PROFESSIONAL TRAINING FOR THE MOTION PICTURE PRACTITIONER

by

By: AFOLABI ADESANYA.
Presented at Louisville Girls High School, Itele/Ijebu-Ife, Ogun State on March 27, 2007.

Talent. Interest. These motivational impulses, latent or apparent, more often than not, propel one to become what he chooses to be. Talent is natural aptitude, that flair to do things instinctively, creatively with exactitude. Interest is acquired curiosity aroused external forces or influences. The synergy of natural talent and acquired interest is potent and heady, such that one could become so enamoured with a pursuit in a rather blind manner. Quite often, it is either talent or interest that motivates one’s desire to become a lawyer, doctor, engineer, computer programmer, banker, administrator, artist, artiste, or a motion picture practitioner. In essence, one’s talent or interest could lead to either a professional career or an amateur pastime.

An amateur pastime is such that we engage in our leisure time as an occasional indulgence or a self-fulfilling creative activity if one is not inclined to hanging out.

A professional career entails developing one’s talent through various stages of academic studies and training in tertiary institutions or institutes. The years of studious training turn natural talent into skill with the added advantage of philosophical insight, that which informs, inspires and defines the profession’s guiding principles thus distinguishing a professional from an artisan or a craftsman. It is this skill, horned through exposure on the job, interaction with experienced senior colleagues (through internship or on the job training), professional qualifying examinations, seminars and workshops, that moulds one into a professional in any particular career line.

To be a professional, regardless of one’s inherent talent or acquired interest, one needs to be properly school and trained. This is what makes the difference between a professional and an amateur.
With the benefit of scholarship and training, a professional works with confidence, inspires confidence in his colleagues, clients or patients. In return, the professional gets due recognition, and is much sought after. This leads to appointments, leadership roles, and an inspiration (as a role model or influence) to others.

Though motion picture (film or video) production is often said to be a collaborative effort, it is a professional practice with well-defined job description and outlined responsibilities, and division of labour. In the opening credits of a movie, the principal (lead) actors, and production helmsmen are given credits for their various roles, let us reel the credits of Jimi Odumosu’s recent movie, THE MORNING AFTER: Screenplay – Jimi Odumosu, Editor – , Soundman – Femi Aloba, Director of Photography: Patrick Afun, Producer – Jimi Odumosu, and Director – Jimi Odumosu.

The end credits are more detailed, and carry the names and duties of each member of the cast (actors) and crew.

These credits are not just doled out, they are earned. For Jimi Odumosu to have claimed credits for writing the screenplay, producing and directing the movie, he certainly must have worked in these various capacities on the movie. If he did not, his cast and crew members would have denounced him. Motion picture production is a creative endeavour and it is quite possible to wear three hats (or more) on a single production because the various duties are separate and distinct, and are performed at various stages of production.

In the medical field, there are general practitioners and surgeons. A general practitioner (commonly called “Doctor”) cannot perform the role and carry out the duties of a surgeon if he is not a trained surgeon. While a general practitioner is addressed, “Doctor”, the surgeon is addressed, “Mister”! The same is true of the legal profession, where a general practitioner is commonly known and addressed “Lawyer”, not until he is called to the bench he cannot be called a “Magistrate”, “Judge” or “Justice” or addressed as my “Lord”.

Just like a pilot has to earn his wing, so also must a motion picture practitioner earn his credit.

HUMAN RESOURCES

In film/video production, the following human resources/professionals are essential ingredients:

Executive Producer: is an appointee of the studio or consortium of financiers assigned to administer and manage the overall production.

Producer: brings together all the financial and creative ingredients required to make a motion picture. Presides over the production as the chief accounting officer and is responsible for publicity and marketing. Could be a studio employee or an independent (Indy); also known as Line Producer.

Associate Producer: is a functional for the Producer (and could be a major financial investor in the film or a stake owner); attends to sundry administrative details.

Director: is the virtuoso that calls the shots and is responsible for all creative factors that transforms a screenplay into a motion picture; guides and inspires actors in interpreting the story; picks his crew heads; is the highest authority on the set, and whose requests and decisions are final.

RESPONSIBILITIES OF THE DIRECTOR

  • To augment, enrich and infuse life into the screenplay
  • To guide, motivate and inspire actors in interpreting the story in terms of their own personalities vis-a-vis characters to be played
  • To use funds he is entrusted with by the Producer judiciously, striking a fine balance between quality and cost
  • To tell the story honestly without condescension or under estimation of the audience perception and taste
  • To entertain, inform and educate the public

Production Manager: is responsible to the Producer and is in charge of the budget and all business matters connected with the production.

Unit Manager: implements the Production Manager’s orders in dealing with operational essentials in the areas of pre-production, production and post-production with regard to principal photography and hiring of crews.

First Assistant Director: is responsible for making the job of the Director easier but is responsible
to the Production Manager. Prepares the Daily Shooting Schedule, Call Sheet, Revised Shooting Schedule, Daily Work Order and organises background action on the set/location. Provides what-ever the Director requests for the sets; is responsible for maintaining a cordial atmosphere on the set and seeing to a smooth run of events. He is the organiser of the shooting unit.

Second Assistant Director aids the 1st AD; co-ordinates clerical details and files daily reports with the production office.

Script Supervisor: breaks down the scenes as shot and prepares Daily Production Report. Provides the Editor with an accurate record of the scenes as shot.

Continuity Supervisor: prepares detailed scene-by-scene continuity report.

Director of Photography (DoP)/Lighting Cameraman: is the chief camera person; is responsible to the Director for the technical and artistic aspects of cinematography; also works with the Director on camera placement, and with the lab.

Camera Operator: is answerable to the DoP and physically operates the camera during shooting.

First Camera Assistant: is the focus puller; handles loading and unloading of film in the camera during shooting.

Second Camera Assistant: is responsible for filing Camera Report (for Lab use); checking Slate and Take numbers with Continuity Supervisor. Also functions as Clapper/Slate man

Sound Man/Mixer: operates the sound console or recorder on the set; records and supervises mixing of sound tracks on the set; keeps the record of all sound takes and files a daily report (for Lab use); co-ordinates slate numbers and printed takes with Continuity Supervisor.

Boom Operator: operates the telescopic apparatus known as the boom on which the microphone is mounted for recording dialogue and sound during filming; is responsible for the placement of microphones on the bodies of actors and in the set as needed.

Key Gaffer: is the chief electrician; knows the location of power on any sound stage and can tap light from any source; handles all lighting equipment and placement of lights according to the concepts of the Director and DoP.

Best Boy: is 1st Assistant to the Gaffer.

Electricians: also known as Sparks/Lamp Operators/Juicer work under the Gaffer.

Generator Operator: operates the gen. set when shooting is done out-doors on a remote location, in a private home or anywhere that the production has to provide its own supply of electricity.

Key Grip: is the chief set/stage hand that keeps stage sets in condition; supervises installation and operation of moveable walls and backdrop scenery; lays dolly tracks and sets up camera mounts.

Grip Best Boy: is 1st Assistant to the Key Grip.

Dolly Grip: pushes the mounted wheeled platform on which the camera is placed for dolly/ tracking shots.

Cable Man: is responsible for all camera and sound cables, moving cables from setup to setup, attaching them to the various equipment, and rolling up.

Art Director/Set Designer: works in consonance with the Producer and Director in interpreting the design concept/look of the sets as called for in the script; prepares blueprints and sketches for the entire production from which the sets are constructed.
Master Scenic Artist/Painter: handles the painting of walls and scenery on the set; and could be responsible for repairs of damage done to walls and scenery during filming.

Set Decorator/Dresser: in the absence of an Art Director/Set Designer, arranges the furnishings and generally dresses the set; purchases or rents the furnishings and decors for the sets as requested by either the Director or Set Designer.

Production Illustrator: draws sketches and storyboards for the Director’s usage.

Makeup Artist: creates the makeup depicted in the script and is responsible for all makeup details during shooting e.g period fashion, contemporary looks or special illusions.

Hair Stylist: is responsible for hair styling and dressing of all actors based on the script.

Costume Designer/Costumier: provides the general wardrobe to be worn by all actors; creates the style and personality of the garments/dresses based on the screenplay. A big budget movie can accommodate Men’s Costumier and Women’s Costumier for the sexes.

Property Manager/Master: buys or rents all props to be used; provides actors with their props or place them on the set. When the budget allows he is provided an assistant.

Dialogue Coach: assists actors in mastering the correct accents, dialect or foreign words or phrases required.

Special Effects Personnel: create, construct and operate mechanical devices, appliances or illusions (rain, snow, fires, explosions, earthquakes etc) that are required to function for or be made operable for/by the actors during shooting.

Editor: assemblies and co-ordinates all rushes/dailies (workprints) and neg. (i.e camera original negative film stock) for correct continuity; determines the creative approach to editing the film.

Assistant Film Editor: assemblies the dailies/rushes for preview; co-ordinates all strips of processed film for editing and keeps records for the Editor.

Neg. Cutter: conforms and cuts the neg. to the Director approved edited workprints.

Sound Effects Editor: incorporates all necessary sound effects into the completed film and lays the sound tracks.

Music Director: composes or selects the music for scoring the mood or tempo of the movie.

Music Editor: edits music to the film.

Still Photographer: responsible for publicity stills; and in some cases stills for continuity, makeup and departments.

Gofer (errand boy): serves coffee/ tea and refreshments for the cast and crew.

First Aid Nurse: accompanies the production company when shooting on location; treats minor injuries and discomforts; accompanies anyone injured in a major accident to the hospital and writes up medical reports.

Welfare Officer: is primarily responsible for the well being of the cast and crew in terms of meals, accommodation and general comfort.

Caterer: is answerable to the Welfare Officer; provides all meals on the set for the cast and crew; has two or three assistants.

The Writer is the person responsible for the screenplay. He is either commissioned by the Producer with whom he works in evolving an acceptable script, or from whom the Producer buys the script. Whatever the situation, the job of a Writer says John Schlesinger is to, “write a film so that whoever reads it feels the experience in a way that embodies everything as if you’re sitting in the theatre,”. That is what a good and creative Producer is there to help his Writer do: pen a visually good screenplay which will form the basis of the production budget, plan, schedule and ultimately a sellable film.

Unlike in the theatre where the playwright is very important, the scriptwriter is of considerable unimportance in film production. Once the Producer, for good or bad, takes the script off the Writer’s hands and pays him off, his job is done. From here, the script is turned over to either another Writer (if it needs to be re-written/polished) or the Director. In the latter case, which is the final stage of vetting the script, the Director is at liberty to work on the script without recourse to the Writer and this is within his purview as the man on the ground to make the script work.

This explains why the scriptwriter does not own or exercise any copyright control on the screen-play. His work is made for “hire”. Even when an original screenplay is purchased from the Writer, he ends up losing his copyright ownership because it might be re-written before production or during production, and once altered it is no longer his property. However, he earns his screen credit if the new input does not obscure his original effort.

A Director must be both literate and literary to earn his point as the artistic “owner” of the film.
A good Director must be equally technically and artistically competent, and not share his screen credit with another director or other directors. Or have it devalued in any manner. A literate, literary, technically and artistically competent Director will earn the confidence of his Producer and the independence to work without interference from the Producer or the UPM. Besides, the Director owes a duty to the Producer to bring in the film on schedule and within budget. On the Director/Producer working relationship, George Cukor notes, ” The director must simply work closely with a solid producer who can translate the monetary realities down to the director; with-out impairing spontaneity or the director’s artistic control”.

The Director, more often than not, is the first person to be engaged/hired by a Producer once the project is decided upon. So the Director is in on the production right from the onset. While he does the casting, with input from the Producer for obvious reasons or a Casing Director, he is solely responsible for picking his crew and equipment. It is also his duty to breakdown the screen -play into a shooting script.

On the set (that is during production), the cast and crew are wards of the Director, and he their guardian. He inspires, motivates and guides them, and they all in return collaborate with him to make a film that works. In the words of Clint Eastwood, ” Casting is one of the most important aspects in making a film. A film can live or die on it”. The Director, notes James Wood, is there “to nourish and nurture an actor or an actress”. Commenting on the Director/Actor working relationship, Lee Grant observes that the actor “is dependent upon the director who knows the whole story, who knows you and all the other people in it and where you fit in”. An artiste to a Director is therefore a talent, a human resource to be used artistically and creatively to realise the humanity of a film. “The actor is your hero once the script is finished. That face, those eyes, that mouth. Those fingers. That’s what you’re stuck with. Or grateful for. And when it works, they bring things to it you never saw, because they make it deeper.” – Paul Mazursky

Equally important in realising a film is the cinematographer who Mac Ahlberg insist “should be the interpreter of the director’s vision”. And a cinematographer, enjoins Caleb Deschanel, “must serve, and in a sense, respect the director. You must be at one with him, be close to the director’s perspective”. To this end, the cinematographer’s job is to capture on film the acting, the mood and the action the best possible way.

Next in importance on the production hierarchy to the Director is the Soundman. His importance is underscored by Paul Tison, who says, “Producers and directors need to realise that sound can make or break a production”. Defining his job, Brain Leathlean says it is “to get the best possible quality of sound onto tape before it is mixed”.

In performing his onus tasks, the Director must be ably assisted by an Assistant Director (AD). Paramount on the Director’s list of priorities is the welfare of the cast and crew. He must ensure that their accommodation is conducive to good rest; their meals excellent, and on time; and that they enjoy good rest. Through his First Assistant Director, he maintains discipline on the set; and through the UPM or the Location Manager, he maintains discipline on location or at the camp. “On a feature film,” Arthur Ornitz insist, “you have to have form and professional discipline, and you have to play first fiddle to the director’s conducting.”

To ensure smooth cine motion picture production and accurate record keeping/logging, the ser-vices of Script Supervisor/Continuity cannot be over emphasised. While it is the job of the UPM to issue the Shooting Schedule, Call Sheet and Work Order; and that of the AD to rehearse actors, set up scenes and prepare the Daily Production Report, the Script Supervisor/Continuity is responsible for noting and reflecting changes in the script (in the course of production) – this makes the Script Supervisor/Continuity the Director’s memory. In addition, the Script Supervisor/Continuity is responsible for:

– preparing a Daily Log (which the AD uses in preparing the Daily Production Report)
– keeping a record of the action as staged by the Director during rehearsals
– examining the set/location: ensuring props, action items, etc. are in place
– determining slate number
– making a diagram of each shot
– keeping time (in seconds) and details of shots (brief description of shot, lens used, complete or
incomplete)
– making notes of all action for matching purpose i.e maintaining continuity
– reading off-screen dialogue/narration
– checking dialogue for correctness (rendering/delivery)
– advising both camera and sound personnel of Takes to be printed
– slate number for pickup shots and covering angles
– keeping a file/album of polaroid stills of sets, props, hair, makeup, costumes, etc.
– suppling the Editor with an accurate record of the scenes as shot, inserting dance & song
routines, and passing on notes from the Director

During post-production, the Director is in constant touch with the lab over the look of the film, supervises the Editor(s), Composer/Conductor/Musician(s), Mixing, SFX people, etc. “A director doesn’t edit a film by himself,” notes George Roy Hill. “You discuss the film with them (editors), and tell them what it is you want from the scene, and then you let them go off and do a first cut on it themselves. They’re liable to come up with aspects of the scene that you hadn’t seen. Then, after they do their first cut, you work with them very closely in refining it.”

The Producer, as the financial owner of the film, must equally prioritise the welfare of his Direct- or, cast and crew through the assurance of job security by signing a legally binding Contract with each and every one of them. In addition, the Producer must provide medicare services (first aid) on location, and insurance cover for the Director, Principal actors, Stunts men, and the production in general.

Artistically, the Production Designer, Art Director, Makeup Artist and Costumier are very import -ant to the film, as their individual and collective roles help to define (in collaboration with the Director of Photography) the film’s mood, colour scheme and look. “The best production design,” notes Edward Zwick, “is that which invests the character with a sense of truth, but which you finally forget about.”

– Afolabi Adesanya is a filmmaker/TV director.

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Afolabi and Adedeji Adesanya, the Adesanya Brothers (aka A-Brothers), are back again! From the stable of A-Productions, they gave us such classics as Vigilante (1988) and the capital market financed Ose Sango – Sango’s Wand (1991). They are teaming up, though not for a production but for training and capacity building in the creative arts on the platform of Sagamu Business and Arts Institute (SBAI).

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