Thursday, November 14, 2013

Actor Augustine passes away

Malayalam film actor Augustine died at a private hospital today morning. His funeral will be held tomorrow.  Beginning his acting career through theater, Augustine entered the Malayalam film industry in the mid eighties and since then he has acted in more than 100 films. 
Augustine suffered a stroke in 2010 and since then even though not fully fit, he acted in a few films.  Recently his health deteriorated further and was hospitalised frequently. Even though never a front line actor, Augustine excelled when he acted alongside superstars Mammootty and Mohanlal.  Notable among his films were Commissioner, Devasuram, Ekalavyan, Aaran Thampuran, Kazhcha and Katha Paryumbol. “He did not become an actor overnight. Instead he made use of small roles that came his way and peaked…he had extremely talented film professionals as his close friends,” said Innocent, the president of the actor’s body, AMMA.
His last film was Shutter that was released early this year.  Prominent director Renjith kept him company all through his career and was seen in every film of his. RIP Augustine!

The ailing actor was 58 and is survived by his wife and two daughters, one of whom is upcoming actor Ann Augustine.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Chitti Babu aka Sajjadh Adeebh is no more

Tamil comedian and television anchor Chitti Babu aka Sajjadh Adeebh died in a private hospital here today (Friday). He was 49.

"He was admitted to Royapettah Government Hospital on Wednesday after he fell unconscious due to high diabetes in his house. On Thursday, he slipped into coma and never regained consciousness. He passed away this evening," a family source told IANS.
Chitti Babu underwent a bypass surgery recently.
"Even though he worked in a few films in the last two years, he couldn`t work as actively as before because of the bypass surgery," the source added.
He started his career as a television anchor of a comedy show. In 2002, he made his cinematic debut with Tamil romantic-drama "Five Star".
He has starred in films such as "Ottran", "Dhool" and "Sivakasi". His last film "Madha Gadha Raja" is awaiting release.
Chitti Babu is survived by his wife and son.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

"Onayum Aatukuttiyum" is a copied film !!

Mysskin says that his latest film 'Onayum Aatukuttiyum' has been copied from a Portuguese film of the 14th century. He says this when the science of photography was discovered only in the late 19th century. Howz that Mysskin? Come on Mysskin, just another case of you taking the Tamil film audience, your own audience for a ride. Of course, you are having the last laugh. See video below:

How to shoot 'Green Matte'

Stay away from the background!

When you keep a minimum of 10’ between your subject and the green background, it minimizes green ‘spill’ from the backdrop.  Less green spill = a cleaner matte!

Cover unseen green areas

Seems like a no-brainer, but if it’s not needed for the matte, it doesn’t need to be there bouncing green spill around the room!  To be doubly safe, cover those unseen green areas with light pink sheets (the pink minimizes green.)

Add edge and back lights

This is particularly true when shooting full length shots, since light coming back at the subject from the green screen must be counteracted, plus edge lights will probably help make your subject look like they are ‘lit in the real world’. In fact, adding a light minus-green (magenta) gel, such as a 1/8 or 1/4, will help counteract any green that your edge light is working to overcome!

Don’t use fluorescents to light your subject.

Virtually all fluorescent tubes emit a ‘spike’ in the green area.  If you don’t believe me, go look at the spectral analysis curves at the Kino-Flo website.  Using fluorescents is, however, an excellent way to light your green background.

Be careful of your wardrobe!

A surprising number of materials are reflective enough to ruin an otherwise perfect matte.  Particularly watch out for items like shiny black boots (sure to pick up green reflections.) Also be careful of ‘blue’ jeans.  In many ‘pre-washed’ styles, the blue of the jeans has faded to reveal a yellow-green tinge!  In general, watch out for not only greens, but yellows as well, since many yellow shades contain quite a bit of green.

Pull your matte from the highest resolution, earliest generation original you have

Seems like another no-brainer, but remember that every time you transcode or go another generation, or even worse move to a compressed editing format, you are lising resolution and color information that may be the difference between a marginal and a great matte.

Use the best matting program available - and LEARN IT!.

I recently talked with an editor who had just moved to Final Cut Pro from a more hardware-based system.  He was shocked by how poorly it created its native mattes within the program.  He was ready to go back to his old system. Instead he went out and bought Boris Effects.  He still feels that FCP deals with mattes in a backwards way, but after spending a day learning how to use Boris properly for mattes, he was able to do matting ‘100 times better’ than with the native FCP system.

There are other fine software-based matting programs, such as Ultra2 and Ultimatte.  Each one has its advantages, but every program NEEDS TO BE LEARNED FULLY! From the first frame to the last, music videos serve as a blank canvas to your mind's eye, a place to show the world what you can really do when let loose with a camera. But, if you let your creative juices drown your common sense approach to production, your music video masterpiece could wind up a public-access catastrophe.

The canvas called "Music Video"

In the last 25 years, the invigorating art form of making a music video has grown to be one of the most influential and individually stylistic modes of production in the industry. From the first frame to the last, music videos serve as a blank canvas to your mind's eye, a place to show the world what you can really do when let loose with a camera. But, if you let your creative juices drown your common sense approach to production, your music video masterpiece could wind up a public-access catastrophe.

What is a Music Video production?

Despite all of the artistic freedom involved with making a music video , the end result still has to serve one purpose: promotion. The music video is a promotional tool for the artist. It sometimes serves as a conduit to attention from a label, but more often it is a catalyst for CD sales or artist song downloads. While a hit video can do a lot for you as a director, its primary goal is to serve the music artist.

Making a Music Video: The Treatment

The first step in making your music video is the treatment. In the world of high budgets and major labels, directors typically are contacted and asked to develop a concept or a treatment for the video, based on the message or the mood of the song. This step is often a crap shoot. It's where jobs are won and lost. Often the best concept is not the one that wins the job. Most of the time it's the concept that fits into the allotted budget for the project. Still, large budgets are not always the director's best friend. They often cause more problems and cloud the pathway to creative ingenuity.

Working with small budgets will allow you, as a director, to take the focus off the glitz typically associated with the MTV set and allow you to make the artist the star.

Workflow & Planning

Even with a concise treatment in-hand, it's easy to get sidetracked when shooting something as inspired as a music video.

Locations & Logistics

As with any video production, every time you envision multiple locations, the more pre-production planning is required. This is certainly also the case when you're making a music video. Depending on the complexity of your treatment, you will have to make sure your locations have ample power and space for crew, musical equipment, and any other props you pictured as part of your musical masterpiece. Depending on the location(s), it's also likely that you are going to draw a fair amount of attention from curious passers-by. Having the proper permissions and paperwork from either the property owner or your city or county government will save you tons of hassle and help to keep your vision alive.

Audio Playback

Synchronizing audio is a true art (particularly when making a music video), but you don't need to invest in digital slates or big budget audio gear to make sure you have proper sync in your video. However, if you plan on doing any sort of lip and instrument synching, good technique is a vital part of your finished product.

You will most likely be using a studio recording of the song you're highlighting in your video. Naturally, then, this means that the sound you're picking up on the camera microphone is not going to be the final mix you'll need for the finished product. While there are tons of ways to accomplish the same task, splitting your song into segments and marking in-points of each segment with "two-pops" is a method which always seems to work fairly well, even under the most low-budget circumstances.

This means, prior to shooting your video, examine the song thoroughly. Find natural breaks in the song; then, using the editing software of your choice, cut the song up into parts and add an audio countdown to each segment. The audio countdown usually works best as a series of beeps with the last beep, the number two in your countdown, different from the previous beeps. After the last beep, add one second of silence and then begin the segment of the song. This gives everyone on set a cue to start performing for the camera and, working with the same CD, it gives the editor a cue for proper sync. With this method, you can use any CD player to serve as the audio guide for the shoot. Splitting the song up into segments means you don't have to keep running through the entire song with every take. Doing so will wear you, your crew and your performers out in a hurry.

As stated, there are tons of ways to achieve proper sync; this is only one of them. Do some research and find the method that works best for you. There's nothing wrong with a little technical experimentation, as long as you have your ducks in a row prior to your shoot.

Finding Clients

Nearly all musicians dream of being in a music video. This makes finding willing participants relatively easy. Just cruise your local instrument shop or scan the local papers and you're bound to find some newly-formed wunderkind group with an eye on stardom to let you direct their first video. And, if you've never directed a music video, this is the perfect client for you. There won't be much of a budget, if any, but finding such an act will get your feet wet and provide the breathing room to make the mistakes you'll want to get out of the way before you move on to bigger names. Working with new acts is also a way to build your music video reel. Eventually, your skills will improve, and you'll have a nice cache of work to pull from. You can use this to promote your abilities of making a muisc video to bigger musical acts and hopefully pave your way to music video stardom.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Arrambam - Review

Simple, elegant and class but richly crafted to keep you tuned to the screen - 'Arrambam' is an interesting story in a gripping screenplay. There has been ample hype about this movie, especially after the edge-of-the-seat partnership that Ajith and director Vishnuvardhan shared in their earlier outing 'Billa'. In an elegant introduction, Thala enters the screen with a boom - well, quite literally.

Ashok (Ajith) is wanted by the police for three blasts in the hub of Mumbai. Spreading the typical Mumbai mood in Tamil style, Thala dances to his introduction song in all vigour. Meanwhile, college alumni Arjun (Arya) and Maya (Nayanthara) encounter each other on a business trip and travel down the memory lane. While there is not much to remark about Nayan's flashback to be amiss from her trademark glamorous beauty, Arya's college boy look is a serious set back. The flashback describes how Arya managed to impress the bubbly reporter Anita (Taapsee).

What comes later is total high tech action! When all the niceties are over, Arya gets duped into Ajith's plan of hacking one system after another - beginning with the flash network. Hacking people down at each step, Ajith gets closer to his ultimate goal. But all that comes to a sudden stop when he gets arrested by the police, as a result of Arya's smart and secretive complaint. With each passing frame, there is more action than you can ask for. Before revealing the motive behind each casting, the first half comes to an end with a classic action sequence. It is after Ashok's arrest that the real story unfolds, in the second half.

After the interval comes the real twist. If you thought the first half was impressive, the second is full of adrenaline with class action back to back. It is in the second half that you should watch out for the much awaited car action sequence. The story takes a new avatar in impeccable screenplay in exotic locations. The film as a whole boldly involves a lot of aspects of the country's everyday affairs which is considered delicate to speak frankly. Vishnuvaradhan scores high on this regard that he has taken up a delicate issue, offered an uptight solution in completely action-filled entertainer.

To perceive the complicated story that Subha has penned down, and put it on neat and interesting screenplay is quite a task, and Vishnu has added the right amount of salt and pepper to make the film a merry to watch and enjoy. Om Prakash has canned each frame with passion. Every fight sequence appears realistic, and all the nuances and emotions have been captured just in the right light. Differences in screen setting and lighting have been taken utmost care to convey the right emotion, not just through the carefully worded dialogues, but also visually.

Ajith has done a truly great job in the movie - more than a hero (or anti-hero, as he is cast), he has performed as the typical character that Subha and Vishnuvardhan have conceived. Carrying himself at ease in the contradicting roles he plays in both the halves of the film, Ajith proves his worth once again as an excellent actor. Nayanthara who comes around as his ally has added the right amount spice wherever required. The actress seems to have distinctly matured from her 'Billa' days, though.

The romance that Arya and Taapsee share is cute, bubbly and keeps the movie going forward on a lighthearted note. Though Rana Dagubatti and Kishore are cast on brief roles, their characters are pivotal and support the crux of the story strongly. Cohesion and continuity is edgy and distinctly better only as the film progresses. Srikar Prasad has however done a commendable job in putting the pieces of action together into thorough entertainment. Background score adds volume to the story, supporting it substantially well.

In all regards, the second half is exceptionally good. 'Arrambam' is about making the wrong, right and making it look simple, despite the weight and weightage the story carries. By all means, the film is truly a class apart, with the same style and mass of Thala. So here's wishing everyone a blast of a 'Thala' Diwali, the classic Ajith way!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013


..contd. from Part 1


The subject of the surveillance (and any other persons) must be unaware that surveillance photography is occurring or has taken place. When secretly taking pictures, the photographer must either be hidden from view or working behind the veil of a pretext.

When using a pretext, people will see that photography is occurring but shouldn’t know that it is a clandestine operation. They should believe the pictures are being taken for an unrelated reason. For example, the surveillance specialist photographing a subject on the far side of a lake could pretend to be a bird photographer. Surveillance team members, if any, could wear shirts with a club name embossed on them, and a worn copy of a birding book could be placed on the ground under the tripod which supports a camera adapted high magnification Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope, ideally suited to clandestine work. A used book will support the pretext better than a new one.


Obviously, the sharper and more properly-exposed an image is, the better it is. But, high image quality is not a prime requisite for clandestine photography. A usable clandestine image is one that contains useful information. Whether the image is esthetically pleasing is irrelevant. A level of image quality that would render a wildlife photograph unacceptable may be suitable for a surveillance photograph.


Camera - A DSLR camera that can be controlled manually and that is capable of recording RAW images. When shooting to RAW, it is surprising the extent to which you can underexpose to achieve a sufficiently fast shutter speed and still have salvageable and thus usable images. (Camera illustration from Clandestine Photography by Raymond Siljander and Lance Juusola. Reproduced by permission of Charles C Thomas, Publisher, Ltd., Springfield, IL, USA 2012.)

Lens - Because surveillance photography involves long-distance work, often extremely long-distances, a powerful telephoto lens is essential, one that can capture an acceptable image of a subject a very long way off. Super telephoto lenses in the range of 400 mm and larger, can be useful.

The longer the lens, the greater protection you will have from detection. Photographers think that a 600 mm lens is powerful, and indeed it is. But a clandestine photographer will work with focal lengths in the thousands of millimeters. For example, a highly useful lens for surveillance from a great distance is the 3048 mm 12” Meade LX90GPS Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope, an instrument not normally associated with general photography. With a 1.4x tele-converter, this telescope’s effective focal length is 4267 mm. With afocal coupling, permitting photography through the eyepiece of a telescope, an effective focal length exceeding 5000 mm is achieved. The camera’s lens helps to increase the effective focal length of the telescope.

Tripod - And not just any tripod, but one that is extremely sturdy and capable of supporting heavy equipment. A matte-black tripod is more discreet than one that is lighter in color and shiny.

Remote controller - Optional, but recommended - The clandestine photographer using an extreme telephoto lens must manually select shutter speed and aperture settings for proper exposure. It matters not whether the photographer operates the camera by touching it or by using a wired or wireless remote controller. A remote controller helps to avoid camera shake that is likely to occur because of the high magnification involved.

Miscellaneous items - This is a hard category for which to provide examples since the things you may need will vary from assignment to assignmment. Rain gear and camouflage are just two examples. You will have to expand on this list when planning surveillance sessions.


Know your camera well enough to operate it by feel in the dark.

Organize miscellaneous tools and equipment much as would do in the darkroom so that you can locate and use them by feel.

Take steps to darken any reflective or bright components of your camera and gear. This includes the face of the lens.

Become familiar with how your camera functions under various day and night conditions with emphasis on working with available light (no flash) and telephoto lenses.

Become a student of physical surveillance. You must learn about effective concealment, avoiding detection, selecting an appropriate vantage point, “escape” routes, covert techniques, awareness of your surroundings, weather-proofing when needed, learning about your subject (habits, background, known hangouts, schedule, usual attire and so on). The subject is complex and there is a good deal to learn about a broad number of topics.

Be inventive. Think outside the box. If you wonder if an unorthodox method will work, try it without concern for what the skeptics may think or say. Skeptics stifle rather than encourage progress. The great American investor Thomas Alva Edison said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found ten-thousand ways that won’t work.” In many respects, knowing what doesn’t work can be as valuable as knowing what does work.

Monday, October 28, 2013



Clandestine photography, commonly referred to as surveillance photography, is the photographing in secrecy of a person, object, activity or location.


There are many reasons for clandestine photography:

- documenting criminal activity,
- accumulating identification photographs of criminals and terrorists and their associates,
- gathering intelligence for military purposes,
- documenting fraudulent insurance disability claims, and
- filming an unfaithful spouse.


Successful clandestine photography requires a degree of photographic proficiency to ensure the recording of relevant, usable pictures, and expertise in the clandestine arts. Tactical skill is needed to surreptitiously locate a camera where it won’t be easily detected but where relevant photographs can be taken. Such skills also facilitate leaving the area without detection after taking pictures and without leaving behind evidence of the surveillance operation.

A skilled clandestine photographer is committed to recording usable images under diverse field conditions. He or she may need to do things that other photographers would never do. Some methods may appear absurd – for example, the simultaneous use of a tele-extender and a focal-reducer or deliberately under-exposing by several stops. If a technique works, permitting the photographer to capture an otherwise unattainable image, the clandestine photographer will use it regardless of how unorthodox it is. The professional clandestine photographer must be innovative. Not content with the existing state of things he or she is always alert for improved methods. When seeking a solution to complex problems and challenges, the clandestine photographer thinks beyond tradition - thinking outside the box.

Clandestine photography is incredibly challenging. The clandestine photographer often works under field conditions that can be so unfavorable that other photographers would hesitate to attempt it. He or she must sometimes take pictures from long distances under adverse lighting and weather conditions, traversing and occupying inhospitable terrain, and perhaps working in a dangerous, active counter-surveillance environment.


Some people are dedicated photographers, while for others a camera is just a tool of their trade. For example, wedding or sport photographers chose photography as a career, and image quality is uppermost in their minds. Conversely, a United States Navy SEAL is not a well-qualified photographer per se even though he or she may use a camera during special reconnaissance. Similarly, a police detective assigned to a surveillance team is a detective foremost, not a photographer, even though he or she may regularly use cameras during physical surveillance. For the Navy SEAL and the police detective, photography is merely one of the many tradecraft tools they use.


Since clandestine photography clearly does not involve the cooperation of the subject, the photographer must go to where the subject may be found engaged in the activity that is meant to be photographed, and at times when that activity is likely to be taking place. The location could be a dark alley, a building, a remote location in the countryside or a busy market – just about anywhere. And the time could be just about any hour of the night or day.

Circumstances may require taking pictures from both extreme and short distances. On one occasion, photography of a subject from more than half a mile away may be required. At another time, filming the same subject from a distance of only a few feet in a bar or restaurant may be necessary.

Because people function during all hours of the day, the ability to photograph under all levels of illumination is required. Although the nighttime environment presents special challenges for the clandestine photographer, the challenges are mostly manageable. In some instances, the surveillance specialist can photograph a subject using high ISO and available light. In other instances, photographing with an image intensifier night vision device may be called for.

To be continued ...


Composition, the act of composing the image in the viewfinder, is a visual process of organizing the elements and individual details of a scene into a balanced and pleasing arrangement. Because what one person finds pleasing, someone else will not, composition is largely a matter of personal taste.

We take that into account. There is no right or wrong composition in photography. A composition that conveys a photographer's intended meaning is an effective one. A composition that doesn't or that confuses the viewer is not.

A photograph that communicates its message - that says what you want it to say, says it clearly, and that interests its viewer - is an effective composition.

How you arrange a scene's elements in your camera's viewfinder will not only determine the effectiveness of your picture's graphic design, but will also contribute to how well its message is conveyed. There is more to good composition, though, than the placement of elements. Lighting, shutter speed, depth of field and other considerations contribute to a picture's mood and clarity of what the picture is saying, and therefore the effectiveness of its composition.


Some of the so-called "rules" of composition presented here should be considered as guidelines. They are based on recreating similarities in the make-up of many different images that many people have found to be aesthetically-pleasing. We do not intend that a rule of composition or a design concept be taken as a hard and fast rule that must be observed. Besides, some renowned photographs violate all the rules of composition and are still excellent pictures. This doesn't mean that the rules are without value. They are tremendously valuable. They are time-proven, and provide great guidelines for photographers at any level. We use them all the time.


Years ago, artists who had been born with an innate sense of design created works that were perceived, by other skilled artists, as having good composition. Not only that, but their works were very popular with the general public and art aficionados. Analysis of such works showed patterns and trends in the organization and inter-relationships of lines, shapes, forms and colors that were recognized as contributing to the effectiveness of the works. It was found that others could employ these patterns as techniques in improving their own works. When they were defined, they became known as the rules of composition.


We hope in this section to help everyone to compose better pictures, but especially the person who has no idea of composition - the photographer for whom taking a picture means just picking up a camera to point it and shoot it with little thought for the arrangement of the elements in a scene. Such a person would rarely be pleased with the results of his or her normal photography, and could benefit enormously from an understanding of the elements of composition.

Anyone who has an interest in improving their pictures would do well to go through this section and use the tips and hints it contains in their photography to see if their pictures improve.

By religiously observing the principles of composition, they will become firmly cemented in your mind. Employing them will become second nature to you. If you don’t find there is an improvement in your pictures and people aren't commenting on how great they look, we will be greatly surprised.

Once you have the rules of composition down pat, experiment and break a rule here or there when you feel the image will work better without it. That’s called individual style, and the creativity that stems from it produces some great images. The point is that you will know when to break a rule of composition once you know what the rules are and how they work.

Why make films?

Making a film - be it a short or a feature - is largely a labour of love, so it's always worth clarifying why you are embarking on such madness and adventure. 

You could be making it for:

Experience - you might want to experiment with pulling a team together to make a story on film.

A showreel - you might be pursuing a career in filmmaking and want to demonstrate your skills.
Partnerships - you'd like to try working with certain people to see if you can go on to collaborate on projects in the future.

Kudos - you may have found a high profile director/writer/actor, who'll help you raise your filmmaking profile, or want to use your film to elevate your own industry profile.

Testing an idea out - you've always thought a certain story would work well on screen or you've got a feature film idea that you want to try out on a small scale first.

Money - you may have been asked to work on a production with a budget to pay its crew. (This is very rare as short films don't generally pay in any financial dividends.)

Where is the film going to be shown?

Your reasons for making the film should also relate to where the film is going to be shown. You could be making it for:

Your front room - many filmmakers start out by testing their ideas on family and friends.

A showreel - maybe you're building a body of work to prove to others that you have filmmaking skills and/or to persuade them to give you some funding to make another film.

The Internet - a great means of getting your work out there and getting feedback from a wide range of people, internationally.

Television - if your film is of a high quality, a television channel may screen it, especially if it fits into a slot with other short films.

The cinema - one of the hardest places to get a short film screened, but some very successful shorts have been shown before feature films on general release. Some cinemas also run short film events.

Festivals - a great opportunity to get your film on the big screen, watched by an audience of industry people and by filmmaking peers.

The answers to 'why' and 'where' determine the standard you need to work to - there is a minimum standard of technical quality required for broadcast on television and a very different quality for transfer from tape to film.

Why you are making a short film, and where you want it to go, will determine what you shoot on, which equipment you use, budgets, crew numbers and potential markets. You and your team's objectives set the parameters of what you are going to create. Be clear about these objectives and then crack on with the project.

There are small pots of money available to help create short films - especially those on digital formats. The industry is also full of people who are willing to do work at reduced rates because they like an idea, they like someone involved with the project or they simply remember what it was like to start out in filmmaking. They might also help because they think it would be good experience for their staff or their showreel.

I started off on short films more than a decade ago with the bulky VHS cameras, and have done over 50 shorts till date. The last was about 4 years ago titled "Muttham Katti Muttham" (Hugs and Kisses) based on a true incident. The film won a State award. It can be seen at

Sunday, October 27, 2013

The "My dear Kuttichatthan" trick

I was fascinated by the first 3D Indian movie - My Dear Kuttichatthan, brought to us by Appachan in Malayalam and then dubbed into almost all the languages you can think of. I was fascinated by how the kids happily walked on the walls and ceiling of a house, for a song. Several years later I was tutored by the great Appachan himself on how to shoot such scenes. It was simple - very simple indeed. Turn the camera sideways or upside down.

This technique has been used in more movies than you can imagine and still works as well or better than many CGI simulations. Need an actor to walk across the ceiling? Build a floor that looks like a ceiling and turn the camera upside down. Need a creature scuttling across the wall in defiance of gravity? Construct a floor that looks like a wall and turn the camera on its side.

Try it out today and explore how easy it is to cheat your mind.

See the song I am referring to at

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

My views: 100th year of Indian cinema

A century of Indian cinema. We have had greats aplenty. We have had Oscars, we have had Grammy s. Let me not drool over them again now.

As a filmmaker for the past 19 years, I do have my versions and reflections. Over the past 9 years, 40+ movies have passed through my studio. Small ones though. Coz I don't offer the luxuries of other large studios so that I can cater to the lesser segment - low budget digital cinema.

But my reflections does create a contrary opinion in my bird brain. Cinema has evolved to be a show business, not an art form. It has evolved into the best tool for converting black money to colored paper. Not just in Tamilnadu, but all over the country.

One particular incident that transformed my thoughts needs to be mentioned here. It was about 5 years back. I wanted to see a so called 'hit' movie with my family. I tried for online reservations. House full. My kids were dejected. I decided to go personally to the theater and meet the manager, who may be able to help me with 4 tickets. I went to the multiplex, introduced myself as a filmmaker and asked to see the manager. In 10 minutes flat, I had met the manager, introduced myself and also procured 4 tickets for my family. And there I was - in a plush new theater for the first time. I was shocked though, when the movie actually started screening. In a theater with a capacity of about 200 seats, less than 40 were occupied. Why? It was meant to have been a house full show.

A week later, my inquiries bore fruit. The biggies were simply using the empty shows to convert their black money to regular cash. For those of you who did not understand - here it is: The theater gives a statement that the show was house full. They receive their full rent and are happy. The ill gotten cash is transferred to the theater, who in turn gives the producers a valid cheque. Wow! That's legal money!! So, for a regional film, it may be several lakhs converted every show, and in the case of a Hindi movie which has a nationwide coverage, it could be several crores every show.

That gave me a new meaning to the entire business of cinema. Who are the people who generate the maximum black money? Politicians, real estate businessmen, NRIs and the like. And that's where the cinema industry lies. Carefully caressed, amply nourished and well cared for.

The meaning of cinema then dawned on me. But I have already wasted a quarter century of my life in learning the nuances of cinema and ensuring that quality is not compromised at all. The meaning of 'Cinema' now had a new meaning. I have two options now before me. Having directed my own movie now on the compulsion of a friend, I either join the bandwagon or get thrown out on the streets. Life has been unkind to this mountain goat for quite some time. And water will tend to find its own level.

The 100th year of cinema is a celebration in its true right. But it causes heart burns when I see hugely superior filmmakers sidelined, either for political reasons or for the above mentioned reasons. But one thing that I really need to complement the organizers is that they have actually broken the cartel that existed a couple of years ago, in the distribution and theater segment. So much done, so much good. Wish every filmmaker the best of all luck. While thousands stay on the sidelines, talented or not, as the common man in an R.K. Laxman cartoon.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

100 years of Indian cinema - Jayalalitha blasts Karunanidhi

In a stinging criticism, Chief Minister Jayalalithaa today hit out at arch rival M Karunanidhi and his family for their alleged 'stranglehold' over the Tamil film industry during the DMK regime and for 'not allowing' others to grow.

Inaugurating celebrations of 100 years of Indian cinema at Jawaharlal Nehru Indoor stadium here, jointly organised by the state government and South Indian Film Chamber of Commerce, which got off to a glittering start, Jayalalithaa, without naming DMK or its chief Karunanidhi,said everybody knew the plight of the industry before she assumed power.

"On top of it all, after I took over, the film industry is functioning independently for the past two years," she said after listing out the many pro-reel world measures.

These included several concessions like encouraging small producers by increasing subsidy,sanctioning Rs 50 lakh for the Chennai international film festival, more beneficiaries in the welfare board for film industry workers,besides bringing video piracy under the stringent Goonda Act to check the menace.

Stating that Tamil Nadu and its film industry had the magnanimity in providing livelihood to all those who came from outside the state, she said "the plight of such an illustrious Tamil film industry two years ago can be understood without me saying that."

It may be recalled the DMK regime faced strong criticism and charges of supporting growth of production houses run by Karunanidhi's family members and undue 'interference and domination' over Kollywood.

"In this world, there are some who feel it would be okay if only they lived. There are also people who feel that they should live and let others live as well," Jayalalithaa said.

Narrating the anecdote of how a bad man missed his chance at redemption and survival by his trait of preventing others from growing, she said those who tried to boss over the Tamil film world found themselves in a fate similar to that man.

"Self-centric people who feel it would be sufficient if they lived always would want to eliminate not only those who are stumbling blocks for their growth, but also those who are considered as competition," she said without naming anyone.

Showering encomiums on her mentor and AIADMK founder M G Ramachandran, she said the name of MGR came to one's mind when [the topic] of dominance of films over politics cropped up.

"I am proud, when I reflect that I too had worked in the film industry," she said underlining that the cinema industry was indispensable for its role and contribution to society.

Earlier, she traced the origin and growth of Indian cinema and recounted the stellar contribution of a huge list of stalwarts in various segments of the dream industry, starting with Dadasaheb Phalke, who produced 'Raja Harishchandra in 1913.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

How to become an Editor

Film editors are responsible for cutting and assembling the video and audio footage for film and television productions into a comprehensive, seamless whole. Becoming a film editor involves a long path of study, hours of internship, apprentice and volunteer work, the right connections, and above all, possessing a keen eye for style, pace, and timing. Most film editors spend years in different jobs until they finally get a break, so besides talent, skill, and hard work, you’ll need perseverance in order to find a position as a film editor. The following steps will teach you how to become a film editor.

A Typical edit suit

1. Study how movies are edited. Watch produced movies and analyze the timing and pacing of scenes; i.e. how long each scene lasts, how much action or tension there is during a scene, and how each scene fades seamlessly into the next, sometimes with visual or sound cues.

2. Edit as many short films as possible, and submit to film festivals.

3. Get a degree or certificate in film editing. Your coursework will include basic editing and commercial editing, film history, and storytelling and screenwriting. In addition, you will learn how to use photo and film editing software programs like Adobe Photoshop and Final Cut Pro, the Hollywood standard for film editing.

4. Volunteer your services as a film editor on student productions or any local productions you find. The more tangible experience you have, the better your chances of getting your foot in the door in the world of film editing.

5. Get a job in a film studio. You’re very unlikely to get a job in editing right away, so take any job that comes along, whether it’s as a tour guide on a studio lot, a personal assistant to somebody on a film crew, a secretary at the office, or a runner for a production.

6. Be polite to everybody you meet and promote yourself. Hand out business cards with links to your website and reel. Make it known that you’re looking as a job as a film editor. Building your network of connections this way can lead to unexpected chances, like becoming a film editor on a short that later wins an award at a festival. If you meet people who work in the editing room, ask if you may occasionally join them to observe and learn.

7. Build a significant body of work and have it listed on the Internet Movie Database (IMDB). Even shorts and low budget movies can get a listing on the site, so long as the productions were released. Potential employers will refer to it before hiring you.

8. Send out your resume, along with a reel of your best work, to studio executives, directors, and other film editors. This may help you land a job as an assistant editor on a production.


- Be patient. It can take years to break into the movie business. Remain actively involved in film editing by working on student films and low budget productions while maintaining your day job and still looking for your big break.

- Students can obtain film editing software at a special student price upon proof of enrollment in a film editing program.


If in Chennai, South India, my creative shop Sushma Multimedia, accepts apprentices and volunteers. We involve in several types of creative works, including film editing, and the complete post production pipeline. There are several such shops worldwide, but you will have to search for them.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Uyire Yen Kadhale - Full Song - Unnil Tholaindhein

Just another day in the studio, when a friend walks in with a story. "Let's do a movie, and you direct it". Having worked for 10 features by then in the capacity of a proxy director, I did fall for it. And so did I make my movie in Tamil - the first to have my name under the title.

Now, all ready for release, and with the trailers getting fairly well accepted, I decided to release a song in the movie online. Surprised indeed. 16k hits in 4 days flat was not what I had dreamed of. Here it is for all of you.

The song - Uyire Yen Kadhale. Composed by a newbie BR Rajin.

Just a request .... please share the video with your friends, on your social networks and all. And last but not the least, a comment is always welcome.

Who is a Screenwriter?

To take either a pre-written story, or even a native story idea, and translate it into an effective screenplay is the primary role of a Screenwriter in the Film industry. Having said that, there is much more to this process than meets the eye. It is not as straightforward as writing a normal story, for the simple reason that the communication is audio-visual, and not literary. There are some very important aspects that need to be carefully observed. Some of these aspects may be generic to good story-writing such as character development, believable characters, story and engaging plot points, regardless of the story-telling medium.

But besides these elements, there are aspects specific to Film medium that need to be kept in mind. Things such as minimal dialogues, visually communicating a certain emotion, a sound sense of the visual medium itself, are vital elements in the screenwriter’s repertoire. And therefore, a Screenwriter’s role in the overall Film-making process is absolutely vital. Because it is in the screenplay that the Film is first born. And once the screenplay is ready, it is the single most important document that forms the basis on which everyone else (the Director, Actors etc.) builds the Film. This extremely sensitive and complex function can only be executed by someone who is creative, has a complete understanding of the Film-making process and whose sense of aesthetic is firmly placed in the visual medium. It is a discipline that can be self-taught. But it could take years before one learns the skill set effectively and gets a real opportunity to write a screenplay that is Produced and made into a Film. In essence, how to plant a story from the germ of an idea, or a piece of news, to capture the audience in a total way is a skill that can be learnt from mentors, and practice sessions.

The best solution to all aspiring Film writers is to train themselves thoroughly in the best manner possible. India too has a world-class Film school where creative young minds, who have a burning desire to make it in Films, can learn & receive a superb education.

And as I write this, I am happy to say that a truly international film school is being planned in Chennai, India. Activities have already begun. Not only will there be an opportunity to learn all the nuances of effective Film-writing from leading industry writers, but also a chance of subsequently working in the industry and making Films on the stories you write. Keep watching this blog for more information.

Making your First Film better

Whether you’re a student or hobbyist, there are some common mistakes made in a filmmaker’s first film. Many attempt to do too much with an extremely low-budget, short film. Worse yet, students will often make their first film too long.

The same concepts that apply to feature screenplay writing apply to first film projects.  The exception is with experimental film, where no rules apply except the creativity of the creator. Most beginners are assigned to tell a story by their instructor or are attempting a short story-telling film. Lets focus on the short story-telling film project.

Short films use the same structure and story telling techniques as longer films. The difference is that turning points and elements such as rising and falling action are quicker. Turning points are when the direction of the story makes a sudden turn. If one exercises the concepts of the popular instructor and writer, Syd Field, then turning points for a five minute film would be at approximately two minutes and four minutes. Most script analysts consider a feature length film’s entire exposition to take up only about two to four inches of a script page spread throughout the script (approximately 25 seconds). Therefore, for a five minute film, there would only be about five seconds worth of exposition. This is a critical factor in student films and is a common mistake. Student films are often filled with exposition such as characters making long speeches about what previously has happened to them. For that reason, students are wise to consider making their first film with no dialogue. Then they might not encounter the problems associated with exposition. Use of exposition is one of the more difficult problems of making films.

Students should first strive to express their story in one short sentence. This is also true for veteran screenplay writers preparing their pitch. Most often that sentence takes hours or days to write. It is an important step, as executives won’t listen to you after hearing that sentence if they don’t like it.

Next, write a paragraph describing your story. One of the greatest problems is that students often don’t have a clear protagonist or antagonist. These are the same problems that experienced screenplay writers have. Writing is always a continual challenge.

Let’s look at shooting. The single most common problem with cinematography on student projects is camera movement. Of course exposure and composition are critical, but badly motivated camera movement is common in student films. Save complex camera moves for later when you’re much more experienced and know when to use them properly. Any camera movement must be unobtrusive and motivated by the action. I’m not suggesting that all shots should be static. Instead, limit your movement and make sure it doesn’t call attention to itself unless it is intentional. No single element (camera, music, acting) should stand out on its own. Conveying your story in a seamless and unobtrusive manner so the audience becomes one with the story is crucial to your filmmaking success.

This is just a brief look at common problems in student films. There are often many other mistakes. Sound out of sync with the speaker and distorted sound often destroy a student film. I’d really like to emphasis again the importance of storytelling. If the student has a clear handle on his story, then the student takes the rest of the process very seriously and does a good first film.

It’s also important to choose the most experienced crew possible. Don’t simply work with friends. Find another student who has worked as cameraman on several other student films so you have someone with experience. Filmmaking is expensive. Be very selective when picking your crew and actors. Always try to surround yourself with crewmembers who are more experienced than yourself. Hopefully they will help save you on this first film project. If you are shooting on film, then spend a lot of time with your lab manager getting advice and help. Sometimes labs have special student rates.

The more time you spend in preparation prior to shooting, the more successful your project will be. Producing is planning and preparation. Get your script critiqued by your instructor or an experienced filmmaker. Put your cameraman together with the film lab manager and discuss what film stock you would be best using. Create storyboards so you and your cameraman have carefully visualized the shooting in advance. Visit your locations with your cameraman and other pertinent crewmembers in advance. Be aware of any power problems that your gaffer might experience. Note whether or not there are any loud ambient sounds at the locations. If your using individuals homes or offices, make sure your arrangements for using them are in writing and the agreement is very clear. Also, make sure you have releases from all the talent or extras that appear on camera. Take extra release forms with you on the shooting day just in case you have to use someone unexpectedly as an extra or cast member. Create breakdown sheets for each scene that includes all the requirements such a personal, props, crew, cast and location needs. Complete a shooting schedule and some alternative schedules in case of rainy days or sick crew or cast. If possible, create a production board for your scheduling.

Most of all expect the unexpected and try to anticipate problems. Spending several days with your actors rehearsing and blocking their movement is invaluable. If you can bring some key crewmembers to rehearsal such as your cameraman and editor, then it may be possible to discover some unforeseen problems. It’s far better to discover them in a rehearsal hall than on location.

These same suggestions apply to feature length professional motion pictures and not just to the beginner. For instance, on shooting days you might want to contact your actors or crewmembers in the early morning to insure they are awake and on the way to the location. Student filmmakers will likely have a voluntary crew. You need to provide superb leadership when you have a free crew. I’ve known students who decided to behave very autocratically to their crew only to have them resign from their free job leaving the beginning filmmaker in tears. Your job is to motivate the crewmembers in a friendly manner and exercise much patience.

These are only a few suggestions for successful first short films. If your film is successful and you enter it into student film competitions and win some awards, then you are very fortunate. Most student films don’t qualify for any competitions. Remember, short films are your first calling card for your potential film career. Future employers at production companies often pay more attention to these films than anything else on your resume. It is truly worth the effort to do an excellent short film if you’re pursuing a career as a filmmaker.