. My friend Dave is visiting from Texas, so he also got a taste of the Bangladeshi Media and the "local talent" (as well as her twin sister). The young actress seemed real happy the Texan was around and vice versa. Every once in a while I'd turn around to talk to people in my crew, only to find them having fun with Dave and teaching him Bengali. I should also add that the shoot was six hours after Dave's 27 hour flight across the Pacific. I'm such a good friend.

So all in all, I'm a happy boy again. Sure I miss my ol 7D. But, 5Dmk3 and the Zeiss primes are an awesome combo. Better skin tones, better bokehs, less (almost no) moire, less time worrying about lighting. I'll be sure to put up the spice commercial to show you exactly what I'm talking about.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Sinking in a Fruity Nightmare

Its not often I start off a post with sad news, but this is most certainly an exception. My lovely 7D, Marisa, recently got stolen the day before the now infamous Panther Condoms commercial. The commercial itself was a pain in the ass itself, troubled more with a DP working with a heavy heart....sniff sniff.

Marisa had become my only true love. After shooting a feature, a short, a reality TV show, a music video and numerous docs and commercials, she had won acclaim from Bolivia (my only true fan there who keeps emailing me....thank you sir) to Bangladesh (where I proved to many nay-sayers that HDSLRs are the way of the future) from people raving about her results. The custom picture profiles I'd toiled hours over, the various hot-rodding and finally the hours I'd spent shooting with her (more than any human feminine counterpart). All gone. I haven't cried since my pet dog KT died when I was 13, even when I broke my first CineAlta. This got me pretty close. I can only hope that the guy who has stolen it, uses it for some good, or at least sells it to someone who takes care of her as much as I did......(fat chance).

The Frayed Kit now lacks its most important member and we ended up shooting the Panther TVC with a rented 7D, the second time for me since the BDDL shoot after I broke the CineAlta. I can't really talk about the commercial itself, but be prepared for a long ass post for that one.

The last commercial I shot with Marisa was Radhuni Kashundi (Kashundi being a local mustard seed sauce of some kind and tastes like wasabi mixed with regular mustard....i.e gross), but apparently is some sort of local delicacy when mixed with fruits, especially the unripe kind. The commercial itself was fun to shoot. All outdoors, with 3D fruits mixed in with some good ol' puppeteering. Let's see if you guys can spot the 3D stuff and the puppets.....wait, does this qualify me to be their Master? Get it? Master? Puppets? Oh well, time to lay off the caffeine.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Helping womenkind.....again

Lately, most of my work seems to be focusing on the feminine variety. Last month was the pro bono for Maya (btw, they finished within the top ten bracket of the BRAC competition, so congrats to the Maya team for that) and last week was an AV project, or short in my terms, a short film. The product was Senora Women's Sanitary napkins, a product I almost have no idea of. My clients wanted a short film, that they would show in schools across the country to tweens so they have knowledge of the subject. Since, I snored through most of my high school biology class and never took the subject for O' Levels or in college, I'd get some education too.

I was more interested in the "short film" part, where we would show 3 girls - a tomboy cricketer, a "diva" dancer and a go getter aspiring reporter. After establishing the status quo, we'd show them hit their first menstruation period and all the drama that unfolds etc etc. This would be followed by an informative segment with a OBGYN doctor explaining the situation to them, in turn explaining it to the school children who'd watch this.

The film was shot in 2 parts. One part in Dhaka and the other in Pabna. Pabna is where the famous mental institution of the country is located. I was happy we were shooting there at first, since I wanted to check that place out, as well as get a psych evaluation myself. Somehow, I'd feel at home there.

The Dhaka part didn't start off smooth. The first segment was in a slum, where me and Marisa (my 7D) on a steadicam ran through tight corners following the young aspiring reporter and my awesome production manager Ripon, cameoing as her sidekick cameraman. The next segment was in these "shooting houses" that I hate so much. My regular gaffer is off on movie duty for some guy, so I had to make do with my old gaffer, I'd stopped working with a long time ago. Funny how not working for one year makes someone completely forget everything you taught them. The lighting for this segment was horrible. We got the required shots, but I called in the entire light crew and told them that their services were no longer required. However, cooler heads prevailed and they were rehired.

The next day we shot right by my house in the Russian Cultural Center auditorium. After the night before, I setup the lights myself. The first shot I took was probably the best shot I'd ever taken. It was an homage to David Fincher's last segment form the Curious Case of Benjamin Button, as best I could with less than 20% of the lights. The rest of the shoot was great as well. All steadicam inside the auditorium.

After the "better" day of shooting we wrapped up and went to Pabna, my first visit to the area. I really didn't have any time to scout the area out so we just shot in areas where the scouting team went. The best part was shooting a cricket match in a stadium filled with hundreds of people. BTW, the Pabna sun is devastating. I was baked for the entire shoot. Marisa gave me several warnings of overheating, so I had to shut her down and restart every now and then.

We shot 2 complete days in Pabna and then hurried our asses back to the capital. I spent the next day editing the footage, not trusting the peeps who had cut the first version of the Nesfruta commercial (which I ended up editing btw, both the 30 sec and 20 sec versions, since the first versions were horribad and got ripped apart by the peeps over at Bitopi). In house editors in this country, are, well....just sad. I also did the soundtrack, which means just selecting premade jingles in Logic Pro, ROFLMAO....and the director actually liked them....who said life was difficult?

SO after 6 hectic days, the AV/short film/school infomercial is up. I'm off to bed and a bottle of single malt. After these feminine crap I need to make an AXE commercial or something about some "player" dude.....but I've just been informed that one of the next projects will be about..........CONDOMS!!!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Its raining peas....hallelujah....

Yes, I like that Geri Halliwell song....she's hella hot in that video. But enough about Ginger new friends at Burnt Sienna hired me again to shoot their new TV Commercial for Ruchi Chanachur (chanachur, my LA friends is a local snack made from fried dough, nuts and in this case, green peas).

The director, N. I. Raju wanted the entire TVC to be shot in slow motion. It would be a great opener for my new RED Epic, except half the parts are still in backorder. So we went through with my 7D shooting 60fps in 720p and a shutter speed of 1/2000. With a little help from Twixtor, the test footage ended up winning over some hearts. Shooting began in Jahangirnagar University right outside Dhaka. All outdoors.

The script was simple. Hot chick walks through campus, while getting the attention of some hunk. Hot chick opens a pack of "chanachur" and it starts raining peas all over, including a guitarist's "huddle", a couple enjoying their tea, some bros playing basketball, a businessman in his car and finally some random chick in a roof.

We ended up shooting a ton of footage around the campus and even on my own roof and drenched all the locations with green peas. The idea was to shoot the footage with real green peas as well as CG'd 3D ones done in post. The latter was a bad idea.

Its hard to believe that CG artists here can't even get peas to fall from the sky without making it look fake. Oh well, not my concern. The other stuff looked fine.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

A New Hope

2012 has already been stressful. Losing face in front of clients leading to losing business partners. I was about ready to do the solo thingy again, before an old friend Rudry Ripon, my old production manager decided to give me a call. Shortly thereafter, I met my new clients, along with six new projects.

The first one was a television commercial for local agency powerhouse Bitopi. Have heard a lot about them, never worked with them. Ripon had started working with a new production house Burnt Sienna, who acquired all these projects. So I agreed to do the commercial, not knowing much about the production itself, a first, but it paid off soon. The only thing I knew was that it was about Nestle's new powdered orange drink and Tang's competitor, "Nesfruta".

Working with Nicole (my CineAlta) and having the newly sired JERICOs beside me, I finally started the shoot at the old Coca Cola factory that has been converted to sound stages. My gaffer and I decided to go with an old-in-the-US-but-new-trend-in-Dhaka system of hanging metal pipes on top and then hanging lights from them. The director, renowned maker Mr Raju, wanted a golden sunset tone indoors, so all tungstens. After the shoot I got congratulated by the head of branding from Bitopi about the lighting. A first again, I might add, while I toot my own horn. The Bitopi peeps were really cool and they all seemed happy, well with the cinematography at least and hopefully the final product, even though I'm not editing the footage....a first, again. Sadly, my RedRock Micro M2E died right after the shoot, which sucks. Looks like more face time for Marisa (the 7D) now.....still, its the end of a legacy.

One thing though, the Burnt Sienna peeps were awesome. Rarely was I ever at so much ease while shooting. Props to JERICO Fayaz who assisted me like a champ both days. My new focus puller was great as well and instantly told me he looked forward to working with me more in the future. So I guess with breaking old partnerships only creates new (better) ones. Hopefully this time these guys won't come back to bite me in the ass.

Here are the last raw screen caps from the (now dead) system.....sniff sniff

Now on to finish the other 5 projects, one of which is in Pabna, a place known for its mental institution....mama I'm coming home.....huehuehuehue

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Empowering pro bono for 2012

Its that time of the year again, where I pretend I'm a good guy and bring out the philanthrope in me. I asked my good friend Abe, if I could do a documentary as a pro bono, for his charitable group the Big Bangs Foundation in Dhaka. Sadly, due to other stuff, Abe and his friends weren't able to squeeze in time for that to happen.

As most things happen, I got a wall post on FB, from Shahana Siddiqui, sister to an old friend Ashfaque, part time journalist (although her segments are better than the regular journalists themselves) and full time mom and social worker.....oh, and possibly the most liberal person I know of (she is recently being followed by the government for anti-government bashings showing up on her FB statuses.....I kid you not) asking me for my number. Shortly afterwards, I found out that her friend Ivy H. Russell had made a website dedicated to the women of Dhaka. The website, had information useful to women of all ages, from all walks of life and even help for those to wanted to be anonymous and discuss maternal issues and even domestic/workplace and societal abuse. Needless to say, while I was in such a giving mood, I decided to make the 8 min presentation (having never done one before) for BRAC, the local NGO we love so much. it would serve as a pitch, so BRAC would give Maya the funds necessary to take such an initiative forward.

What followed was a 2 min video, where we would show women, sitting away from each other meet each other, via a "big sister", who would guide them along, until they became self sustainable themselves. It was a 3 hour shoot, with myself directing/dp-ing the 2 mins. No actors, just the people of Maya, including Mrs Russell and the great Shahana Siddiqui herself. The shots were all Fincher-esqe, trying to deal with hopelessness, despair and tragedy, soon blooming to hope and prosperity. I used a dolly, a steadicam and a jib. Marisa (my 7D) and the Frayed Kit, as usual, god I'm love with her......again. No lights, just the ambient stuff from the lounge in Spitfire (local restaurant) where I changed the bulbs to something more brighter (for some reason good restaurants here are very dimly lit).

The later part was an interview segment of Mrs Russell and some powerpoint like slides, where I was trying my best to mess with Motion 3. Bickey Russell, her husband, made it easy for me, since he had a clear idea of what the presentations should look like. I even did some of the music, with a Gladiator like jingle that comes with Logic Pro and then a remixed version of Michael Mann's movie The Last of the Mohicans, mixing it with the orchestral accents from The Real Adventures of Johnny Quest (I know, I'm such a brilliant thief) to get that "we shall overcome" theme.

Here's the video, watch it, learn from it, support it.....please:

Thursday, February 9, 2012

A Fincher FANatic

Recently some of you have emailed me about why one name keeps popping up on almost every post I've ever made. Those who have worked with me know that I bring his name up every time I talk about a great tracking shot, a gruesome story, a dark (pun intended) way of lighting, snappy edits or even a way of using more takes than usual.

Ever since I thought of pursuing a career in film/TV and re-watched "Fight Club", I was almost dumbfounded. When I first watched it when I was a kid, about 16, it was a cool movie. The ending was great, the premise/plot was cool and hey, I wanted that Brad Pitt eight pack and beat the crap out of anyone. When I watched it again, with all the knowledge of the George Lucas School of Cinematic Arts instilled in me, it was so much more than that. I think I've watched that movie at least once every month after that. Why? Because for me its the perfect movie. What is the perfect movie? The movie that offers everything and is not ashamed to hide anything. The social commentary is off the charts. Released in 1999, the political notion of Project Mayhem still resonates today, with the global economy crumbling and privatization and corporation out to take out the smaller dogs. Wanna fix this? Take out all the big shots and start again, from the rubble. I think I've moulded my life from what Tyler Durden says throughout the movie.  One great piece of dialogue I'll never forget:

"I see all this potential, and I see squandering. God damn it, an entire generation pumping gas, waiting tables; slaves with white collars. Advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy shit we don't need. We're the middle children of history, man. No purpose or place. We have no Great War. No Great Depression. Our Great War's a spiritual war... our Great Depression is our lives. We've all been raised on television to believe that one day we'd all be millionaires, and movie gods, and rock stars. But we won't. And we're slowly learning that fact. And we're very, very pissed off. "

People ask me why I named my company Damage Inc. (apart from the fact that I'm a Metallica nut), but the idea is Tyler Durden's. The Dhaka media scene is so messed up, you gotta start damaging the big guns with all the aces and then rebuild the "scene" from the ground up. New faces, new dogmas, new material. 

Now lets talk about the movie itself from a cinematic viewpoint. The cinematography and editing was brilliant (that opening sequence was hella awesome), Ed Norton became my favorite actor, the music was great and who knew Meat Loaf could act? I'm no Roger Ebert, so I can't explain how great the film is, so if you haven't seen it, please do so. I think its film making at its best.

Fight Club was only the beginning. There are other almost equally great films: Se7en, Zodiac, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (which was a far superior film than Slumdog), The Social Network (far better than the King's Speech) and recently, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. I don't even know how many times I've seen these movies. Each time, they only seem to get better. Most of the shots, edits, color grades, stories I do have these movies written all over them. I made a camera rig just to take some of those shots and even named it after him. Rob Zombie once said, "Every guitar riff in metal is based off a Black Sabbath riff". I can easily say, "Every shot I've ever taken is based off a David Fincher scene."

I've had the pleasure of meeting the man himself and it was the best 20 minutes of my entire life. We talked the entire time about nothing but his philosophy of cinema. Why he made the move to digital and RED, why he thrived in making dark and dismal thrillers and how he said FU to the big shots of Hollywood and made his own "my way or the highway" attitude. Inspirational. 

He's also introduced us to so many new things we would have never been aware of. The new kid playing Spiderman, Jesse Eisenberg being a household name and before her OSCAR nomination for the portrayal of the US version of Lisbeth Salander, when did you hear of Rooney Mara? Using NiN man Trent Reznor for brilliant scores and making him win an OSCAR in a category reigned mostly by classical musicians, sheer genius. There is so much more I can babble about him. Most people are convinced I'm in love with him. I may indeed be. If someone says they don't care much of his films, I usually never even talk with them, let alone work with them. All I can say is that without David Fincher, I would never be who I am today.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

And Short Films for all...

The last few weeks have been hectic to say the least. I had to take care of some ads that were prior commitments from November. I had to run to at least 20 meetings with some old and new clients in order to finalize the work orders for keeping Feb and March busy. Then there was the process of realizing that I had to stop working with someone I'd worked with for a long time. I think I realized it when another friend told me the real scenario, that this person not caring enough, suffering from indecisions and just doing whatever they wanted just made my company look bad and when high profile clients are involved, that's not a good thing. Finally, there was the starting of the JERICO Initiative, my own little project where I'm going to hire 6 kids to come and get apprenticeships and a film education and get paid for it.

Amidst this craziness, Bengal Creative Media (BCM) hired me as a DP to shoot a short film called "Stain". The movie was about corruption around the city, believe me there is a lot, targeting the drivers licensing bureau. The director turned out to be a fellow Los Angelino Emily Manthei. BCM is a company that has one of those special places close to my heart (aww.....) cause unlike most other production companies, these guys are doing great things with a shoe string budget and with a zero tolerance policy. I took a pay cut myself as well to help em out.

Stain was shot on the 7D again, which makes me sad for my CineAlta, which hasn't been used much since the Frayed Kit arrived. We shot on some of the tightest spaces I'd ever been in, which ended up being the licensing bureau. 5 actors crammed into a room not any bigger than half the size of a normal bedroom. I didn't get the luxury of a focus puller or my regular gaffer/grip. Emily also wanted a lot of handheld POV shots throughout the movie, as well as a lot of Fincher style motion. After the 3rd day, when she did find out that focus was an issue and perhaps too much for an MK to handle, I was given my regular focus puller, who ended up dropping my 100mm Zeiss on the ground.....twice. He became the 2nd person that I had to sever ties with that week.

The shoot ended up being good for the most part. Emily and I really didn't like the main actor though. She was amazed how people don't do screen tests here and just go on "recommendations". The side actors were far better. I guess I did a decent job too, since she asked me to DP her demo short film for her feature film Transnationals, a movie about adopted children the world over. She shot the first 2 parts stateside, but they were set in South Korea and Japan. The third part was here in Dhaka, where a young girl comes back to visit her orphanage, where she was adopted from before her new parents took her back to the US. Shooting began in Banani, DOHS, by a small school near a field. My friend Abe decided to come and help me as an AC, making him the first honorary JERICO. It was the day after the Giants Superbowl win and since both of are Giants fans, the morning started off a lil slow. Halfway thought the shoot, the local "authorities" decided to stop the shoot since the army did not like the idea of a white person shooting anything there. This is so like peeps over at that side of town....bitches. Anyway, I ended up scouting a slum near BCM's building where we finished the shoot. The slum actually ended up being a better more realistic place. Unlike Stain, the girl who acted in this short ( British expat) was really good and her facial expressions were actually dead on.

Here's the stuff...

Well now its time to go finish some TVCs, hire some JERICOs and start my pro bono for this year. I'll keep y'all posted.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Goodbye 2011, Hello 2012

First of all Happy New Year. As I sit and type this blog, I'm reminiscing the great year that was 2011. Sure, it had its lows, but overall 2011 ended up being one of those years that will be bookmarked for sure.

Lets recap. The year started off my moi getting my first ever gig as a director of a television commercial, something I never look forward to. Then there were documentaries, more commercials, a music video and while on vacation, a reality TV show and a short film (outside of a place I'd call home, with zero scouting). Apart from a few mishaps here and there, mostly successful projects. It reunited me with my LA brothers Lance Hobbie and Shane Glick, finally got to an SC tailgate, had a 20 min conversion with the man himself, David Fincher (where I couldn't put 2 words together without stuttering like a 6 year old Rob Pattinson fan) and of course found a directing "force to be reckoned with" in Sara Baumann. 2011 ended with news of making not one, but 2 feature films in the year ahead.

Which brings me to these 2 movies. In December I went with old friend and director Jahirul Hasan Badhon to Kurigram, a district north of Bangladesh. We went to shoot the documentary part of the feature film, which will be shot in the pattern of Band of Brothers, so real life interviews of Bangladeshi Freedom Fighters followed by live action dramatized events. The 7D with a Rode Video Mic and Zeiss primes (the now famous "Frayed" kit and slowly becoming my favorite piece of hardware) came along. Kurigram was ummm.....cold. On top of that, I tried the local "delicacies" and got extremely sick. Amidst all of this, we shot over 8 hours of footage in three days, met some real life Bangladeshi heroes and heroines and sadly also got a taste of how people who fought for the freedom of my nation are pretty much lost and forgotten (by their own people I might add) among the hoopla.

Here are some screen caps.

The other movie I'm gonna be working on is kinda about 3 stories in one kinda deal ala Amores Peros. Not a remake, not a copy, but 3 different couples brought together by a tragic event. I really can't go into details about this movie, since the copyright issues haven't been solved as the script is being finalized, but believe me, it sounds great. Really stoked about this one, as is anyone who listens to the idea/story. I volunteered to direct one of the segments myself. Hopefully I can get JH Badhon and Sara Baumann to do the other two.

Moving on to 2012. Apparently, the year we will all vanquish according to those Mayans. What a tragedy that'll be, since 2012 is the year I'm most looking forward to, as a camera gear ethusi....umm...screw it.....addict. If you love digital filmmaking, you're jumping up and down with joyful exuberance. New cameras from RED (new sensors for the EPIC and finally the Scarlet), ARRI (who else's celluloid heart will the ALEXA conquer), Sony (finally 4K CineAltas) and even Canon (C300 people??). If you're a celluloid lover, you're counting down the days till you're gonna have to make the shift eventually, with your film transfer machines, film processing labs getting shelved right next to the Moviola in the local film museum. I'm not the first one to say it, but here it goes again, 2011 was the year celluloid found out it was dying, terminally and 2012 will see digital starting to pull on the plug that controls its life support. The 2 best films of 2012 were shot digitally. Hugo was amazing and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was breathtaking. I had a discussion with Lance once about how everything would eventually become digital, where he vehemently opposed my views. Now, like his guru Scorsese, his motto is "who needs film?". I would personally like to congratulate Jim Jannard and the RED team. Had it not been for them, we would still be selling our houses to own a 1080/24p shoulder mount cam that shoots 422 8bit. Downsize, downsize, downsize and we now have a nuclear reactor in the palm of our hands like the EPIC. 444, 16bit, 5K, 120fps at under $50k. Bam!

Now will come the age of words like aliasing, moire, bit depth and of course my least favorite, ingesting, flying though the air. Unlike choosing film stock (bye bye Kodak and Fuji), DPs will be choosing sensors (by choosing different cams), LUTs and dailies, which will now be hourlies. Good times. The only people who are safe are the Lens guys. All the new cams come with a PL mount option, so cine glass will still have its charm. Zeiss and Cooke are still the big hitters, but new lenses from Leica (the Summix C) and Canon (Cine EOS) will give us more variety. Fujinon and Angieneux are cranking out great zooms.

So here's to a great 2012. A good friend suggested this title...."Film is dead, but cinema is ever so alive". Thanks to everyone who has read my stupid blog. I hope I given you some insight to the world of cinema and television as I live through it.

Here's the new 2012 Damage Inc. Productions showreel.