Mirrorballs in Maputoby Tiago C. Paulo / 02.06.2009
Diary of making a video in Maputo
Left Johannesburg in the morning.
The bus ride to Maputo was uneventful. Was supposed to work on the shot list on the bus but was too tired.
Arrived in Maputo. Checked out some of the gear.
My cinematographer won’t be who I envisioned, there were conflicting schedules.
Late in the evening had a look at one of the possible locations for the city horizon time lapse shot. Need to keep on looking.
Maputo. Rain! But the light outside is perfect for shooting.
Need to work on the shot list. Also need to find a sensible way of doing a work table for the shot list, something easy to use.
I’m envisioning at least 80 different shots, with different people and different locations. Yup!
Found the prefect location for one of the Time Lapse shots, and we missed a great day to shoot it. The weather and the visibility were perfect and we didn’t have the camera with us.
We decided not to use a stills camera. We’ll use the HDV camera and we’ll surgically change the tape half way through the process, so we can shoot for at least 3 hours.
I also got another friend, Dino, to help film. We plan on starting tomorrow at 7 in the morning. He went to a dinner party tonight…dangerous.
Eventually started working on the shots list. Found an organizational method that might work.
Oh, and I think I found the perfect jogging character for the Guitar intro sequence.
We finally started shooting. We woke up at ungodly hours to set up a drumkit on the rooftop of one of the highest buildings in Maputo.
Not the greatest shot, but the view is amazing. We need to find a way to deal with the natural light here. Honestly, none of us really knows what we’re doing.
We did a series of other shots around familiar places. We also got some interesting people to take part and do pretty nice stuff.
The winning element was the unexpected addition of a home made Dolly to our equipment. Our cinematographer asked a friend to build one made out of Skate wheels and tubes. It works kind of well if you have alot of weight on it and if the turf is relatively flat. We did about 12 different locations today.
Day 2 of actual shooting. Another early morning, and this one really hurt. We did one of the initial shots, and possibly the one that requires the most acting skills from a character. The first location was a nightmare because of the light and the home made Dolly. We were all disappointed when we left the location, but we found another location for the same shot and changed some of the aspects we initially wanted and now I think we have a much better shot. The guy who played the part was excellent, and he didn’t even sleep because it was his bachelors party the night before. Yes, he was getting married on the day we shot. We did a few other shots. All of them with improvised characters and locations. They all seemed great but you never know until you start watching the “rushes”. We’re so inexperienced.
The day was much less productive than yesterday, but I think we’re finally tapping into a feel and a way to do what we came here to do.
Oh, I went to a wedding (yes, the actor we used in the morning) and I think I had a visual epiphany. I think I saw the last minute of the song. I’ll explain later, I need to make some calls.
This Sunday was exhausting. We did 5 different shots. I decided to make the shots longer overall, which means less shots through out the video, which means less work. I needed to make such a decision before we all went crazy. This is alot of work, and with many shots it’s very difficult too remain a perfectionist. Our first shot was fun. We initially planned on only having a drummer playing on a drive way, but as we were setting up it became a drummer surrounded by kids dancing, and 2 “gangster biker” kids sitting on their small bikes behind the drums. Quite the ideal ghetto youth set up.
We also did some shots in this wood-mill, as the sun was setting drinking a cold Laurentina.
We shot one of my favorite takes so far. The background is this amazing old building by the famous Portuguese Architect Pancho, and the subject was a guy I saw yesterday playing the guitar on the street.
We went to a building with rehearsal space for bands to use some of the equipment and some of the scenery. There’s also a hairdresser and I convinced someone who works there to do the intro Drum part. If the sun doesn’t kill the take it will come out amazing. She was hitting the Cymbal with such passion, well it helped having us shout “Raiva!” (rage) next to her. She really got into it.
The building opposite the rehearsal space has a beautiful terrace, with a great old painting of a Dolphin and a Seagul on the wall. We shot someone feverishly dancing there, but something tells me we’ll shoot some more up there.
We picked up this girl from her school (she bunked one of her classes) and we took her next to a bridge to do and important part of the song. The scenery was amazing but something didn’t feel right.
At night I watched the “rushes” for the first time. Some of the shots are better than I expected, and some we’ll have to do again. Overall things are beyond my expectation.
The first shot of the day was re-shooting yesterdays school girl. I knew it. We parked the car in front of the girls house. She came out and we walked around her block to find a place to shoot. I really wanted us to do this fast. We found an abandoned plot with great walls. Next to the walls were lot’s of ID’s and empty wallets. Bad stuff got down on this plot. We shot quickly and ran out of there.
I convinced my Norwegian pregnant friend to dance for us. She was great but the light was fleeing…
The best part about this whole exercise is making people we randomly find do things they’ve never done, and improvising locations. It’s starting to feel like a documentary.
This was our last day of day shots. Thank you. We started after lunch because it was raining in the morning. We went to some of our previous locations to do some of the more quicker shots and to fill in some gaps we had. I had this idea from even before we started shooting of having this girl I know playing the drums. I spent days trying to organize it but something always came in the way, in the end I split the shot between my girlfriend and Pedro’s mother. It was great to see them drumming.
Three of the final shots are on the exact same location (the terrace I spoke of earlier), but facing three different sides. What a great roof it proved to be.
At exactly 14h37 (that was the time she told us to be there) we met and discussed some ideas with the dancer who will probably do the Dance part of the song (from now on know as the Night Sequence). At her home dance studio she played our song and danced for us something she imagined. It was so great that our cinematographer looked her in the eyes and said “You’re amazing”. She blushed and said thank you. The whole experience gave me so many ideas. Tomorrow we’ll look for locations and a way to do lights to see if the Night Sequence is achievable.
Woke up a bit later, for the first time in a week. Had a great breakfast and made some calls. After lunch we start location scouting. We’re looking for an old dance studio, or an old tennis court, or and old basketball or indoor soccer field. Finding something like that won’t be difficult, the difficult part will be finding one available and free (no money involved) for us to use.
I’m also going to try and sneak into a film set of a movie that is being produced here right now. I want to see what a friend of mine is doing there in terms of lighting. He might help us with the Night Sequence.
We woke up early and went searching for the end location. We had some meetings set up at some of the places we saw the day before. Most of the meetings were to tell us that they wanted money for us to use their premisses. We kept on looking and eventually we found a hall in this school two of us studied in, more than 10 years ago. We spoke to the schools Dean and he vaguely remembered us a gave us the space for free. The Hall is more than perfect.
We had time so we redid some of the day shots we weren’t happy. I had to redo de shot with the kids on the roof, which is a pity, but the kids performances were very weak. The two guys I got to do the shot were sensational, artists in their own right.
We also found some time to try the time lapse again, from the same roof. This time we set everything on Automatic. We had two cameras, one next to the other. One of them was a digital stills camera.
Late that night we took the dancer and the light guy to the venue. The dancer loved it and she said the place filled her with ideas. The light guy said the place was a nightmare to lit but he half accepted the challenge.
Hell. I’ll explain tomorrow. It’s 3 in the morning now.
The morning was for introspection. After lunch we started the chores. Firstly we drove around the entire city looking for a 6 meter tube we wanted to use as a Dolly track. We went to all the Hardware stores and they were either closed or out of stock. We ended up outside Maputo at an improvised market buying it. We rushed back into town to meet the lights team on set. Everyone was already one hour late. We started setting up. The sun was still up so we decided to wait a bit to allow the light rig to take full effect. We took that time to do a bit of set design. The set was really amazing. We even had an old Piano. The actress arrived on set and we started filming. She wore a really nice green dress and we all knew that dress would never be the same after the shoot.
We filmed her dancing around the hall for hours and hours. The most time consuming thing wasn’t the filming it was the setting up of the lights and the tracks for the improvised Dolly. I wanted to create the idea that she was dancing all over this great hall and to do that we would have to set up almost everywhere.
The last shot was the most difficult because of the lights and the reflection they created on a door we needed for the final scene. In the end we shot it but I’m not very happy with it. The great value of compromise for personal mental health.
The filming session started at 4 in the afternoon and it almost finished at 3 in the morning. The actress was a Zombie by then. I knew it was going to be long but I kind of underestimated it. And we had such great plans of a wrap up party.
We packed up. Reorganized the Hall so the school would find it on Monday exactly like they had left it.
Now I’m suppose to go to Cape Town to edit this with a friend.
Editing was a complete nightmare. So many things went wrong. Things beyond our understanding.
As it turned out, the easiest part was filming the video.
Most of the problems were related to on lining, exports and imports. It sucks not knowing, but you live and you learn.
I hope that in the end the video is at least a mildly enjoyable experience, and that people get the feel of what a great city Maputo is.
Thank you to the people who live there and helped us make the video.