Sunday, October 6, 2013

Good Morning Bangladesh, but WAKE UP DHAKA!

The last few weeks have been brutal. Straight out of the great Samsung Note 3 shoot, I headed into the double header production of Good Morning Bangladesh and Prank Tank. The first shoot was a pilot for GMB, which is going to be shown to producers outside of Bangladesh. I had wanted to work with the director Ahad Bhai, but the opportunity never came up before. I previously worked with his company as an editor for Botumul and he randomly sent me a Facebook message asking me about DPs in Dhaka. Little did he know, I was one. I also had the chance to meet up with the show's producer Mohammad Miraly, Ahad's cousin. M is an "interesting" dude. Hella funny but hella serious. The star of the show was Paul Telner (, a Canadian comedian, who is genuinely one of the funniest people I'd met since Jacob Reed in USC. Another guy I had the pleasure of meeting was the brilliant writer Spencer Walker, a Cali native living in NYC.

The shoot went great. Even though it was grueling and intensive, it was the most fun I had on set in quite some time. Ahad's direction was great, M was an awesome producer (and actor!), Paul Telner made me laugh so hard that my kidneys hurt and I had to stop shoulder mounting and switch to tripods and Spencer provided us with a gem of a script to work with. Now for the bad part.

After the Protik Developers TVC, I decided to go with the Sony F3 again. Big mistake. Unlike the US, here, when you rent a camera, you rent the entire system, lenses, tripod, accessories et al. The rental house who gave us the F3 for that shoot, Media Ajantrik, did not have their camera available. So we went with the other companies. Their setups simply put, were pathetic. We used two different companies. The first one, Timeline, carried only one, yes one, lens worth using. The Zeiss 21mm CP.2, which became a 32mm on the F3. I shot 90% of everything with this lens. The other lens that came with the camera were the Sony PL mount primes (the older version). These lenses are complete shit. I'm sorry, if you've used them and think they are good, cause they really aren't. Aberrations galore. They flared even with a small candle held in front. Trash; that is what they are and where they belong. Timeline didn't even setup the camera right when I got it. The tripod plate was sticking out of the shoulder pad and left scars on my shoulder. The camera was too front heavy and since the F3 doesn't even have a proper viewfinder, I had to put my own Marshall LCD on the hand grips and carry the Anton Bauer battery in a backpack. The whole thing was a nightmare. The ACs who came with the camera weren't any better either. They were amazed when I showed them how to sync the record button on the F3 and the Nanoflash recorder, or the fact that shooting 24fps on the F3 didn't mean I had to shoot 1080i60 on the Nano. Timeline is also supposedly the "better" camera rentals out there. Too bad they are never getting a call from me again.

The next camera that came wasn't any better. This was an independently owned F3. Like the Ajantrik cam, it came with Zeiss ZF glass, thank god. They only had a few of these lenses, so I brought my own ZFs as well. But everything else was a travesty. They brought a PC monitor as the director's monitor that wouldn't work in 24p mode, so I was forced to shoot 25p. The tripod they had couldn't take the load of putting my Anton Bauer battery and the Marshall LCD monitor. You couldn't mount the mattebox and the follow focus together. The hand grips, which they didn't have and I had to bring my own, had to be taken out everytime we went from tripod to handheld. They didn't even carry HD-SDI cables that could be used to hook up monitors. The cable that the Atomos Samurai was hooked up to the F3 couldn't be touched or the signal would cut out. I didn't even dare ask for a filter, so I just brought my own. Truly, if this is what the Dhaka DPs have been working with, I'm appalled these cameras even get rented. Shocking state of affairs. I instantly realized that not having my own camera in a shoot is just a nightmare in Dhaka. My hats go off to Dhaka DPs using these monstrosities and getting great results. No wonder they keep pushing 35mm on the market since the digital camera "packages" (not the cameras themselves) are just garbage.

They are also by no means cheap rentals either. I hope these rental companies wake up and smell the crap they are serving, because they are not doing anyone any favors. The camera is the most important tool on a set. Without it, you don't have a, well, a picture. It's as simple as that. If you rent out these crap systems you're just diminishing the artists' chances of making something better, all for the sake of business. Rental peeps of Dhaka, you've made your money, now start serving your customers, properly.

Needless to say, I'm not renting anything anymore, apart from lights, which seem to be the only thing that I can get on set that works properly. Oh well, time to keep shooting with my 5D MkIII until the next big one arrives.