Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Film Making And Technology

Technology (from Greek τέχνη, techne, "art, skill, cunning of hand"; and -λογία, -logia) refer to the collection of tools, including machinery, modifications, arrangements and procedures used by humans. Engineering is the discipline that seeks to study and design new technologies.
-- Wikipedia
Technology and film making. I am beginning to like this interplay, being a movie fan from my childhood years, and having spent my adult years in engineering and technology. Of course, the film industry is heavily technology driven already and breath taking graphics are the handiwork of skilled professional playing with modern software. What’s new is that it is being brought home into the Telugu land.

Are you following the improvisations that recent Ram Gopal Varma is driving in the Telugu film industry (Tollywood)? Of course, Ramu, as Ram Gopal Varma is fondly called, had shown previously that a full feature film can be made with a DSLR (Canon 5D). Basic point then was that there is no need to spend too much money on expensive cameras. Now he has taken a step ahead with his latest movie Icecream.

In a video posted on YouTube, Ramu proposes a lot of interesting ideas. He explains his mission of bringing in a lot of people coming into film making by using very affordable gear and the revolution brought by technology. Here’s the video titled ‘A note to all the aspiring film makers’, watch it:

I have summarised the talk:
There is no need to work as an assistant director to make a movie. He himself is the best example of that. In these days of internet and social media, there is absolutely no need to go via the asst. director route.

He clearly identifies one area of high cost being the “unit” of cameras, trollies, tracks etc., and says we can avoid spending on those gear. Cinema is for seeing and hearing, and you can achieve that with very low-expense cameras that too without the help of a professional cinematographer. If still photographs can be taken by one person, why do we need so many people for motion pictures? He shows in the video, two cameras one costing 25 thousand rupees and the other costing 10 thousand rupees that were used to make ‘Icecream.’

A lot of people did not like ‘Icecream,’ but Ramu says one thing that everyone agreed to, is that technically it is a good movie. But this technical quality was achieved by low-cost cameras, using stock music from free websites for background, and edited by 16 year olds on laptops.

He also gives guidance on forming a cooperative society so that there are no more flop movies. Previously it was ‘us’ vs ‘them.’ There was not much of financial stake for the hero and others. There were people like the producers and the distributors who took the financial burden and risk. So, he says, people should form a cooperative society to spread the financial burden and thus there will not be any more flop movies.

Ramu emphasises on localisation. If you know about Chirala, make a movie based on it, and sell it only there. Hyderabad Nawabs collected 1 crore rupees from Ramakrishna theatre because it was based on the milieu of the area around that theatre. Similary, the Telugu movie ‘Amma, Nanna, Abaddham’ ran full house for 22 days in Tuni, as the story was set in Tuni.

Conclusion, mine
I watched the video a few times and really like the idea of spreading an industry into the hands of more and more people. More power to your ideas, Ramu.

Now, let’s switch the direction. For the reverse flow of ideas, there has been an article, a LinkedIn post by Aditya Jha, CEO of Krayon Pictures. In his piece titled, “5 things corporations can learn from movie making”, he cites the following points:
1) Collaboration without turf wars
2) No middle management
3) Pride of ownership
4) Creating something new every time
5) The desire to be immortal

Good points all. Bollywood has been and is being corporatised. So those film-making corporations can be the first places of implementation of ideas from their own film making. He concludes, “Yet,many films suck. And there are many things that movie making can learn from corporations.” On the many-films-suck business, I totally agree and is a pet theme of mine in conversations with family and friends. Actually most films suck and invariably as I watch a movie, my thoughts wander into how it could have been done better and how much potential was wasted.

The comparison between corporations and movie making is a wide one, for me. I have a narrower interest : the intersection between software development and film making. Given that there was an influence of the car making industry (Lean coming from Toyota) on the software industry, in the form of the Agile. In a way, Agile has already has the ingredients that Jha has raised. So, is there anything more that can be borrowed from film making into software development? This needs exploration.

On the making of Icecream too, I had some queries : How much did Ramu spend on DI for Icecream? DI, is one cost component that is quoted very high even from small post-production studios / professionals. Secondly, Ramu says Icecream production cost was 2,11,832 rupees with no editing & RR costs. The producer says he spent 1.5 crore rupees. So on what was the 1.48 crore rupees spent by the producer? My best guess is TV ads. Thirdly, some films need songs. So how do we reduce the cost of having songs in films?

I actually posted these queries on RGV’s Facebook wall, and very unsurprisingly, I did not get any response.

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