I just got back from Indonesia where I shot and directed a promotional film for Pelita Foundation in Gerupuk on Lombok, where they run educational programs for the kids in the village. In a pursuit of getting more hands on, real life experience with real clients as a filmmaker/director, I got in touch with the peeps at Pelita and pitched the story I wanted to tell. After a little back and forth, and some script massage, it was on.
Going into production, a few questions went through my mind. "How do I direct kids who speak little to no english?", "How do I make sure the 'actors' meet up on time, or at all?", and "What am I thinking trying to make a film with kids who have no acting experience whatsoever.." were some of my worries, while also mentally prepping myself to function as director, DP, and producer all at the same time. Luckily I got a local saviour, Jimmy, onboard the production who would basically function as my line producer. He would gather up whoever I needed for the day. Jimmy's English is decent, so he would also function as a translator on set, helping me get my directing through to the kids when using body language came up short. The kids were champions on front of the camera as well, and many of the key moments I was after came naturally.
Now, this project has made me realise how important having a director of photography is. Operating the camera and focusing on framing, lighting, background elements, and everything else that goes into cinematography, while also having to keep an eye on the talent and their performance, is a few too many elements to control at once. It can quickly end up in some form of compromise. Especially for the dynamic handheld shots where keeping everything framed properly becomes the overpowering factor, while acting and continuity quickly goes out the window.
Being a one man crew with absolutely no budget has its limitations. For controlling light I only had a small circular reflector for light bounce. However, for most scenes it was neglected due to lack of crew and time restraint. The village was sheltered from the sun after about 5pm, so I scheduled most shoots after that to have a soft, diffused light to play with. This also meant I only had about two hours per day to shoot before dark, so at a certain stage I had to drop the reflector and focus on using the natural light by itself as best as I could.
Looking at my first draft, I'm fairly stoked on what I have in front of me. Of course, its not quite at the level I envisioned in my head, but with a sturdy DP on my side, I'm confident it would get there. I learned a lot, had fun doing it, and it was a sick experience I wont forget.
Here are a few stills with some temporary grading. If there are any colorists out there who wants to give me hand with the grading, please give me a shout!