The Making of Identity
The Making of Identity
Shooting handheld presents its own set of issues. Will my footage actually be usable? Can I save extremely shaky footage in post with stabilisation plugins? Generally, how stable am I as a person (really)? These are questions every filmmaker asks him/herself, along with when will the Sony FS7 be available in the UK, is the new feature Morph Cut in Premiere Pro actually the answer, and what came first; the chicken or the selfie stick (sorry that was poor). In this post I’ll be running through my experience shooting handheld in India.
Going to India was a complete spur of the moment decision (well kind of). My family were already out there and had been for around 2 weeks; my sister is getting married this year and wanted to get all her clothes, jewellery from there. I felt guilty for not being there with them so booked my ticket and went.
This is what I filmed and called it Identity.
Travelling to India
The visa process is slightly different for someone working in media; you have to apply for and go through a different process which slightly delayed me (I didn’t know!). This put the biggest spanner in the works as I wanted to film out there; this is the main reason I didn’t take any extra equipment incase the Indian Authorities stopped and questioned why I had a tripod, field monitor and external recorder in my bag. I was over cautious so I only packed the 5D, a gorilla pod and GoPro.
To keep this post structured and easy to follow, I’m breaking down each section in the video into:
WHAT I FILMED
Scenario: Like the UK, India also has level crossings except they’re called Phataks. Bikers, people, even animals all duck the barriers to get across before the train passes. I wanted to show this as well as the train passing by.
Challenge: Filming the people wasn’t an issue. How would I get a low angle shot of the train without being caught, that was the challenge. By the way, please do not attempt this as its very dangerous and potentially life threatening.
Result: I walked down the open track to a point where I was barely visible to the station master. All i could see (and smell) were long stretches of marijuana bushes engulfing a railway line that now looked like it had been abandoned for years. The sound of crickets was my soundtrack to this low-angled journey.
I placed the GoPro securely between as many small rocks I could find, trapping it from any movement caused by the train that was about to crush it (I needed a new GoPro anyway so this might have been the excuse I needed). Once the GoPro was in place, I waited and waited…and waited. Eventually I saw the train in the midst, train getting bigger and horn getting louder as it approached. Then it happened. The train passed over the GoPro and It crushed it! No, well I hoped it hadn’t.
I walked nervously to the point of execution and was happy to see the little bugger still there, all snuggled up. I grabbed it and made a quick getaway before anyone took the camera off me.
The place I was staying (Goraya, Punjab) did not have an impressive train station so the next day I went to a bigger one in Jalandhar, Punjab (the oldest city in Punjab) and filmed commuters. Everything after the low-angled train shot was filmed in Jalandhar.
Scenario: An Auto Rickshaw is India’s equivalent of a black cab. Like black cab’s they are everywhere (until Uber take over!). Travelling in one of these is an experience, especially if the road is uneven and smashed to pieces; your backside will be in pain for days. I had to film these whilst in India.
Challenge: Mounting the GoPro on various places (inside or out) of the Auto Rickshaw proved a challenge as it wasn’t ever going to be a smooth ride. I had to use a strong clamp to hold the GoPro in place. See pictures below:
Result: I took my Canon with the 50mm and shot all the interior driver bits. My footage was shaking like crazy but I liked it. I wanted the viewer to experience the shakes too.
Raw Cane Sugar Process (Jaggery)
Scenario: My uncle took me to a village where raw cane sugar blocks were made, in specific Jaggery. Jaggery blocks have a sweet, rich and fudgey caramel flavour and are obtained by evaporating water from sugarcane juice.
What a special place this was.
Challenge: The jaggery blocks were being produced in a tent by a withered old man who had eyes that spoke without saying a word. Inside the sweet smell was so overpowering; a goldmine for every fruit fly in India.
Space was the only challenge in this ‘sugar mill’.
Result: I had to be extremely careful where I stood to achieve the look I was after.I was gutted I couldn’t document the life story of the old man. Next time hey
To be honest, I didn’t plan to film anything in India so didn’t prepare for it. This is very unlike me because I plan everything when shooting. I just filmed what I saw and liked, including the rickshaw, chapatti maker, Dry Cleaner etc.
The ND filter was attached onto this throughout the entire trip
The music is by a super talented sound designer from Massachusetts called SineRider
Leave a comment or any feedback below.
Thanks for reading.
Here are some random shots I took over there: