A filmmaker’s check list

Hundreds of filmmakers graduate from the New York Film Academy every year. And funny but true, they all have a similar point of view when it comes to selecting a location for shooting and certain other aspects. Presenting a lighter side behind the psychology of a filmmaker:

Every filmmaking student in NYFA is probably given the following cheat sheet at the start of the year which gives them the 10 most important points to take care of when selecting a location for shooting:

1. The location should NOT be anywhere closer than 8-10 blocks from any Subway station. This point is very important and should never be ignored. You must consider how important and healthy it is to walk a mile before and after shooting.

2. The shooting floor should NEVER be the ground floor. The lowest it can be is 3rd floor. The best of the shots always are taken in apartments on 6th floor and above. It has to do with the magnetic forces of nature that affect the creative thinking process. 

3. There should NOT be any elevators or escalators in the apartment buildings. Elevators hamper creativity to a great extent. They block good ideas and reduce efficiency of the crew. Specially when the equipment is for a thesis which includes dolly and all possible lights, 10 c stands, metal tracks, sandbags etc, it is always beneficial that the building does not have elevators. In fact, try to find narrow and steep staircases. They are always better than those wide comfortable ones. Specially if it is PeeWee or Fisher dolly being taken up.

4. The sound people love challenges. An apartment near a signal and specially if those are the routes for ambulances, fire brigades and police cars, the sound guys feel thrilled (some even feel something which can be compared to orgasm). An apartment in a silent neighborhood without construction or repair work in progress is too easy for sound recordists. They feel useless and probably will quit the shoot halfway. You want to make their dream come true, choose a location which is on a signal as above near the JFK airport!

5. A good temperature is necessary for people to work. Air conditioners in summers and heaters in winters are extremely overrated concepts. In reality, the crew feels much more home without them. So when selecting an apartment, please always choose an apartment which is devoid of those useless fixtures.

6. If the sound guys love challenges, the cinematographer’s are also not going to accept a project which is a piece of cake. If you are shooting night scenes, ensure there are large windows in the entire apartment. Cinematographers always have meters and meters of duvatin that they never bring to set. This will make sure they bring it to the set and use it. DO NOT rent duvetyne in advance if you see large windows in your apartment. Those decisions are meant to be taken on the set during lighting and should be left on the cinematographer. It is NOT your job. The more number of windows, the more difficult it is for the sound guys too. So this one step will take care of the hunger for adventure in your cinematographer as well as your sound recordist.

7. Cinematographers always cry about power. DO NOT listen to them. The apartment you choose should NOT have power outlets that can withstand anything above 10 or at the max. 15amps. Also, there should NOT be many different circuits running in the apartment. Maximum different circuits should be two. If the power trips, it can easily be reset from the breaker box. And there is always time for all those things on the set. The thought of selecting a location based on its power rating is pointless and should be highly avoided.

8. Crew is NEVER in need of good food. They hate to be fed sumptuously. So choosing a location which is away from any good restaurant or food chain is the best thing you can do to yourself and the crew. Most of the people eat anything. Cold cut sandwiches are very healthy and go well with water. Save yourself the pain and expense of getting good food from a nearby good food outlet. Choosing a location away form any reliable, hygienic food outlet will help you all throughout your shoot schedule.

9. One of the things that are highly overrated is space. NOBODY needs extra room. The smaller the apartment, the better it is since the closer the crew remains with each other and to the equipment, the more they bond with each other and this keeps the tempers running low. Specially if you are shooting all across the apartment (living room, kitchen, bedroom, even closet! – all in one day) it is probably a good idea that the apartment is small. Allowing crew to sit idly is worst that can be done to them. If they have to keep moving stuff every hour for the next shot, it keeps them active and very calm. Cinematographers may ask for stupid things like a staging area for equipment (like all the other useless things they always demand, huh!) DENIAL is the best way out. They don’t need it. It is just a place where equipment is kept neatly and organized, out of people’s way (How mainstream and boring right?).

10. Always choose apartments with polished creaky floors, extremely fragile furniture and WHITE walls. This will not only help the crew manage things better while moving C Stands and other sharp metal objects since they have to stay careful not to scratch, but will also help the cinematographer light up. White walls always reflect light and will give you better exposure. So what if the cinematographer has to use extra flags and go crazy with black wrap trying to cover leaks etc. It is their goddamn job. They better do it. The creaky floors will come handy when dollying. The sound of the creaky floors gives the dolly grip a sense of rhythm and helps them gauge their movement. Also, for shots where the camera operator has to walk along with actors, the more sound his feet make, the better it is for the sound guy. (psst…sound guys can remove any extra sound! They don’t tell you but sure they can!). 

 If you choose a location with has all the above qualities, you are going to have a wonderful shoot. Expect results that look very similar to any Stanley Kubrick film. In fact, give out references from those films to your cinematographer. They sure can achieve it.

And always remember the magic words “We are on a tight budget!”

Have a great shoot. 

Readers, if you have any more points, feel free to comment. I would love to add them.

Filmmakers, hope you see the lighter side and don’t take any offence. 

Of guns, blasts and sirens!!

I have had lots of dreams but these three dreams are the ones that I don’t think I will ever forget. I had these dreams within a span of three months starting May 2008.


Dream 1-


The sun has set. The atmosphere is dull and has last few remains of twilight. It is a very narrow street with mostly two storied row houses. A typical Gomti Nagar locality of Lucknow. I am standing in front of a big white bungalow with grand, heavy metal black gate. Somehow, as the dream began I already had some information in my head. It is the house of a well known rich person whom I know. I have somehow agreed to let in a gang of six people in the house by some means. It’s not clear though as what exactly I do to let them in.


The moment I let them in, I run to my own house. My house is even more poorly lit. It seemed there was an electricity failure. I am on the first floor waiting for the blast. Yes, those people were supposed to blast the place. This information also came to my head somehow. But even after a long wait, I don’t hear any sound. Suddenly, there is a desperate banging on my door. I open the door and all the six people are inside my house. Now I actually see those people. There are two girls also (Sometimes, I am totally startled to see the level of details some dreams have). One of the guys, the leader, has a sturdy bearded look.


“Our plan has failed and we didn’t know where to go. So we thought lets hide at your house till everything settles.” 


“No, you cannot stay here. My job was to only let you in and nothing further. I have nothing to do with all of this. Please go away right now. I don’t want any trouble here.”


“Well now you have (pointing a gun at me). Keep shut and let us in. We’ll stay here only.”


I keep shut and let them in. They cozily settle down in my dark house lit only by some kind of oil lamp (I remember the orange/red dim light in the room). They are talking stuff which is like gibberish to me. All the time I am just sweating and shivering by the very thought of the consequences of this. I am cursing myself for indulging into something like this. What will mummy say? Papa will kill me any case! What if police gets to my house and arrests me along with these people? I am totally heavy with all these thoughts when I hear a series of approaching sirens. Police! They are finally here. There is a knock on the door…


I wake up, shivering and with a severe headache. I had no idea what triggered this dream. I had slept very peacefully and nothing much was happening in my life (may be that was the answer!!). This was my first dream. I can’t exactly recollect the date but it was somewhere in May last year. Whoa! It’s been one year and I still remember it frame by frame. I can shoot it or sketch it if I could sketch).


Dream 2


It is a beautifully designed crossroad, with a high fountain and tall glossy towers around. The area is very posh. It’s evening time with bright yellow sun in the extreme west of the sky. The roads are busy. The signal is red to the side I am standing with a shiny gun in my hand. I have to shoot the guy sitting in that black E class Mercedes Benz which is a couple cars away from me.  I point it at the guy who is sitting in the passenger seat and I shoot a couple of bullets. But something tells me, none of the bullets touched him. Instead, two three people start shooting at me. 


I turn and run. After a short distance, I abruptly enter a residential tower. I quickly get in the elevator and press the button for 20 something floor (I don’t remember the exact floor but a strange thought in my head told me its somewhere above 20). I enter my apartment which is brightly lit with big clear glass windows and a mesmerizing view of the city. The sun rays are making my apartment very bright. I have a terrace also beyond a glass wall. I go and open the door to the terrace and at that very instant, three guys climb in. Neither am I surprised at their appearance nor afraid. As if it was the part of the plan. They grab the chairs kept in the terrace and fall in them. One of them takes off his shirt and throws it at the table revealing his clean white vest. They all take out their guns and keep them on the table (I still remember the clang of metal and glass). Then I hear sirens…


I woke up. No sweat or headache but definitely shocked. 


Dream 3


The sun is bright and right above my head. The air is humid. I am standing near some dock. I can see a ship at some distance. It is not too big but big enough to be called a ship. I have diamonds in my hand wrapped in a magenta cloth. I have retrieved those from the ship. There are five other people standing near me. One of them has some kind of a small rocket launcher. The plan is blow off that ship.


But suddenly sirens are heard and one of them orders everyone to scatter and save their lives. I run amazingly fast from the scene. Upon covering some distance I reach a sort of colony. I take an extreme left and I am into a very narrow lane with lots of small houses on each side. I keep walking swiftly. I see a small door open on my left. I enter it to find that it is my house. There is my grandma, grandpa, uncle and mother. They all are happy to find me back home at lunch time. They serve me lunch and I have it quickly. I even remember hearing my grandma’s scolding for eating so fast. I go upstairs in my room and lock it from inside. The window in my room gives me a clear view of the main gate. I am looking at the gate and wondering who will reach me first? The police or my gang members who would be desperately searching me now since I have the diamonds

? I open the packet once again and have a look at them. They are shiny, small and lots of them. I pack it again and hide it in a plant in my room. Suddenly, there is a knock at the door. I turn to see who it is…


I get up, sweating and again with a splitting headache.


These dreams are seriously strange. They have some similarities but still they are three unique dreams. I have not understood why I got these three dreams. All my friends whom I had told these dreams also know that when these dreams came, it was very peaceful time in my life. Nothing was bothering me; I was not at all tense. If anyone who has read this post can analyze dreams, then please let me know what these mean.