I don’t often write about a job in as much detail as I have here. That’s because mostly I film in places that are familiar to me and perhaps the small details don’t really mean much. However this time around, I wanted to describe an experience in more detail, to record a more complete picture of my working life. Not that it’s that exciting but I wanted share what lengths we go to – to make a Television Commercial. This is part one of a two part series.
I arrived in Jakarta, after a flight from Melbourne, through Singapore, late on the 20th of October 2009. In the days proceeding, David Hewitt from Kemistry in Jakarta Indonesia had contacted me to see if I would be interested in Directing a TVC for Cussons Carex – A soap product. The Script had some similarities to some of my HP work and I felt that as long as I could make it different, the hands technique could work very well for the Cussons product also.
Directly after landing, I was whisked through immigration by an official who greeted me at the gate. I was sped through and released to a driver from Kemistry, who drove me through some pretty thick late night traffic in Jakarta for about an hour. On reaching the hotel, I had 30 minutes to get ready for an informal meet and greet plus a mini preproduction meeting in the lobby. There I met expat from Australia, David Hewitt, for the first time. After a quick meeting with some of the production staff, I finally got to sleep at about 11.30pm Jakarta time!
The next day, we hit the ground running by firstly checking out equipment at the local Camera Rental Facility CineRed. There I met another expat from Australia, creative consultant Peter Aquilina, who took us through a guided tour of his facility, which included the Camera Rental department, Post Production Facilities including Offline, Online and Grading using Scratch. After a very nice Javanese style lunch, we rushed to Kemistry’s office in Jakarta and began the process of Casting callbacks. I watched 9 girls present themselves which was in the end quite draining but necessary experience.
Day 2 started with me getting up very early to try and complete a massive pre production document for the PPM (Pre-Production Meeting) that afternoon. I spent quite a few days searching the net, scouring books and collaborating with Post Production Compositor Mike Parsons, from Chateau Post in Bangkok Thailand. By the afternoon, I had reviewed the Cast and made my recommendations, and produced a massive 50 slide Keynote presentation for the Client/Agency meeting at 5pm that day. That meeting went very well and that evening David and I went to have a drink at a local club in Kemang. There I met a group from various Agencies celebrating. I found it remarkable how many expats from Australia had settled in Jakarta and raved about how it is Asia’s best kept secret. To some degree, I think they were right!
Day3 was again full of preproduction madness. One unusual thing that happened was that I was requested by immigration to go down to their office and be fingerprinted, photographed etc I’m working in Indonesia with a proper work Visa so I have already gone through much of this in Melbourne at the Indonesian Embassy. Anyway, I turned up at the immigration office with David and waited inline with thousands of others in what looked like a scene from a movie. Ceiling fans churned the air slowly in the depressingly hot, public space of the immigration hall. A guy popped out of the crowd carrying my passport and warmly greeted me. I had never met him but I guess he had all my details including pictures of me! Taken into a back room, I waited with 10 or so others before being called by an immigration officer and summerly fingerprinted! If it wasn’t for some good company, I would definitely have found this process highly intimidating.
Next few days were spent working out our onset anamatic. For that I was in constant contact with Mike Parsons in Bangkok. He and I exchanged files over the internet, which for me was quite hard. Bandwidth in Jakarta gets very heavily bogged down during the day. With 240 million people, there is a lot of sharing of spaces, including of bandwidth to the internet. The roads are another major hazard. It’s relatively safe, but during the day the traffic builds up so thick that it flows like water around any obstacle or grinds to a halt. This includes sharing the footpath with millions of motorbike users and even cars, who skirt snarls in the traffic by driving on the footpath. Here’s a little clip shot on my 5DMKII.
Another comment about the footpaths in Indonesia – they are the worst I have seen anywhere. As an avid photographer, I like walking around taking photos. However in Jakarta, you need to be extremely careful that you don’t trip over rubbish on the ground, disappear into god knows what via massive holes in the ground or be impacted by a speeding motorbike.
After presenting our final preproduction items to the Client and Agency, everything was set in place for the production to take place. We shot at a small studio based in Mampang Jakarta. The crew were excellent and very efficiently setup the RED camera, Lighting and a huge video village. I often use vision mixers etc to incorporate 3D work by playing back guide animations from a DVD player. This time it was no exception. So we had a crew of guys handling the playback vision mixing requirements, proving a live image to an LCD screen hanging above the Camera. This was to allow our Cast, Amanda, to see herself relative to the guide animation. There were also the guys that handled the downloading of all the RED files and backing them up to multiple hard drives.
The shooting of this Commercial was made much easier by our Cast selection. I had chosen what I believed to be a very talented and pretty girl named Amanda. She appeared to take direction really well and understood the importance of the small details. However, even I was blown away by just how amazing this girl was. All day we practiced and improved her performance and gradually we began to film a few takes. By take 19, we were done. Her memory skills and subtleties of performance was astounding. The agency were also very impressed. The crew from McCan Jakarta were also really great to work with. I think they realised how technical the Commercial was to film and let me be for the most part. Constructively, they added value to the Clients concerns and supported me during presentation to Client. The day ended with the filming of references of the Products, some High Dynamic Range photography (HDRI) and some other textures. A very successful day.
Next day, straight into Offline. Eric (Offline editor) from CineRed had sent me the cut overnight! It was nearly perfect. Because we had shot on RED, the edit was simple to prepare. I did go through all my options but settled on what was obviously a great take. Based on this we cutdown a 15 sec and 5 sec version also. Client and Agency presentation followed in the afternoon and all were pretty happy. The following day was an early start again at Imaginex Studios Jakarta. I briefed the Composer for the design of the soundtrack then headed back to CineRed to conduct a final Grade of the RED images using Scratch. With our mission complete in Jakarta, it was time to pack the bags once more and fly to Bangkok Thailand, where the Online was to take place. This will feature in a separate article, soon to come. My final word for now is that although Jakarta is like a rough diamond, it’s a powerhouse of creative energy, fun people and an awesome place to film. I truly enjoyed my time there and hope to return soon.
The Finished Carex Commercial can be viewed here: