Sunday, October 23, 2011

Two Months In!

Mocking up shots for PreVis
Today marks the two month anniversary of my arrival in Mumbai. We are getting closer to shooting every day. We are madly prevising and planning and R&D'ing and trying to pull together an organizational plan, both in terms of production and pipeline. We are acquiring talent from some of the more experienced shops around Mumbai which is having the expected effect, namely lots of new and different ideas about how to move forward, all of which have to be evaluated and placed into the context of this shop. You can't just come in and replace everything, but you do have to turn the ship. People have to embrace new and controversial ideas. In many cases this is a task of convincing everyone that there is no Magic Bullet, there is no One Best Way and that preparing for all eventualities only prepares you for the things least likely to go wrong. What is required is for everyone to agree on one way to proceed, one way to organize, one file format, etc. It almost doesn't matter what you agree on as long as there is one way to go and everyone knows what it is. That one way may change, but it's changing something that everyone will know is changing. It's the foundation that allows the change to happen without destroying everything.

I spend almost every day talking to somebody about discipline. Now that we are in PrePro the tendency is to ignore all the would-be rules, like filenaming conventions, versioning, always calling the coord before showing The Boss, etc. It's no big deal, it's just PrePro. What always happens, though is that people don't try to learn the discipline until they are under fire and then it becomes duck and run when it needs to be stand and fight. I am desperately working to convince everyone to pay attention. Right now is Boot Camp and if everyone gets used to keeping their boots shiny and their bunks made, we'll still have a nice place to work when the going gets tough later on. It's in the rush to finish that people throw everything to the wind when they need to rely on their training and stay the course. That discipline is what makes shots go through the pipe instead of spilling out onto the ground.

Wow, that's a lot of metaphors.

We've had a lot of meetings with the director of the film. He's spent a lot of time with us going over shot breakdowns for what we will shoot in December. This is in meetings with us, DoP,  Prod Designer and Action Director. Basically Heads of Department. It's a very open forum with even the PreVis leads chime in with ideas. This kind of openness requires a steady hand at the wheel. You need to hear all the ideas without being prejudiced by where they came from and then you must decide what to do. I think it's a good way to go but it is mentally taxing. I think this director is doing a fabulous job of keeping his creative environment simultaneously open and decisive. Haven't seen much of either trait lately in Hollywood. I'll leave it at that.

This week will see the release of The Next Big Indian VFX Film in Ra.One. We are all waiting to see what Red Chillies, the VFX Company owned in part by the film's star Shahrukh Khan and VFX supe'd by Hollywood vet Jeff Kleiser, have come up with. It's certain to influence everything we are doing.

This week is also more holidays in India. Diwali is Wednesday which is the big one. Then we have a month to get ready to shoot. It's going to be a very busy November.

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