A filmmaker hasn’t been fully initiated into the art of independent filmmaking without tricks and acts of hustling that are part crazy part borderline-genius. 5 indie filmmakers tell us their most memorable and reliable jugaad.
We needed a green-screen for one of the sequences in a short film I was directing. We couldn't find one for the budget we had. So we went out and bought green cloth and stapled a make shift green screen.
Watch the behind the scenes, HERE
At one point we needed to stabilize our handheld shots and like always, we didn't have the dough to make a camera stabilizer. So I ended up making one, using PVC pipes.
Another time, we needed a café table for a scene, and we obviously couldn’t break one! So we made one out of a kitchen rack and a broken window!
While shooting for Leeches, we were looking for a home that would work as a set for the protagonist’s house. The landlord of the building asked us about the film’s story, which we had to describe as a documentary for an NGO! Once at this house, we bribed an uncle with booze money to let us shoot there for one and a half day!
One day a cast member couldn’t make it to the shoot, so we roped in the resident old lady with her face full of stories to play the protagonist’s grand aunt. She was thrilled, until she realized how many takes she has to sit through
Using reflectors are a great way to brighten the actors’ faces. Here too, instead of using big bulky reflectors which are quite man power intensive, we use simple “Flexi” reflectors which cost a few hundred rupees, or even simple Thermocol sheets, which are easily available at local stationery shops for a few rupees.
Coming to indoor lighting, there is, of course, the “Baby” - a powerful source of light which can be rented from most places for just 50 bucks. But nothing can beat the good old “shaadi waali light” or the Sun Gun - the whole kit consisting of the light, the stand, a diffusion umbrella and a couple spare bulbs, can be bought for just a thousand rupees! It forms an indispensible part of a Filmmaker’s jugaadu lighting kit, mainly due to the high intensity it provides, and how it can provide harsh as well as diffused light with great ease. And if your budget is slightly higher, the new entry in this field is the LED light panel - it also provides fairly nice light and has the added ability to be powered by a rechargeable battery.
Lighting a car is one thing, but framing inside one is a different game altogether! There just isn’t enough room to lay down your tripod in there. If you have a good budget, you can rent car mounts for this purpose, which can be used in a lot of ways than usual.
Otherwise, we tried a few other DIY hacks. The tricky part is if you want to shoot the two front seated people from the front angle – a clever option is to use an ultra-wide angle lens and stick the camera to the centre of your dashboard using cardboard and double-sided tape. We used this option a lot while shooting the short film “Shaadi Ka Driver”, where I would press the camera’s record button, and then hide in the trunk of the SUV to avoid being seen in the frame!
The very fact that I manage to make a film out of the scarce resources and funding, is the biggest hustle. Whenever locations that require permissions to shoot are involved, I’ve simply shot on the sly without really getting those permissions. Another great thing that’s always worked is collaborating with a crew that prefers rebellion rather than conventional methods and democracy.
The point where I began shooting my film One Last Question in remote villages in Assam was a crazy hustle. It was a tribal village, we had all the necessary permissions required. On the day we reached to shoot with equipment, the villagers came on set and stopped the shoot. Later we got to know that the shoot was stopped because they thought that we were someone from government trying to create some kind of propaganda! So, from the next day onwards, we started shooting on the go. We just randomly picked up locations and shot. Every day, not a single person in the crew including actors knew what we are going to shoot and where. After all this, it’s amazing to see the film come together finally!
Clearly, there’s no such thing as “excuses” in the books of independent filmmakers. What are some of your genius hacks?