BFA students head back to the 1940s

Students from the BFA Semester 4 batch recently concluded an advanced course in Art Direction that culminated in a short film. Ritika Saxena spoke to the students at the helm of the project.

Vaishnavi

Vaishvi Mistry

Screenwriter and Director

How did you juggle these two roles?

After our Art Direction workshop we were assigned the task of making a short period film. We were given the essential element that we needed to build a story on: the film should be set in 1940 Lucknow with three main characters, a British sepoy, a freedom fighter and his sister who is in her mid-20s.

As a screenwriter, while scripting the film, there was a lot of research involved with regards to the set-up, events that occurred at the time, if the girl’s family was well-to-do or poor, etc.

Direction, on the other hand, involved watching the frames and all the technical aspects of filmmaking, as we had to make sure nothing from our era snuck into the film. Also, every action by an actor, whether looking up or looking down, had something to do with the story. When you are a director, all the fundamentals need to be kept in mind.

You mentioned you had a lot of research to do.

The whole team working on the film had to do a lot of research. As this was an Art Direction workshop and had a period attached to it, research was essential. The study helped us understand small aspects like costumes, props, and frame set-ups etc.

What did you learn from the film?

To be honest, I was very scared when we started working on the project as this was a period drama and we had to recreate it exactly how it was back then. Our research saved the day. So I learned that the stronger the research the better the film.

How was your experience working on the film?

It was very enjoyable. It was better than what I thought as that era had a lot of melodrama and while scripting, I was worried it would look funny. But I think we fared well and will know more only at the edit table!

Aviral

Aviral Mathur

Producer

Is the role of producer stressful?

My role involved coordinating between the cast and crew and also budgeting. I created a budget for the film from scratch. I was also handling the logistics, scouting of sets, and exploring props as they had to suit the theme of the period drama that our film pivoted on.

How did you prepare for your role?

We visited the interiors in the Old city to understand the culture and evaluate the props that we needed to use. Apart from that, we had to get make-up artists in place, the props, etc. I also worked closely with the faculty as budgeting was essential.

What did you learn from the process?

The biggest thing I learned was “things do not happen on their own”, and one must always be well prepared. Nothing happens spontaneously and magically.

Did you enjoy working on the film?

It was tremendously hectic, yet enjoyable. We were running helter-skelter. But, I am looking at this project as an opportunity and an opening into the film industry. I thoroughly enjoyed working on the film and it’s an experience I will cherish.

Pradeep (sound)

Pradeep Ning

Sound Designer

What role did you play in the film?

As the Sound Designer of the film, my role included recording while shooting and post-production edit. We had to be very certain of the ambient elements, as it was set in the 1940s. The honking of vehicles or any small sound can ruin the whole shoot. We had to ensure that every small sound that we picked up was from that era.

What did the 1940s sound like?

I heard a lot of sounds from that time to understand how it was. Earlier, the sounds were different. There were more insects, the air around was clearer and noise levels lower. My emphasis was on making the audio as minimal as possible as sounds can be added in post-production. On the contrary, if there is any particular sound that we have in the film that we want to get rid of later, that could be a little difficult. My aim was to keep the audio as close as possible to the 1940s and keeping it crisp and clear.

Are you a better sound designer after the shoot?

Definitely. I learnt how to avoid overlapping sounds as it is vital to a film. One cannot have sounds of props and dialogues simultaneously. As I was in charge of the sound, it was my responsibility to ensure that the sound was how it was meant to be.

Did you enjoy the shoot?

It was enjoyable, yet frustrating. There were no sound assistants and when you have to do everything on your own, it’s an experience.

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Ameya Avadhani

Director of Photography

What role did you play in the film?

I am the Director of Photography (DoP) of the film. My role comprised setting frames aesthetically and ensuring that the positioning of the light was right for each section of the film.

Was the lighting experimental?

Our plan for the shoot was to ensure that the lighting gives us the period feel that we were looking for. We got to make our own floor and light plan and we also got to experiment with diffused lighting.

You learned some hard truths during the shoot. What were they?

We needed better preparation from our side with the lighting. During the course, we were taught hard lighting and in the film we used diffused lighting, a first for us. I also learnt that if there is no proper communication, it may lead to gaps and in turn cause massive disruptions while filming.

Are you a better DoP now?

It was a new experience for me. It was my first attempt in making a period film and I am taking back a lot more than what I expected to.

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