Monday 23 July 2007

Digital attitude

by Ronnie Apteker

The budget on the Benoni film was just over 8 million Rands. The Footskating budget went way south of this. We went and had an adventure and we are very happy with the end result.

We could never have made the new movie on its tight budget of one million Rands if we hadn't learnt the hard lessons we picked up while in the East. The Footskating film is a great case study. Technically, the new movie looks much slicker and professional than the previous one. Practically, well, at this budget we could actually make a modest profit. I say "could" because we could still lose the million Rands we spent here. Yes, the film looks very good but God only knows if it is a better film than the previous one. My heart tells me that we moved up from a 3 or a 4 out of 10 to at least a 7. We have now done a series of screen tests with the target audience in mind and so far everyone is smiling. One thing is for sure, the numbers don't lie. We will know after the opening weekend on the 14th of September, whether our efforts here will bare fruit.

Shooting on digital required quite an adjustment in routine, discipline, behaviour and attitude. We shot on a new kind of system, onto flash memory cards, and we had to back everything up after we shot it. Each card could hold 8 minutes of hi-def footage and we bought 4 cards (they're pretty expensive) so we could shoot about half an hour of footage before we needed to wipe the cards clean, do a back up of the back up and then re-use the cards. Sometimes we shot up to an hour and a half a day which meant a lot of discipline and routine with respect to back ups etc. Occasionally we made mistakes when we were rushing and we erased some footage which was not cool. Didn't happen too often thank God.

The image quality we achieved utilizing this technology is quite extraordinary. We have seen the film blown up on the biggest cinema screen and we couldn't believe our eyes. No one knew they were watching a film that wasn't shot on film. This approach allowed us to be freed from the anxiety and costs associated with film ratios; we could shoot and shoot without worrying about expensive film stock. We also did a lot of re-shoots and pick-ups which again did not matter with respect to film stock costs etc.

The biggest adjustment though was one of attitude. No one behaved like we were making a low budget film. There was a respect for the process and a discipline when it came to the digital routine. A good attitude was the glue which kept this small unit thinking big. And the end result has been stunning. From my personal point of view this film is already a success! We came in on budget, had no fights, laughed a lot, gave it everything we got, and we had a lot of fun. Something feels good inside on this one and my heart tells me that there's magic on the horizon.