Mar 07
DIGITAL MOVIE PRODUCTION by Alex J. Socorro  |  Posted in Articles  |  on Fri, Mar 7, 2008

Part 2

Digital movie making is a breeze when one is equipped with the right people. First in the list is the director, of course, then everything comes in like pieces of a simple puzzle. Unlike the traditional film where the technical crew is varied and precise, digital movie makers exercise ad libbing to the fullest.

“Kung kaya nga lang ng isang tao, director, editor, videographer, pati cast eh di makakabuo ka na ng movie na ikaw lang,” quips a film director who recently shifted to the digital technique of movie making. “Very convenient kasi ang digital dahil kahit take ten okay lang. Kung sa film eh malaking aksaya yun kaya hindi puwede. Kailangan precise ang move. Dito sa digital, kung di ko kuntento eh di take lang ulit.”

Here’s a simplified list of the major personalities involved in production:
1) Producer– the financier of the project;
2) Director– the one-man steering committee of the production;
3) Assistant Director– coordinates production activity:
4) Production Manager–handles schedules and communications;
5) Production Designer–takes charge of the sets and props; and
6) Video-grapher – handles the camera

The Producer, being the financier and eventually the owner of the rights, is the overall head of the project. In the traditional film, there’s an Executive Producer who is in charge of the rights, packaging and disbursement of finances. But like the Producer, the Executive Producer is not required to be on the set because the Line Producer is the one who implements the budget plan. In the digital movie production, the Executive Producer and Line Producer is normally just one person.

Be it the traditional or the digital, there’s not much difference in the work of the Director except that in a digital film project, the Director has the luxury of previewing the shots on the set (which is also possible in a 35 mm. film if there are monitors on the set). The discretion of the Director controls the execution of the script. He is the top man in shooting and decides on whether the take is good or not.

After having prepared the shot list, the Assistant Director (AD) coordinates with everyone on the set. By shouting “action” or “rolling” the AD is actually the one who cause the shooting to commence. But before the actual take, the AD also sees to it that the set is ready so that proper blocking can be done. Blocking is the marking (usually and x mark with the use of masking tape) of the desired location where the actors would physically position themselves.

The Production Manager (PM) can be likened to a mini-personnel department because he handles not only the payroll but also the schedules of the entire cast and crew. In big productions, the PM is assisted by the Legman who contacts the cast for the shooting schedule and ensures that the actors can be on the location in due time. And to further stretch his logistical powers, the PM also handles the catering.

The aesthetic department is handled by the Production Designer (PD). Not only the set appearance but also the costumes and the props are the responsibilities of the PD. In big productions, the PD has an Art Director for an assistant. The Art Director takes care of the nitty gritty like color alteration of a background or maybe even the enhancement of a make-up. The Make-Up artist is another person under the baton of the PD. Being a designer, the PD is an artist in his own right.

The Cinematographer is the technical position of the person handling the camera in film production. Since video cameras are used in a digital movie, Videographer is an apt name. Like the Cinematographer, the Videographer gives suggestions on camera effects like the angling, panning, zooming and unzooming. In big productions, the Cinematographer is assisted by a Lighting Director and Sound Technician.

Like the big productions, a digital movie production also starts with an idea and moves when the money comes in. But the Director, and not the Producer, is normally the driving force and the biggest factor. In other words, a movie production is kindled by an artistic desire to make an artwork for exhibition.

The Director is sometimes affected by the story/scriptwriter writer with his germ of an idea. “Minsan nga title pa lang ang naririnig pero gustong-gusto na agad ng director,” says a veteran scriptwriter. And once the plot is finalized and agreed upon by the Director and the Scriptwriter, the project is now about to be born.

As what has been said of digital movies, most of the times the Producer is also the Director. But if the Director has no money then he uses his influence to convince a would-be Producer which can be family or friend. “Mas madali siguro kung mangutang ka na lang,” confesses an award-winning digital movie director. “Nakakainsulto kasi pag hiningan ka ng guarantee ng ROI (return on investment). Eh art ang pinag-uusapan hindi naman talagang negosyo.” But he also admitted that his first two ventures did not even return even half of his investments.

Considering the small budget of a digital movie project, the location is minimized. Directors with a background in Production Design has the advantage of concocting an outdoor setting inside a covered area. “Pag umuulan madalas gawin yan. Example sa garden eh di lagyan mo ng background tapos konting halaman. Pero sa totoo nyan nasa garahe ka lang pala,” explains a Production Designer. Another advantage is if the Director or anyone in his team happens to know animation or CGI (computer-generated images) which is very convenient in creating facades and false background.

The weather is a big problem in movie production. Unless the shooting is entirely done inside the studio, the continuity of time always poses a problem. “Kahit tanghali tapos biglang nangulimlim…. Paano kung yung previous eksena eh singkad ang araw? Pag itong kasunod na eksena with same time yun dapat kaya hihintayin mong sumingkad ulit ang araw. Minsan nga parang nakikipaghabulan ka sa liwanag,” explains a former Lighting Director. For exterior shots, Directors prefer night shots with the use of lights to mimic daytime. “Kaya magastos kasi malalaki ang ilaw!”

“Malaking bagay ang digital artist,” says a one-time digital movie producer. “Aside from the cost of renting a place for the location shoot, there’s the hassle of obtaining shooting permits. For big productions, some Barangays require crowd or traffic controllers so the Production Manager shells out tokens for the Baran-gay Tanods’assistance. For brief exterior shots like a walk in the street, the production team shoots guerilla style. As veteran directors put it, “Parang colorum, walang permit.” Shooting in public places is actually not a crime and the only problem is if the authorities demand a permit. A good example is the pictorial shooting of Diana Zubiri held in the flyover of Crossing, Mandaluyong. Mayor Benhur Abalos, due to the issue of indecent exposure, reprimanded the production team. But after all is said and done, it turned out that the Mayor was just after media mileage. “Kaya para safe ka at hindi ma-aberya ang schedule mo eh kumuha ka na ng permit o kung kaya ng guerilla eh di guerilla.”

In an actual shoot of a digital movie, there is the Utility Person (UP) who works as a utility man in the true sense of the word. The UP is lucky if there is catering otherwise he takes care of the food purchases. Mostly acting as propsman, the UP is the unofficial Lightsman, Soundman and sometimes acts as videographer if there is a second or third camera in the works. And in times the UP doesn’t handle a camera, he does the work of a Clapper.

When it comes to economizing, the digital movie production is the most economical. Since actors are paid on a per day basis, the Production Manager gives priority to the sequences of the highest paid actor. “Kung paatay-atay ang mga eksena mo eh di patak ng patak ang metro ng artista,” says an AD who also works as a PM. In the olden days of the traditional film, there was this thing called Pito-Pito where production is finished in just 7 days – that’s too fast and hasty for a film production. But a digital movie production is much shorter than the Pito-Pito since the cast of a digital is much smaller and the locations are selected and fewer. “Malaking tipid sa digital. Kaya nga ang daming gumagawa niyan ngayon,” opines an insider in the film industry.

In essence, digital movie production can be likened to a teleplay with limited settings and limited cast. However, the scope of the story is wider and plot development is faster than teleplays (although admittedly, television soaps as of late have dynamic pacings). With actors, digital producers seem to have difficulty in affording big name actors. “Hindi naman talaga siguro,” says the insider in the film industry. “Hindi pa kasi talagang uso ang digital pero sooner or later magpapantay yan. Kung sino artista sa film yun na din sa digital.” The big discrepancy, as of the moment, is the capacity of the budget since digital producers are small time in comparison with established studios. That’s the reason why digital movie producers are called Independents or Indies for short.

(Next week Part 3: Post production phase).


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