A couple of days ago, Ram Gopal Varma wrote about one of his first reality checks while making Shiva twenty years ago:
I was so confidently clear about the opening shot of my first film “SHIVA” that the camera set on the crane should be showing the college in the suggestion of a college name-board, come down slowly and pan to the close-up of a car wheel coming into the foreground and stopping in front of the camera. Tired of my repeated narration of this shot of mine during the pre-production of SHIVA, my assistant Siva Nageshwar Rao advised me not to get fixed up about shots as it might not be always practically possible to do things on location the way one imagines while writing the script. He pointed out that it’s possible that the height of the crane might not match up to the height of the name-board of the college. Or if the board is too high we have to tilt the camera up and we will only see the sky in suggestion and not the college, and if it’s too low and you have to tilt down, either you will see the ground instead of the college or the travel downwards to the wheel in the foreground might not be enough.
Of course, these days with computer graphics (especially in Hollywood) I suppose you can compose any shot you want in post-production. But you can’t change the realities– the physics— of the world. This post reminded me of Sidney Lumet’s book Making Movies— specifically this passage on Kurosawa:
“I once asked Akira Kurosawa why he had chosen to frame a shot in Ran in a particular way. His answer was that if he he’d panned the camera one inch to the left, the Sony factory would be sitting there exposed, and if he he’d panned an inch to the right, we would see the airport – neither of which belonged in a period movie. Only the person who’s made the movie knows what goes into the decisions that result in any piece of work.”
The book is an excellent look at the process of making a film; what a director actually does from the day he gets the job to the release date.
The other great thing about RGV’s blog is the comments section— I was not the first person to make the Making Movies connection. Two other people (Arvind Swarup and the indefatigable Vamsee) had already mentioned it in context of this post. That comments section is a wonderful, crazy place and there’s a decent chance that if you say something insightful, meaningful or especially wacky, RGV will respond.
UPDATE: There is actually another clearer connection between RGV and Sidney Lumet. RGV’s latest Rann is an obvious descendant of Lumet’s Network (“I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it any more.“)