One of my obsessions has been reading production screenplays. Either very early drafts or drafts just before production begins. Somewhere between those two stages is a master class in filmmaking.
I think Emir Kustirica said this; “a screenplay is not the film. A film exists in the white spaces between the dialogs.” If he did not it’s what I’d like to imagine he said.
A screenplay is not a work of art. It’s a document that occupies a strange intermediate space. I’ve always seen a screenplay as a set of coded instructions. But then, “code is poetry.” So, when I write I try to make every word matter like an author would when writing a novel. And as a director it’s that elusive white space between words that I’m in search of.
So, here’s the screenplay of Road, Movie. This is the draft dated August 15, 2008.
Two days before we began filming.
This is for your personal use and I’d appreciate if you did not post this on your site or put up on any services like Scribd.
A surprise package was waiting for me yesterday evening.
Jaya Vasant the gracious Senior Manager from the Prasad Group sent me a disk with a sample of restored clips from English, August.
Here is a sample. It’s a long-long process to get this completed.
Let me know what you think.
English, August Restoration sample from dev benegal on Vimeo.
I get this message from the Prasad Group:
It has been informed that the negative may not be suitable for the restoration work but the Print is usable.
So there. In a single line there goes my first movie.
But as Douglas Adams said, “Don’t Panic.”
Filmmaker Shripriya asks what I did for Road, Movie.
- I moved all the negative to Deluxe Laboratories.
- We scanned our final cut at 2K and made a Digital Intermediate.
- Our original aspect ratio was 2.35:1 at 4 perf. We got a much larger area of negative to scan. The result was way better than a 4k scan of a 2 perf negative or even a 3 perf negative.
- I’d strongly recommend doing this if you are originating on film.
- One of our delivery requirements for world sales was a 35mm Internegative.
- We did that too and it is housed in Technicolor Rome.
- The Indian Distributors have their own 35mm Negative.
- They asked for a drive with the DPX files to create a new Digital Negative and their own copy of the Dolby 5.1 final mix.
I’m hoping all bases are covered and we are in a better position than English, August.
As always fingers are crossed and one holds ones breath.
I’ve learnt a whole lot of lessons in the restoration of the ‘English, August’ negative. It all began when Upamanyu Chatterjee asked for a DVD of the film.
Readers of this weblog will know that the 35mm negative of English, August was damaged by Prasad Laboratories in Madras (now Chennai) because of poor storage. Ironic given that I chose to work with them because they were the best processing and printing laboratory in India.
I was later told by several established filmakers, cinematographers and producers, “welcome to the club”. The club is a group of people who have lost the Original Negatives of their films due to poor storage conditions in India.
So for aspiring filmmakers here are the five things to look out for.
And when I use the word Laboratory you could replace that with a Digital Post Production Facility too.
Choose Your Laboratory Carefully
- Ask to see their previous work.
- Something they have done in the last six months.
- Speak to the producers, directors, cinematographers and editors and get a sense of their personal experience.
- What is the extra mile the facility will go for you?
- Will they treat you with respect or will you be given short shrift.
- Remember, they need you more than you need them.
Proper Storage- Make your Laboratory Accountable
- Ask to see where they store your original masters.
- Is it temperature controlled?
- Is the temperature maintained 24×7?
- Do they have dust filters?
- How often are these cleaned?
- What backup system do they have for all this?
Pay your Laboratory for Storage
- Don’t take this for granted. (I did as did so many others)
- Let’s not forget the Lab also has to survive.
- Offer to pay for storage.
- This will be music to their ears and in all likelihood they will go the extra mile.
Check your Negative / Master from time to time
- Drop in from time to time.
- Buy your Lab Supervisor lunch.
- Make friends with them.
- You’ll learn a lot about cinema as well.
- If it’s tape then run it through a machine.
- If it’s film negative open it and have it wound gently so the layers do not pack too tightly.
Budget for a backup.
- If you are shooting on Tape then make sure you have an onsite and an offsite backup.
- Have three levels of backup.
Do the same for all your sound.
- Your Location Sound Tracks.
- Your ADR.
- Your Sound Design Tracks.
- Your Final Mix and Stems.
- Your Dolby M.O. Disk.
I know this sounds ridiculous but think of this:
- We never made a Internegative of English, August.
- We were penny wise-pound foolish.
- When we found the Original Negative was in a poor condition we telecined it to tape.
- The tape was captured to an expensive high quality tested drive.
- I thought we were safe.
- When I began the process to master the DVD I found the drive was dead.
- We had never thought of making a clone of that drive.
- We felt that the “tried and tested drive” was fail safe.
If you are originating on 35mm Film Negative make a budget for:
- A timed Internegative.
- Store that carefully.
- If you are going the DI route even then make a timed Internegative.
- Or if you can afford it strike a second safety negative which you store carefully.
- If you have a huge budget then I’d urge you to make a YCM master on 35mm too.
But that is another story.
Title Junkies Here’s a link for you to watch the titles for Road, Movie. It’s a homage to those wonderful “The End” title cards that would appear as a flourish in movies.
They were done by the amazing team at Shine Studio.
The DVD of Road, Movie is out on Amazon (USA) on February 22, 2011.
Pre-Order your copy.
Director of Photography Michel Amathieu and I along with the amazing colorist Chris Wallace have supervised the DVD transfer.
Reader Shashi asks if my simple poll of your favorite scene fromÂ English, August will lead to a DVD. Mayur Doshi has his favorite scene. Though Rishi Tandon, Shaswat and Prashant are getting impatient.
I’ve located two 35mm prints ofÂ English, August. A reel from them is being sent to various post production facilities in Bombay to determine what they do to restore the film. Â I do recall seeing a very good print in Delhi which the Directorate of Films Festivals has. The subtitles were random. The Telugu dialogs especially in the final scenes were not subtitled which made the end difficult to follow. But what this does mean is that the print is “clean” for the most part. Clean in film lingo means without any text or subtitles on the image. This helps in the restoration process.
Once we get the results of the tests I’ll be a step closer towards the end of this process.
I’m planning on writing about the restoration process and also why my film got into this situation.
So let’s say this: 2011 will be a good year.
What’s your favorite scene from English, August?
I’m taking a poll and will post that as a teaser.
“Road, Movie is a classic, touching journey of self discovery.”
Here’s Kevin Thomas’ review in the Los Angeles Times.
My team is thrilled.