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Pre-production Demystified – An Interactive Session with Satram Ramani

It takes real planning to organize this kind of chaos…’

– Mel Odom

Ask the film makers and they will admit that this quote couldn’t be truer!

Making a film isn’t merely shooting the scenes according to the script along with actors and crew members. In fact, the film is prepared on paper with every minute detail even before attempting to shoot a single shot. Each and every scene is well planned during the most critical stage of filmmaking, i.e. PRE-PRODUCTION.

  • What is pre-production?
  • What happens in the pre-production stage of a film?
  • What are the key elements to be considered while planning a film?
  • How can one make the shoot as seamless as possible?

These are some of the many common (and valid) questions that arise in the minds of film making students.

Seamedu School of Pro-Expressionism recently had the privilege of inviting Mr. Satram Ramani, a film professional, to enlighten the film making students with his vast knowledge about the industry and the processes followed.

What unfolded on Saturday, October 8, 2016 was pure gold

Satram, who has majorly worked as a chief assistant director as well as production manager in the film industry, has a host of blockbuster Bollywood movies to his credit – Ready, Bodyguard, Jai Ho, and the recently-released Freaky Ali. Now that’s some list, isn’t it? Satram Ramani admits that films like these become ‘superhits’ not just because of the actors or dialogues or music, but also because they are well-made pieces of art in all aspects. And that’s where pre-production plays such a crucial role.

The day-long session began with Mr. Ramani posing some questions about film planning to the students. He presented a few examples of pre-production documents that went into planning any film. This, in particular, was very interesting for our students, since they got a firsthand look at how their favourite films were originally planned on paper.

This was followed by an elaborate demonstration of the process of formulating documents such as call sheets, budget, schedule, script breakdown, and the production board – items that are immensely critical at the planning stage of a film.

His focus on the use of properties (or props, as they are popularly known) and the importance of using them to tell stories effectively was quite fascinating. He explained how props are managed during setting up a scene and how the overall production design is coordinated by assistant directors.

The students got great insights into the hierarchy of production management – right from the unit production managers to runners – during a film shoot.

Satram Ramani’s experiences – Full of insights

Satram’s many experiences as a chief assistant director and second assistant director helped Seamedu students understand the nitty-gritties of working as an AD on a motion picture. He discussed:

  • The primary and secondary roles and responsibilities of Ads
  • How the costume AD arranges for costumes, manages them on the set, and coordinates with the costume department
  • How the first/second AD takes care of scene continuity issues that may arise during a shoot
  • How log sheets are prepared and maintained
  • How ADs coordinate with the makeup and hair department to ensure actors are ready before the camera rolls

Essentially, Mr. Ramani covered all bases related to preparing for film shoots – the most important one being ‘making every single second count’. He spoke about the spontaneity and presence of mind an AD is expected to possess to take instant decisions, since anything could go wrong during a typical shoot. For instance, an actor might get stuck in traffic and hence arrive late to a film set. In such a case, there must be an alternate plan of action ready with the team to execute until the said actor arrives.

Conclusion

Our always-curious students asked a number of questions and Satram answered each and every query with utmost patience and ease. As a token of immense gratitude, the students presented him with a beautiful bouquet as the interactive session ended with a huge round of applause, unsurprisingly.

It is said that ‘by failing to plan, you are planning to fail’ – and that was the biggest takeaway from this session. Indeed, Seamedu students will certainly prepare well for their next film project!