Bombay Showcase

The nuts and bolts of creativity

The essentials:Dipa De Motwane says a competent production professional should be calm and think five steps ahead.— Photo: Rajneesh Londhe  

A haircut can help a person get a wonderful makeover. At times it can even lead to an entirely new career; as it happened with Dipa De Motwane.

Motwane, who for long had been working as a copywriter, was feeling jaded and looking for a job change. The switch to film production happened quite by chance. Her hairdresser casually told her that she’d make a great executive producer. He then packed her off for an ad shoot, throwing her in at the deep end.

“I learnt on the job and took to it big time,” she says. What appealed to her was the everyday excitement, adrenal rush, the organising and detailing. “I like figuring out procedures and planning things in advance,” she says.

Motwane started by handling the production of several ads and TV shows. She then went on to work in films such as Leela, Makdee, Udaan, Lootera, Hasee Toh Phasee, NH 10 and Masaan, and is now a co-producer at Phantom Films. Up next is the omnibus, Madly , where she is the co-producer of Anurag Kashyap’s segment, Clean Shaven . A series of horror films follow thereafter.

The start of this filmi journey, however, as a unit production manager on Deepa Mehta’s Water, was not as auspicious. The shoot at Varanasi had to be aborted following RSS-VHP protests and the location was shifted to Sri Lanka. Motwane had to bow out. “You have to know the area of the shoot very well to be part of the production team,” she says.

Production is right up there on the top in any film’s credits. What does it entail? Motwane says it is the core team at any production house that takes care of the filmmaking logistics, facilitates every department, and caters to their needs.

“It’s like the hub, the spoke of the wheel; coordinating with camera, sound, production design, costume… everything,” she says. Be it travel, transportation, equipment, hotel bookings, catering or even laundry; it’s all has to be managed by the production team. Also, accounts, cash flows, disbursals and all the paperwork.

Each company has its own hierarchy and modes of functioning. Typically, work begins right after a script is ready to roll. A budget is defined and the producer gets the finance. The production team then works in close coordination with the captain of the ship — the director — and his team on what needs to be achieved with the available resources. And how? “One has to keep to the budget; money has to be spent as allocated.”

As a co-producer, she works with a team of line producers, unit production managers and production assistants.

Typically, a line producer works from the prep till the end of the shoot. An executive producer and co-producer stay on through post-production till the film is ready for marketing and exhibition.

“Like in the West, at Phantom we work closely with the direction team,” Motwane says. The morning meeting has members of both teams planning the day ahead. “It helps to bring all on the same page; helps plug loopholes and gaps if any.”

Masaan was one such experience, where everyone was united at work. “Everyone was raw, young and passionate about the film. It was all about the film without any other baggage or egos involved.”

With veteran filmmakers, there is the promise of less chaos and more clarity — though no guarantee for that either — but she also likes the enthusiasm infused by young filmmakers: “It keeps me young, keeps me on my toes … keeps me thinking.”

Every film — whether small or big, shot outdoors or in the sets — brings its own set of challenges.

Though preparation and planning is the key, one has to also remain prepared for the unexpected. However well you plan, things can go wrong. How then do you tackle an exigency?

Take Lootera for instance.

An early schedule of the film in Dalhousie had to be postponed because the unit was snowed out and the set was totally destroyed by record snowfall. The second Dalhousie schedule also had to be postponed, this time because Ranveer Singh suffered a back injury. When they eventually did go down to Dalhousie it was summer. So they had to make do with artificial snow.

Earlier, such uncertainties would stress her out. “But now I am older and wiser and I know I can’t win every battle,” she says. “One has to see production work more as a challenge than a pain.”

No wonder Motwane thinks that being a competent production professional is not just about doing a good course. [Whistling Woods and Xavier Institute of Communications do offer programmes.]

It requires certain intrinsic qualities and aptitude: clarity, planning, eye for detail, calmness, patience, and an ability to think five steps ahead.

Motwane puts it like this: “If Plan A fails, B, C, D should always be ready in your head.”

It’s all about keeping the filmmaking machine well-oiled, smooth and running.

It’s the spoke of the wheel coordinating with camera, sound, production design, costume, everything

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Printable version | Sep 23, 2021 1:24:01 PM |

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