Juan Carlos Oganes' film-making and work blog.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Alto del Alianza battle scenes

At last back from filming location at the desert.

Been four interesting and exciting days living with an army of people to do these scenes and shoot them as fast as I can for my time was limited to merely 8 and a half hours, so had to do it pretty quick (but well done of course).

Transporting the full equipment to location was a tiresome task for, I guess, there hasn't been so far any scene that has used all the battle wardrobe done for the film at the same time. Hundreds of extras and weapons simply made this a delicate job to pull off, but it went fine even with its ups and downs.

The desert has its magic. A magic that touches me in a special way for it reminds me of Locumba and my childhood in Tacna back in the very early 80's. Was less than 10 years old but it was beloved times: the sunny afternoon soccer matches where nobody wanted to pick up the ball when it went kicked afar from the field (the burning sun made u tired and lazy), the occasional scouting trips to find lizards and scorpions, the hide-n-seek games at night, the haunting stories told by the older kids, the huge firework towers built from dried canes, the night talks with the MP's and exchanging pieces of bread for a bullet (which I took the head off and emptied the shell forming my name on the pavement and setting it on fire), the dangerous war games between my village and the nearby one naming it the "Pacific War" (we threw rocks at each other and you could see a swarm of them flying toward us like arrows and you had to take cover. Got hit by one once and opened a huge wound in my head. Got my ass kicked at home for doing so. My night sky-watching sessions with a small telescope I had. The air and skies above were so crystal clear so pollution-free that I could see the milky way like if it was right here next to us. My early doing with my so beloved Astronomy (wanted to be an astronomer once. Hehe) Sometimes at night during these 4 days, I looked at the night sky and got lost as those memories of more than 30 years ago when I used to watch with excitement on TV those series about the Pacific War sponsored by the Ministry of Education for the 100th anniversary of it. Funny how things turned out to be: never thought back then I'd dedicate mt life to art and film and do something about it. When I found my ways of life then I knew I had to do it. Destiny moves in mysterious ways.

Back to the future: 2012.

Thursday 13 we all distributed uniforms, wardrobe and soldier accessories to the extras for them to try on and choose correct sizes. Also had a short talk with all of them explaining what this is all about, what they are supposed to do and what it means as a message (the film, I mean). It is important to let them know that this is for the nation, for us all, for our heroes who gave their lives in order to give us what w now have. This is what it really is about above all. Also explained safety measures regarding weapons and blank bullets. The muzzle flash is quite large and expands to about a meter and a half to two, capable of burning clothing or skin if close. Nothing happened and it all went well. I've had injuries myself in all these 22 months of filming. Also, this time I had only about 250 old rifles at my disposal so, after some tests, gave them to the sharper shooters to be in front and closer to the camera and the ones behind used modern ones. Just made sure they weren't seen onscreen during battle scenes. One thing I couldn't have complete was the beige sand-colored boots Chilean soldiers wore. Some had but others used their normal black ones. I'll just have to color paint them in post-production. Painstaking task but....it has to be done.

Friday was the main filming day and started around 7am all the way to 3:30pm that was the deadline hour for me as the extras had to pack and go in order to not have the night fall upon them. 8 hours is quite short for scenes like these. 8 hours is nothing but had to make the best use out of them. Was actually filming as fast as we all could and under a lot of pressure. Was also very pissed because the horses and horsemen I paid for didn't arrived on time (were supposed to be on location at 8am but got there at almost 1pm), delaying my schedule quite heavily and had to reorder the scenes. The thing was that most of them used horses (to portray the Husares de Junin and Carabineros de Yungay) so....had to push them to the last. Got to cover 80% of all my scenes and the remaining ones will have to be shot elsewhere. More logistic moves and more expenses. Wasn't happy about it but at least got the main things covered. We filmed several scenes back in July 2011 that showed the Cazadores del Desierto Chilean battalion and here we also showed the Guardias de Arequipa (also known as the Mariano Santos battalion, a police national hero).

In-camera panoramic composition of one of the scenes.
The body fights.

The battle.

Distant firing.


Placing the hundreds of extras in place.

Directing them all.

Megaphone. Handy for these scenarios.


Peruvian soldiers together with Bolivian Colorados and Alianza soldiers.

The brave extras.

The Zepita No.2 flag holder.

Peruvian officer.

Bullet distribution for all shooters.

Ready for overhead shots.

Freeze frame: massive confrontations.

Freeze frame: Peruvian and Bolivian soldiers are shot.

Freeze frame: Hurt.

Freeze frame: Aerial shot. Many extras.

Freeze frame: Husares de Junin.

Freeze frame: Guardias de Arequipa in action.

Freeze frame: Guardia de Arequipa about to shoot.

Freeze frame.

Freeze frame: Ready for battle.

Freeze frame: Violence of war.

Freeze frame: About to make contact.

Another thing (that now is one more anecdote) is that the truck that was supposed to pick us up late Friday never came and had to send much of my crew to a hotel in a nearby town kilometers away and I stayed with the gunsmith and an assistant to sleep on site to protect the equipment. Stranded in the middle of nowhere was quite a thing and the next day Saturday we all spent the whole day taking it all back to Lima little by little. Left the site around 10:30pm. After taking it all to my warehouse, finally got home very beat around 2am the next day. The desert is very hot during the day and the flies filled my car interior like bees and was very unpleasant, only to have them stop by the night coldness. No lights around and it was pitch dark all around only to see a lighter shade of yellowish grey far away north which was Lima's lights lighting up the sky. Again, while waiting for the small truck my sound man had to came back from one the back-n-forth trips to my warehouse, in all that silent scenario where only the wind makes its presence felt, sat by a rock to watch the sky above and recall again those childhood memories when all was fun and adventure. Now, more than 30 years into my life, adventures get a bit serious...but better in a way. The odyssey of making one's dreams come true.