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Saturday 23 January 2021

Home - Academic - Seven Lessons I Learned Making My Short Film: Pouria Pishvaei

24Frames: This week we read from Pouria Pishvaei, writer, director of photography and director of Tasouki, a mystery/thriller short film inspired by the events of the 2006 brutal massacre of civilians by terrorists in Iran. The 5 long takes of the film, made to seem as one continuous shot set on the road, tell the story of a vicious kidnapping.

 

 

 Seven Lessons I Learned Making Tasouki

By Pouria Pishvaei

 

 

 

What you’ll read below is my experience making the short film Tasouki, trying to recount to myself and share with you what was important to me and what impeded me in the most candid way possible.

Viva madness…Viva cinema.

 

1.Post-Production is the second making of your film. Take it seriously.

 

When shooting ends, we’re the most vulnerable people on earth. All of our energy has been drained and we want to see the film on screen as soon as possible. To me, the sound editing, color correction and CGI stages are of utmost importance— just like shooting itself, but here you have more time to enjoy creating and get perfect results. Don’t forget that at this point the sound, color and  CGI haven’t been created and these can incredibly elevate the original idea of your film. I suggest you rest well after the shoot and then get to making the movie once again in post.

 

2. Don’t put anyone in front of the camera easily, or else you’ll be cursing yourself so hard every time you see the film on screen!

 

When casting, you’ll get into a situation to settle on an actor thousands of times. There’s a time crunch, you’re excited to make your film, and everyone likes to get in front of the camera and act. Be meticulous when casting, they’re the first thing the audience sees on screen if they’re bad or even not the best, the rest of the film will be disregarded. Our casting for Tasouki had 3 units: main roles, supporting roles and extras who would play a major part in creating the atmosphere and mise-en-scene in crowded scenes. This process was hard and complicated since we had to pick 50 people out of 200 possible options between the ages of 3 to 70. After the final picks we had to have rehearsals for continuous shots. These rehearsals took hours before shooting each long take and we would prepare linear mise-en-scenes at first, then add emotions and then coordinate the actions and reactions with camera movements, to set the scene for a documentary-like style and getting closer to the atmosphere of the real Tasouki massacre.

 

 

 

 

3. Never put anyone behind the camera easily.

 

The person shooting your film is not a machine and is sprinkling every letter of the script and the unwrittens of your mind on the screen, so be careful in your choice. Pick the option stylistically closest to your project. Get to know them and try to spiritually and mentally connect with them. Don’t forget that film is fantasy and imagination, so it’s essential that your vision and your DoP’s are as identical as possible. Do your very best but if it’s not possible, don’t compromise. Replace them. You’re going to make your film only once.

Up until the night before the shoot, someone else was supposed to be behind the camera. We had discussed the style of shooting the film for about a month. On the last day of rehearsal, the results were not up to par at all and almost none of the takes were getting close to the vision I had. Scarier than that, was the question I was asked the night before the shoot: “Pouria, do you think we’re doing a standard thing?” I was visibly shocked, because I had tried for months to convey that we’re supposed to be doing something out of the standards and conventions of cinematography in Iran. So there was no way but to take the camera in my own hands and record the moments of the film how my intuitions guided me.

 

 

4. Imagine this is the greatest and the last film you’ll ever make. Be ambitious!

 

Never fool yourself with statements like “This is my first experience or I’m a first-timer…”. You’re on set and all the cast and crew are present, you probably have an interesting plot too. Make your film with tenacity and don’t make excuses. When your film is screened no one cares how many films you’ve made. Everyone has come to watch a movie and this is the best chance to prove that you’re a great filmmaker.

 

6. Think of the style of your movie, everything in the world has already been said. It doesn’t matter what you’re making, what matters is how you’re making it.

 

Style is your vocabulary and phrasing. Learn it well and state your intent properly on screen. I promise everyone will listen. Tasouki was a film for me that if not for its visual and cinematography style, would’ve never been an interesting plot for me to make.

 

 

6. Be a manager, not just an artist.

 

Never forget the administrative and group organization aspect. You will never be able to make your film by yourself. Support your team. You can tell by the crew’s mood if a good film is being made or not. People aren’t machines and you need to keep their spirits up and always be there for everyone on your team.

When you as the leader aren’t in a good mood, the rest of team will definitely think of their shifts ending, because everyone would rather be in bed as soon as possible.

 

7. Enjoy the shoot and don’t lose your vision.

 

On set is the best place in the world to be. So, have fun and never settle for an acceptable take because later you’ll be very disappointed in yourself. Try to get the most ideal take. Even if the whole crew says the take is great, see if there’s actually no flaws and if you’re happy with it or not, because no one has more insight on the film than you.

In Tasouki sometimes we would have a scene that amazed the cast and crew but I saw many flaws that were hard to convey. After a short break, I would communicate everything wrong with the take to the cast and crew and after shooting it, everyone would unanimously understand what I was beleaguering everyone about.

 

 

And in the end, I think we shouldn’t talk about films too much. You should either watch films or make them. When you talk about it too much there won’t be any passion and energy left to make it. Send the script to a select few that you know will most brutally criticize it without sugarcoating anything so you can be aware of the flaws in your work and correct them.

Be faithful to your own feelings about the plot and always remember the initial vision you had and don’t let it change, because the essence of love and imagination is the very feeling of the first impression you had when encountering an idea.

 

 

 

Translated by Kiana Nikolai

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