Film and video create life on the screen. For me as a writer when the ideas for a story come to mind they often start off with an image and build from there. The cinematographer translates these imagined images into something we can see and enjoy.
The image of Neha on the phone in the city was the forming visual for the story of My Husband. She is so in love and so happy but then . . . The images of Julie and her trolley and Kalyan playing a harmonica with a plastic lei around his neck were the other visual building blocks for the story. In After Eight my first short film the forming image was the circular doorway of Veludo Bar on Acland Street at night, where Cathy enters and Ray leaves.
After the final version of the script for My Husband was ready it was time to prepare the shot list and the story board. Part of this process was learning about which shots worked and which shots didn’t. Every shot had its own perspective and resonance but each also had to flow and connect with the shot before and the one that follows.
Working with cinematographer Chandra Mandanagopal was a valued experience. My Husband was shot on a Sony A55 camera which was great for capturing the movement and energy of Neha running through Melbourne’s CBD. The compact size and light weight also made it possible to film on a Swanston Street tram on a busy Friday afternoon. The problem is that when you are using such cameras the end results don’t always look so great, particularly when projected at film nights. One of the key challenges for a new director is to understand where to spend money when budgets are tiny or non existent. At Festivals people will tell you that it is the content is what they are looking for and that the technical look and feel doesn’t matter if the content is good. However I’ve discovered that there is a baseline and there are curators that select on form over quality of content. Make sure when you are making your short digital production that you understand what that baseline is and that you understand the strengths and weaknesses of the equipment your creative team is using.
The process we used for refining the shot list was physically walking through all the shots and camera positions. Chandra was able to find exactly the shot I was hoping for and was often able to find new shots that gave perspective and beauty to the overall scene. Zev contributed shots like the opening view of Flinders Street Station and the jib sequence where the camera pans past the Indian ornaments to Kalyan on the sofa with his tea, his laptop and the Slater Field Guide to Australian Birds.
Working through the shots before filming help to refine and improve the shot list and saved time on set.The lighting plan prepared by Stewart was also critical for the internal scenes.
Viewing lots of running (Run Lola Run was great for this) and tennis footage helped to work out the flow of those sequences.
The experienced crew really helped. Cameron, the Action Director, gave many useful suggestions for filming the tripping scene. Corey helped me to understand the film saving value of the long take and Stewart’s contribution to the lighting and the visuals was considerable.
The first two days of filming went well and we were able to mostly stay on track and film at a range of locations. After a long third day on set we had to cut some of the variations out of the shot list for our final scenes. This was partly due to the time it took to set up the jib early in the day. Chandra worked quickly and was economical with shots, ensuring we had the key shots we needed to finish the film.
Thank you Chandra, and all the cast and crew for bringing My Husband to life. I hope to work with many of you again on future projects.