Franz Pagot

Franz Pagot

“I prepare intensely before filming any project,” says Franz Pagot, a UK based underwater cinematographer, who is also a man responsible of stunning 3D visuals in Director Gurmeet Singh’s debut film Warning 3D. Warning 3D is India’s first underwater film, and is based on a real story as the film claims. The Director of Photography Franz Pagot reveals more about the challenges involved into making Warning 3D and how he overcame them. Read on…  

What was the brief given to you by director Gurmeet Singh for the film ‘Warning 3D’? How did your association with the Indian films happen?

When I discussed the look of Warning 3D with Director Gurmeet Singh, one thing we agreed instantly was a general progression, from a happy and solar atmosphere, exotic and glossy, to a bleaker and darker mood as tragedy envelops the group of friends. My association with Indian films started on Talaash, I was in the action unit.

Where did the shooting happen and how much of the film was shot on real locations?

We filmed in Fiji and Mumbai, all in real locations, no studio. Real sharks, real deep water, real sweat and blood. Ok, the blood was fake.


What are the kind of lenses and rigs you used in the film?

We filmed in 3D using an Atom rig and a Qasar rig. We used Zeiss ultraprimes and other lenses depending on the scene.

What were the kinds of lighting setups employed for shooting underwater sequences? Brief us about the lighting design specifically adopted for exterior shots.

I never follow a fixed scheme. Every scene has its own complexity and there is no “one setup-fix-it-all” scenario for what I do.

I worked very close with my gaffer, Sumit Shetty from Moonlight Mumbai, a wonderful professional and a dear friend. We planned every scene in advance and everything was executed with military precision, in tough circumstances. His team is incredible, helped by the grips from Zoo grip Mumbai, amazing to work with, and it was fun too.

How did you decide upon the color and the tone for this film?

I prepare intensily before filming any project. For Warning, I spent many days discussing the look of the film with Director Gurmeet Singh. Almost every scene was storyboarded and I took still references to show him and discuss different looks. Eventually we settled on starting with a “Gotham look” Mumbai, going to a happy and colourful Fiji that turns scary and bleached in the climax. We made some brave choices. The song in the beginning was a visual treat for the audience, lot of fun and amazing choreography by Rajeev Surti with wonderful costumes designed by Hazel Paul.


What was the major challenge faced by you during shooting and how did you cope with it?

Nature was the biggest challenge as we had all sort of weather thrown to us and keeping a consistant look was the biggest challenge. I coped with it for which I thank to our amazing crew, a wonderful team of people, not just great professionals but fantastic human beings.

Just to name a few, action director Dave Judge, head grip Ninad Nayampally, set designer Vintee Bansaal, chief rig tech Stefano Biscaro and rig tech Emanuele Parrini, my gaffer Sumit Shetty, marine coordinator Tack Baldwin, make up artist Yasmin Rodgers and many. To be honest, every single member of cast and crew was working super hard to make it happen, and we did.

All the actors took the challenge head on and never complained once, and believe me when I say that hard core soldiers would have found the environment we were working in quite tough to cope with.

Director Gurmeet Singh created such a wonderful atmosphere on set that didn’t matter what the challenge was, everyone was working hard making things happen for him, and we had lots of fun too while doing so.

Last but not least, producer Anubhav Sinha was fantastically supportive, he truly understood the challenges and problems we were facing and as a director himself he knows too well what matters most. I cannot thank him enough.


Which was the toughest scene to shoot in the entire film and why?

The storm sequence with the shark attacking was a huge challenge. We set up all these massive fans and rain effect and then Mother Nature decided to show off with a real storm. We filmed regardless, but it was tough, really tough for everyone.

Who operated the camera for underwater sequences? Can you also please tell us about your technical crew in brief?

I did most of the scenes with the main casts and then I had a dear friend and wonderful underwater cameraman, Ken Corbin, to do some additional underwater work.

The chief rig tech, Stefano Biscaro, is also an accomplished diver, so he was assisting me and Ken while filming underwater.

What is the most challenging thing about shooting underwater sequences, especially in the real ocean? 

Current, wild and dangerous animals, weather are only some of the elements that make it difficult for everyone to film not just underwater but around water in general. The secret is to have real professionals to do it, it is not something that can be improvised, and if you get it wrong it might not just be a re-take but someone loosing his life or getting badly hurt.

Can you please share any technique that helps in shooting underwater?

I have a secret, worth a lot more than any technique, and I am happy to share it: choose the right people. Film business is a people business and that is the only technique worth knowing. If you get it wrong you will not just miss the shot but you might die or be responsible for someone’s death, and there is no film worth dying for. Though people will see in Warning 3D, a film so beautiful that is truly to die for.