nausheen ishtiaq-chen

The director and the directed

How much did you like collaborating?

I had been looking forward to doing more collaborative activities since the first classwork assignment of shooting portraits and landscapes around the neighborhood. You could tell that a collaborative opportunity was sorely needed because we all needed a few minutes to remember each other’s names, despite it being the third class!

It was a very fruitful and barrier-breaking collaboration. We all helped with each other’s shots, offering opinions and advice, and ofcourse ourselves as models. All of us went out of our way to make the process very democratic – giving each director equal amounts of time, and being patient enough with re-takes till the director was satisfied with the shot. For my shots specially, I felt that the guys were very helpful – Aliya had to lie down on the street with oncoming traffic being directed away by Alisa (perhaps not the best exercise in ensuring everyone’s safety. Will definitely be more careful in subsequent assignments, but I did finish up the shots within 5 minutes).


A shot from the “lying on the street” series, which I couldn’t use because we were all laughing at that point

Did you direct the scenes and let someone else shoot for you?

No, all of us directed, composed and shot the scenes ourselves, with the only exception being Aliya, who had a very daring shot that only she was willing to be the subject of! Otherwise, as a general rule, we implicitly understood that we all had to direct and shoot our own shots.

What different approaches and styles of working did you observe in your group?

All of us were perfectionists to varying degrees. Some kept re-thinking shots that they’d taken, trying to see if they could redesign them or take them in better locations or lighting. All of us were similar in our innovations with shooting with the locations available to us vs those that we had envisioned in our shots. All of us were also similar in being proactive about getting our next shot if we were all physically close to a location that the director thought could work. Some of us took more re-takes, but the rest were ok with that. At no point did we frustrate each other, which is awesome starting-out chemistry.

All of us thoroughly appreciated the advice that we got. It was more of an exercise in “let’s help each other get these shots” than one in “I must get these shots”. This really helped us think beyond our own shots and put thought into how other’s shots could work too.

What worked, what didn’t?

Being flexible about locations definitely worked. I had earlier thought about one of my shots as an indoor shot, but when I passed an outdoor restaurant with seating, I realised it would be more interesting if the shot was set outdoors. Similarly, Alisa converted one of her shots from being a street shot to an indoor shot because it was raining and we were already shooting indoors.

I also felt that setting the background for the shot worked in my favor. I realised that I should explain what I had in mind when I thought about composing the shot, and what kind of story I wanted to tell. This really helped my subjects instantly turn on appropriate facial expressions.

What also worked in speeding up the shots was the subject’s willingness to be directed. When we were not directing or shooting our own shots, we were all very malleable with our bodies, expressions, movements. We wanted to be directed so that we could help the director get the shot they wanted.

For me, personally, not being too familiar with the camera didn’t work in my favor. A number of my shots came out blurry. Added to this was my self-consciousness about wasting everyone’s time trying to get the right shot, so I was painfully aware that by the time I took my fifth shot, I didn’t want my subjects to get impatient or frustrated with my direction.

This was a shot that I took that was unusable because I forgot the "squareness" constraint and didn't leave enough room at the sides

This was a shot that I took that was unusable because I forgot the “squareness” constraint and didn’t leave enough room at the sides

What about working with time and space constraints?

The space constraint made us all be extra innovative with our shots. Some indoor locations were used instead of outdoor ones and viceversa. However, atleast one of us couldn’t do a shot as they had designed it because it was meant to be on a rooftop and first we weren’t able to get to a rooftop in time for the light to still be good enough for the shot, and secondly, the director felt that the shot would be too dangerous in the dark and the rain. So the shot had to be redesigned to suit our current shooting locations.

The time constraint would have worked if we had been in touch with other groups and had understood that everyone would be late to class. When we were half an hour late vs the reporting time, we thought we would complete the rest of the assignment later. I feel that we could’ve completed our shots if we had been more ambitious with our goals :)

Did you find yourself coming up with creative solutions? 

Yes ofcourse. Other than the shooting location changes, and rolling with the locations that we were already in, we also came up with creative solutions based on what we were all wearing. For instance, I felt that the bright shirt that one of my group members was wearing could be very easily used to pull attention towards her, so I used her as a center of attention in two of my shots.

One of my shots included making my subjects form a straight line/index vector with their bodies towards the center of attention. However, the shot seemed too cliched and one-dimensional when set up that way. So I decided to take some alternate shots with alternate arrangements of the subjects, and finally went with one of the alternate ones which I thought provided better symmetry.

1 Comment

  1. Good characters, plot, setting, in even your rejected photos!

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