• Excerpt of director’s script for Spear and Rose („Šķēps un roze”, dir. Leonīds Leimanis, 1959)
  • Director’s script contains the practicalities of the shooting: time of day, camera angle, setting, etc. This is devised by the director, cinematographer, and production designer. Excerpt of director’s script for Spear and Rose („Šķēps un roze”, dir. Leonīds Leimanis, 1959)
  • Pre-production schedule for Republic of Vārnu Street (“Vārnu ielas republika”, 1970), where all the tasks are listed subsequently
  • The proposition of rehearsal schedule prepared by A Man in His Prime („Vīrietis labākajos gados”, dir. Oļģerts Dunkers, 1977) set designer Ināra Antone, to be submitted to the Arts Council for approval
  • The proposition of rehearsal schedule prepared by A Man in His Prime („Vīrietis labākajos gados”, dir. Oļģerts Dunkers, 1977) set designer Ināra Antone, to be submitted to the Arts Council for approval
  • Costume design sketches for Wader in the Bog (“Purva bridējs”, dir. Leonīds Leimanis, 1966)
  • Director Oļģerts Dunkers, production designer Ināra Antone, and cinematographer Heinrihs Pilipsons in Indulis Ranka’s sculpture garden, location scouting for a set of a sculptor’s (played by actor Uldis Vazdiks) workshop for Rain Blues („Lietus blūzs”, 1982)
  • Site plan – “Tantari” homestaed, location for Skylarks (“Cīrulīši”). The drawing indicates the layout of the buildings and other objects – a wilted tree, a small bridge, dried-out pond, and others
  • Production designer Andris Merkmanis’ sketches for Tom the Werewolf (“Vilkatis Toms”, dir. Ēriks Lācis, 1983) - Made’s hut
  • Production designer Andris Merkmanis’ sketches for Tom the Werewolf (“Vilkatis Toms”, dir. Ēriks Lācis, 1983) - Courtyard of manor Dormuiža
  • Production designer Andris Merkmanis’ sketches for Tom the Werewolf (“Vilkatis Toms”, dir. Ēriks Lācis, 1983) - Hunt hall
  • The object chart for Blow, ye Wind! (“Pūt, vējiņi!”, dir. Gunārs Piesis 1973)
  • The object chart for Blow, ye Wind! (“Pūt, vējiņi!”, dir. Gunārs Piesis 1973) shows that the shooting of the particular scene will require a wind-blowing machine, white and black smoke, a camera dolly for the cinematography crew, and nine vehicles, among them also three buses, for the whole production crew. The characters in the frame, Baiba, Zane, Orta, Ciepa and Anda, will be dressed in “work clothes”, make-up artist will have a make-up base hue and braids prepared, and for Baiba and Zane – also eyelashes
  • The object chart for Blow, ye Wind! (“Pūt, vējiņi!”, dir. Gunārs Piesis 1973)
  • Devil’s Servants at the Devil’s Mill (“Vella Kalpi Vella Dzirnavās”, dir. Aleksandrs Leimanis, 1972) shooting schedule, painstakingly devised and drawn by the second director Jānis Streičs
  • Devil’s Servants at the Devil’s Mill (“Vella Kalpi Vella Dzirnavās”, dir. Aleksandrs Leimanis, 1972) shooting schedule, painstakingly devised and drawn by the second director Jānis Streičs

Depending on the length and complexity of the film, the production period was anywhere from one year to several years and involved a large group of people. A film project always began with a script. When the script was factored into the studio’s schedule, almost all of the departments began to operate (artists, costume designers, set designers, props, administration, actors; in the post-production phase - sound editing, editing, film lab technicians etc.). Here is a chance to take a closer look at several stages of film production!

 

SCREENPLAY/ SCRIPT

A film begins with a screenplay that “arrived” at Riga Film Studio as the author’s idea for a film. If the idea gains support from the film studio’s Screenplay editorial staff, an agreement is signed with the author to write a screenplay. An editor is assigned to the screenplay to assist the author and oversee the process to a finished product. He then introduces the script to the studio’s management, planning and production departments, and arranges a meeting with the Arts Council to review the script. If the Arts Council approves the script, it is sent for further approval to the Latvian and USSR Cinematographic Committee (7 copies in Russian) or to the Central Television, if it is a television film.

  After Moscow’s approval the script is scheduled into the studio’s thematic strategy. When production possibilities are confirmed, an approximate budget is calculated, and the number of series and shooting season is decided. The screenplay is then incorporated into the annual production schedule.

  Film production is based on the continuity script, where screenplay is broken-down into episodes and scenes. This period includes calculating the number of sets and their variations – in nature, in nature with additional construction, outdoor sets, indoor sets, interiors. The production season and day/night period was determined. The director’s script also included calculations of the film’s footage, main cast, supporting cast and episodes, determining the need for combined scenes, the cinematographers’ technical and travel needs, the production period’s calendar schedule, etc.

 

PRE-PRODUCTION SCHEDULE

When a film “enters pre-production”, it’s a signal for most of the film studio’s crews to begin work. As seen in the pre-production “network schedule” for the film Republic of Vārnu Street (“Vārnu ielas republika”, 1970), there are at least ten different processes taking place simultaneously. The main initiators – the director, cinematographer and production designer – proceed in leading the work for their specific area, and the production manager also recruits additional professionals as needed. 

 

REHEARSALS

The director and cinematographer do the casting during the pre-production phase. First a number of actors for each role are invited to do screen tests that are later evaluated based on ensemble chemistry, photogenic qualities, etc. There are times when screen tests are omitted, for example, if the director has a specific actor in mind for a role. The other extreme is when the director decides to film with non-professionals and a public casting call for a part is announced; most often this occurs for the roles of children and young people. The most famous casting call in Latvian film history was when director Gunārs Piesis was looking to cast the roles of Baiba and Gatiņš in the film Blow, ye Wind! (“Pūt, vējiņi!”) in 1973. Some 2000 hopefuls showed up at the film studio.

 

COSTUME SKETCHES

During pre-production the costume designer works according to the period of the film – if it’s a historic drama, clothing from that time period is studied. The production materials from the film Wader in the Bog (“Purva bridējs”, 1966), show an 1896 bridal dress and a costume that a Bavarian prince would wear to go hunting. 

 

SCOUTING FOR LOCATIONS

Often a large segment of the action takes place outside or in some specific environment (a country home, factory, artist’s studio, store, etc.), and these locations are sought out during the pre-production period by the director, cinematographer and production designer.

  The most difficult location to find is the right type of country home, especially for early-period pieces. Location scouting required the director, cinematographer, production designer and photographer to travel throughout Latvia for several days and consult with local experts. The production designer’s notes contain comments of what occurred in the search for the home in the film Skylarks (“Cīrulīši”, dir. Olģerts Dunkers, based on the play by Harijs Gulbis, 1980), where the mother, played by Velta Līne, gathers together her children (the next generation of actors – Vija Artmane, Juris Lejaskalns, Lilita Ozoliņs, Astrīda Kairiša, Anda Zaice, Uldis Dumpis) for the last time. 

 

PPRODUCTION DESIGN

Parallel to location scouting the production designer plans the sets needed for backgrounds or interiors, by first sketching the style of the spaces occupied by each character.

  The Arts Council that approves the actors also receives sketches of the sets and locations; sometimes the sketches even show a painterly talent, like those of Andris Merkmanis for the film Tom the Werewolf (“Vilkatis Toms”, dir. Ēriks Lācis, 1983). In parallel to sketches, precise drawings and models of sets are created. 

 

PRODUCTION BOARD

When pre-production is complete and production is about to begin, the head filmmakers generate production boards, on which the director indicates the scene’s style, the production designer sketches the scene, the cinematographer notes the needed equipment, and the other units indicate the props, costumes, make-up etc. required for each scene. In the film, Blow, ye Wind! (“Pūt, vējiņi!”, 1973), the production board for the episode where “the millworkers hurry to the mill” and Baiba spots the fallen fir tree, director Gunārs Piesis noted: “Culmination of the approaching rainstorm’s dynamic. The women head to work, protecting themselves from the whipping winds. The mighty fir tree falls. Sound effects are synchronized with the music”. The production board contains the respective scene fragments. 

 

SHOOTING SCHEDULE

If the production is complicated with large mass scenes, pyrotechnics etc., and if the crew has a zealous young member such as Jānis Streičs as second assistant on the film Devil’s Servants at the Devil’s Mill (“Vella Kalpi Vella Dzirnavās”, dir. Aleksandrs Leimanis, 1972), then an intricate shooting schedule is created, noting everything from camera placement and angle, to staging and the movement of actors.