In an exclusive interview with Vibhuti Arora, Australian-Iranian director Pegah Ghaemi talks about the pleasures and challenges of shooting in real locations Filmmaker Pegah Ghaemi doesnt watch a lot of films. The reason she does not want to colour her vision with other peoples ideas. For Ghaemi, filmmaking is a very personal art. Having […]
In an exclusive interview with Vibhuti Arora, Australian-Iranian director Pegah Ghaemi talks about the pleasures and challenges of shooting in real locations
Filmmaker Pegah Ghaemi doesnt watch a lot of films. The reason she does not want to colour her vision with other peoples ideas. For Ghaemi, filmmaking is a very personal art. Having studied filmmaking in university gave her a better grasp of the craft but in no way did it shape her filmmaking ethos, which she insists is an intrinsic quality.
While constantly updating herself on the technological front, Ghaemi doesnt like to adopt other peoples style in directing.
“Filmmaking is very individual, almost personal to me. I see it as a way to express myself and Id rather do it my way than being influenced by others styles,” she explains.
Combining an artistic touch and her knowledge of filmmaking gives an edge to her commercial shoots, each one of which has a soul, according to her, and is not churned out mechanically from a marketing machinery. So when she was approached by Conares Steel to do a corporate film, she came up with the idea of weaving a story around the film that would connect better with the audience.
“In a commercial, you have to say a lot in very little time and all of it has to make sense. It was an exciting concept for me and the storyline immediately popped up in my mind. I was ready with a script in the next few days. For the story and the commercial to flow together, we had to shoot it very cleverly to pack in as much information as possible. We decided to cover the entire workspace including the factory as well as the office area. We also shot some footage outdoors.”
Ghaemi and her team managed to shoot for 12-15 hours daily over three days. The resulting footage was then worked on in post to produce the final two-and-a-half-minute film and a 30-second teaser.
The story revolved around the factory and was to be shot at night in artificial lighting. However, a night shoot was not allowed at the premises so the production team went ahead with a day shoot, which was to be flipped at the editing table to get the required effect.
“Sometimes, what you plan doesnt necessarily materialise due to various constraints. As a filmmaker, one has to take these challenges in ones stride. Thanks to technology, its possible to bring the film as close to your vision as possible. We decided to go ahead with a day shoot and used DaVinci Resolve to flip it and make it look like a night shoot. Colour grading gave it the effect we wanted.”
The other challenge was to shoot inside the factory, which obviously did not offer a very conducive environment for a camera shoot. To begin with, lighting was a big challenge because it was not uniform. The script involved a lot of movement over a significant stretch of the factory, strewn with iron rebars, pulleys and other machinery serving as the backdrop. The best way to capture the desired effect was to use a steadicam. Except for the leads, none of the other characters were professional actors. About 70 personnel from the factory and office were involved in the shoot.
“It was almost like shooting a fictional documentary within a real factory with real people,” says Ghaemi.
“We did not have the luxury of time to do too many retakes or hire and train any extras. The entire shoot was done within a very tight time frame.”
Another challenge was the noise in the factory. Ghaemi says, “Communicating with people sharing camera space was extremely difficult because of the noise.
“We had to make do with whatever resources were available. Safety was a major concern as we were shooting with potentially hazardous machinery. Although we had special permission to shoot in the factory, we had to be extra cautious to avoid accidents.”
Adhering to the budget and logistical constraints, the script had to be pared down to achieve everything in three days. “I would have liked it to be at least six days. In order to reduce the shoot to three days, we altered the night scenes in the script to day so that we could shoot day for day. In doing so, we also had to drop a lot of equipment lights for one, extra lenses and a host of shooting paraphernalia,” points out Ghaemi.
However, a steadicam could fit it all in within the given time frame.
DoP Shahram Aderangui from Amaranthine Trading, the distributors for ARRI in the Middle East, involved well-known steadicam operator Hosein Jalili, who was called in especially from Iran to handle the three-day shoot.
The film was shot on ARRI Alexa in full HD to have different layers of shooting and to allow for different grades of lighting.
Aderangui chose the Alexa to capture the depth and crispness of the milieu. It was the best choice for accommodating the gradation in lighting as the light varied from dark interiors to very bright sunlight outside with the shoot spanning both.
The post production was done using Final Cut Pro, Adobe After Effects, Autodesk Maya 3D and DaVinci Resolve colour correction. There was no need for dubs or voice overs, and sync sound was out of the question because of the excessive noise in the factory. Audio was added in post.
Ghaemi comments: “Barring some of the challenges, realistic imagery is easy to shoot if you have a grasp of what you want. It also cuts down on your work in post as not many special effects are needed. What you shoot is what you get.”