Moms Mean Business - A behind the scenes look at our recent shoot for Ola Cabs
The fun folks at Happy Mcgarrybowen called us saying "Hey you guys! Let's make a film for Mother's Day. We're sending the script in a bit" Sounded great, except that Mother’s Day was literally three days away. Thus began a 56-hour challenge that rendered us into Bill Murray in the opening scene of the Darjeeling Express.
So why did we choose to do it? For starters, the script made us sit up and want to make it into a film. It was interesting and “not-sappy”! Just the latter virtue would make the film stand distinct from the crowd of mother’s day films, that would inevitably find itself on the average Facebook timeline. Pulling this off wasn't going to be easy but if done right - let's just say, we'd make our mums very proud.
The day began early. Actually, scratch that out. The day began yesterday. Our director hates surprises. He hates surprises more than he hates being tired. After working on the treatment note all night, the morning found us location scouting in Bangalore's going-nowhere traffic. During the process of making a film happen, we’re reminded time and time again how our film is only as good as the people we work with. Our line producer found us a great cul-de-sac that would prove to be about 80% of the shooting experience that followed. Shooting on the street in the middle of an Indian summer doesn’t quite live up to ideal shooting ergonomics. So it bears mentioning that this particular street turned out be a deal-clincher.
We lived the next 12 hours from one call to the next. Calls made to casting directors. Calls made to the line producer. Calls made to DoP Magesh, who lives in another state. Calls made to booked his tickets. Calls made to the client. Calls made seeking clearances and permissions. Incoming calls. Outgoing calls. Calls waiting.
And then, the long list of missed calls during the deathly quiet of the PPM.
Somewhere around 7 pm, with two hours until closing time, the confirmations came in. We were going to be shooting in about 12 hours. Our stylist Cilara Jacob had to source a not elaborate but very specific wardrobe. The main characters had almost stereotypical looks - a Goan Mother, a Bengali mother and a Punjabi mom. And yet, they couldn’t end up caricaturing the cultures. With no bells or whistles to support this straight narrative, everything hinged on performance. Given the terrifyingly short notice, the casting options we landed were the stuff of “thanks to our mothers prayers”. Sudha Belawadi, Kalpana Rao and Noella Ferraro are seasoned performers and just getting them on board bode well for the film. The two-hour window we had for sourcing the wardrobe and props, was made more interesting by the fact that the director and one producer were preoccupied with shooting a project we’d committed to previously. Despite the stylist making “no promises to get things super specific”, what was sourced was remarkably close to what was on the mood board.
Day 2. 6 am. Everybody’s on set and everybody looks ready to roll. The freshest face on set, of course, was the Red Weapon Helium - this was the first time we were shooting in 8K and we couldn’t wait to find out what the on set and post production experience would be like. On set, it proved to be nifty and adaptable.
Given that the time to deliver this film was literally hours, our choice of cameras, which in essence, our entire post production workflow had to be carefully thought about. Usually, our camera of choice is the Arri mini or the Red Dragon. For some reason the director wanted to try out Red's new weapon. Only problem, it shoots in 8K. Which means everything might take extra time. From transcoding and creating proxies to grading and finishing, 8K means millions of pixels more than our usual workflow. Considering our time crunch, the idea to shoot on the 8K was initially abandoned. But then our Post supervisor talked us into it.
So here we are on set, with RED's spanking new camera. Shooting on 35mm glass on this super 35mm sensor is simply a dream come true. With the new IPP2 workflow in place, we soon started witnessing the beauty this camera was able to crank out. One of the key differences we found about the Helium was that the skin tones stood out better. We're still unsure if this is better or not.
The DoP and the director wanted to create a very specific mood for the film. A traffic jam but beautiful visuals nonetheless. With the sun blaring down on us, we began lighting the scene by simply removing what's unnecessary. We infused the scene with a very small about of smoke and dust. Just to give it that feel but not too much that it begins to feel too cinematic. Everything is subtle.
Unfortunately many a time, the supporting roles are treated like an afterthought. It’s not intentional, but in the process of going into the big picture, this very significant detail sometimes slips through the cracks. But this film was definitely an exception. The actors in the supporting roles - Aditya, Som and Shivam Kumar brought some characteristic quirk that made the film more lifelike. The film is treated such, that it’s paced differently across the sequences - for who’s ever had a linear-one-type experience of traffic? From the helpless surrender of being stuck in a traffic jam to the livid rage felt towards that nincompoop who believes he/she is above the concept one ways, we’ve tried to replicate the same sense of being on the road. The sequence that featured the boys from Jordindian, again broke the on-going mood of the film - giving an added layer of recognisability and humour.
AM ran into PM and PM ran into AM. We knew nothing but the familiar controls of Final Cut Pro and Da Vinci Resolve. But sometime around mid-morning, on Mother’s Day, a certain film reminded everyone just how badass their moms were. Before the day was out, the Ola Mother's Day film crossed a million views on Facebook.
A shout out to all the mothers who created the champions on this project. Everybody not only brought their A game to this film, but also their coolest head! Come Mother’s Day, we realised that we were playing Adrien Brody’s character all this while.