Warning 3D is an untested genre in India – Gurmeet Singh
“Everything gets twice as long and thrice as costly in an underwater film,” says Gurmeet Singh, who directed his debut film Warning 3D under the production of Anubhav Sinha’s Benaras Media Works. As per Gurmeet Singh, also popularly known as Guru in the industry, the film has been the untested genre in India so far as it deals with underwater 3D. Having shot his first film in a real ocean was indeed a challenging task for the filmmaker, as he talks more about it on a candid chit-chat with Pandolin.
Tell us about your background. Were you always interested in making films?
I was a Graphic Designer before I learnt editing from Asian Academy of Film and Television. Then I did editing for television, music videos, and documentaries along with feature films. After serving as an editor for four years, I soon realized that I got bored sitting in a studio and hence, opting to assistant directing was a gradual step. I worked as an assistant director on my first film called Chai Paani Etc. followed by another film project called Ram Ji London Waale, which was my first film project as an assistant director in Bombay. After this, I did Gandhi My Father as the first AD followed by Don as the second AD and finally Jodha Akbar as the first AD, which was also my last film as an assistant director. Post this, I have been working on commercials and film projects. Warning 3D is my first feature film as a director. I never thought that I would become one. After series of gradual events, I finally realized that direction is the only thing I can think of doing. It has become like my second nature.
How did Warning 3D happen to you? How was the experience of directing your first film under Anubhav Sinha’s production ‘Benaras Media Works’?
Anubhav Sinha and I have many friends in common. When Anubhav Sinha was establishing his production company and was on a lookout to work with a new director, one of our friend recommended my name to him. Thereafter I met him in person and we got along really well as he liked my work. He is also a fantastic producer because he completely let the director be the captain of the ship. He trusts the director’s vision. He had always been available to lend his support as a producer during and post the shoot. He is someone who pushes the director to experiment and make things happen without worrying about how and why as far as music, technician or all the logistics are concerned. He really helped making this film much bigger and took it to the wider audience. It was a pleasurable experience.
How do you like your films to be written?
I am not a writer but I do co-write some of my films. I like my scripts to be written by a professional writer. I believe, writing and directing are two different crafts. It is not necessary that all the good writers are good directors or vice versa. Even if the story or concept is mine, I prefer a professional writer to bring the depth and his experience to the script.
Tell us about the film Warning 3D.
It is a survival film about the seven individuals stuck in the middle of the ocean, surviving and trying to stay alive. Just in a moment, their life suddenly changes from a nice holiday to life threatening situation.
How did you achieve the look the film?
When we began making the film, the idea was to give the audience a visual treat. So, we wanted the film to look stunning and thrilling, making it to be a journey that every viewer can take upon. That’s the reason why I chose 3D and the film’s subject ‘water’ allow that to happen. We wanted the audience to feel as if they are also a part of the panic, thrill and danger. Almost 90 percent of the film was shot on 25 mm lens. Franz Pagot only got wider but never went tighter in the film. We shot longer takes, more choreographed actions rather than fast cuts, which will help enhance the 3D experience and also the feeling of being there among the people caught in the middle of the ocean.
Can you please tell us about the casting process of the film? Was any pre-rehearsals involved with the actors?
Casting for this film was the long process. Warning 3D does not have any antagonist or protagonist like other traditional films. So all these seven characters play key roles in the film. We were casting a group and not individuals. In the first round, we auditioned people and made our selection on the basis of their acting capability and who we felt was right for the respective roles. Then, we made them undergo water test to measure their comfort and skills under water. Thereafter, we put the shortlisted people in groups and then again the selection was changed based on the vibe and how they all look together in a group. Once that was done, we made our final selection. They also had to go through medical test to ensure that they could make through the rigor of shooting in tough circumstances. They had to be in the water for almost 35 days. We had also pretty much enacted the whole film on land before shooting under water. The film was also story boarded. Everyone was well rehearsed and we knew what we were doing.
In a rehearsal hall, we basically blocked all our their movements and decided their action, which mentally prepared us for the shoot as shooting underwater is very different from anything that anyone can experience. There were lots of changes, improvisation, learning that happened as we went ahead. It just gave us more clarity.
The film was shot in Fiji. Did you also scout any locations in India?
No. The options we had were Malta and Fiji. We chose Fiji. The film was entirely shot in the Ocean. In the film, 80 percent of the time actors were in the ocean.
What were the major challenges you faced?
The shoot was very challenging because water in nature is very powerful and a strong entity. You got to deal with tide, wind, currants and constant weather changes. Even photography wise it was very challenging as you cannot light up the sea. Keeping all these things in mind, trying to maintain the continuity of the ocean and shooting with a limited budget in a short period of time was very difficult. We were shooting in 3D, which again added to the complication.
We managed to successfully counter the challenges because we had extremely talented technicians and crew members who have worked in this kind of environment before. The film’s DOP Franz Pagot is a very knowledgeable and experienced cinematographer. He prepared and guided us for both the aspects i.e shooting in 3 D and underwater.
How long was the principle photography? Which camera did you shoot on?
We shot last year in July and August for 42 days. We used Red EPIC and shot it in 4K format. Because it’s 3D, we shot in stereoscopic. There were two cameras collaborated with a single rig called Atom Rig from the company called ‘3ality Technica’.
Was there any VFX used in the film?
There were but only to enhance the shots we had. There was no creation. VFX was more of composting or enhancing certain visuals or clean up.
Where did the DI take place?
It happened in Prime focus, Bombay.
Any particular thing that a filmmaker needs to keep in mind when shooting underwater 3D film?
Normally, there is a rule of three as far as water is concerned. When you deal with shooting in water, you just multiply the cost and time by three. Everything gets twice as long and thrice as costly. 3D has its own set of glamour, limitations and advantages. The people who have worked with 3D know the medium and it should be used to enhance the experience. A lot of people feel that 3D is limiting and there are a lot of myths about it as well about what can and can’t be done. It’s also a photography tool like anything else. One needs to have the right people on board.
What was the most important lesson you learnt?
The most important thing this film taught me is to dream big and be able to pull it off. We did not have enough budget or time, neither any big stars, yet within our limited means we managed to shoot this complicated film on a tough subject.
Most challenging/ enjoyable sequence for you to direct?
From my personal stand point, the breath-taking sequence was when we were shooting with all our actors in the middle of the ocean. We were almost 50 miles away from the land and we shot the sequence from a chopper. All the actors performed their own stunts. Even though safety precaution were made, yet it required guts to be there in the middle of the ocean with nothing around you. Ocean is a very daunting place to be in, indeed.
What are your future projects?
My next film What The Fish under Viacom 18 is releasing on 13 December’13 and other film Sharafat Gayi Tel Lene will hopefully get the release by mid next year.
CHECK OUT THE MAKING OF WARNING 3D: IN CONVERSATION WITH THE CINEMATOGRAPHER, FRANZ PAGOT