Chapter V: Getting others to do the Impossible [Part Two: Crew]

A film crew is made up of many people, of varying skills, with different goals in life. The ability to bring them together to achieve a common objective is a valuable one indeed. Movies that have the budget make this happen by throwing around money. There are too many experienced and talented professionals without work, and it is rare that a producer who offers money can’t find talented personnel.

But what if you don’t have money to pay your crew, as it was the case with me during The Impossible Murder?

Director of Photography

For my camera crew, I was lucky enough to have Ajit Naik – a professional with more than 30 years experience in the industry. He was cameraman for Ramayan, and he embodied every quality I think a good DP should have:

  • He was punctual
  • He was fast, and respected the constraints of the production
  • He brought in crew who were professional and helpful even beyond the call of duty
  • He was always positive
  • What more could one ask for?

    Assistant Directors

    Fortunately for me, I had one solid rock during the entire making of The Impossible Murder, and that was my first assistant Rahul Patil. He kept his cool, through all the crazy happenings that we went through, and never let me down even once. That is professionalism at its highest level.

    Unfortunately, he was the only one left when shooting began. I had four assistant directors lined up, and I was comfortable with all of them until:

  • One broke his leg and couldn’t come
  • One got fired the day before production began for laziness and unprofessional conduct
  • One suddenly discovered filmmaking is a tough affair, and didn’t like the idea of travelling by bus
  • Choose your assistants wisely. They must be street smart and punctual. Above all, they must be professional.

    Lighting and Grip Crew

    My lighting unit, which included a lighting truck and a generator truck, lightmen, grips and driver, came from Mindscreen, based in Chennai and Kochi. The company is owned by Rajiv Menon, and they were highly professional. The lightmen were the best bunch of people I have worked with, and they were a lesson in professional behavior and workmanship. They never tired, and could go for two straight shifts overnight without any drop in efficiency. Try that on some ‘highly paid’ actor or professional.

    The Impossible Murder didn’t have stunts, makeup, art direction or choreography. There wasn’t enough budget. However, having gone through the ordeal of making the movie, I fully appreciate and respect these departments. Can’t do without them. They all exist for a reason, developed over one hundred years of filmmaking experience. I knew it back then of course, but didn’t have the money. Big Mistake.

    The lack of a line producer or production manager, art director, makeup person and assistant directors was the biggest failure of The Impossible Murder. But once production had begun, there was no turning back, and no time to look for more crew in the small town of Kannur, Kerala – far away from Mumbai or Chennai.

    How do you inspire professionals to join you?

  • Offer them something of value. What is it they want? Give it to them. If you find good people and listen to them, they will make your film better. If you can’t handle that, then take up painting or photography instead.
  • Involve them. Allow them to make your film their film too. If they feel excluded from the process, then don’t expect them to be 100% committed.
  • You have to inspire experienced individuals and make them believe in your movie. If you are not a nice person, have poor communication or social skills, or are totally inexperienced, it is unlikely you will find good crew members.

    I once got an offer from someone (a celebrity producer/director) to be part of a team where:

  • There was no money
  • There was no designation
  • There was no guarantee the project would see the light of day
  • There were no artistic or intellectual property rights
  • What do you think I told this person? Nothing. I just walked away. In this industry one does not burn their bridges. But if you are a producer stupid enough to offer nothing but want everything in return, then expect the one guaranteed outcome of this transaction: Disrespect. Don’t go that route.

    Shooting is hard, and many people (especially assistant directors who dream big) think they want to be in the film business but really don’t have what it takes to work long and hard hours, most of the time without sleep. If you are a professional, paid or unpaid, and if you have decided to take on the responsibility of a position, you must fulfill it. The same is true of producers and directors who take on film projects. You must see it through. You must complete them, no matter what.