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.