AWARD WINNING FILMMAKER, NEERAJ PANDEY SPEAKS TO STUDENTS AT DIGITAL ACADEMY- THE FILM SCHOOL

_MG_0018Neeraj Pandey, acclaimed Film Director & Screenwriter of the award-winning Indian thriller drama film: ‘A Wednesday’, spoke to a packed room full of students at Digital Academy- The Film School, Mumbai. Born and brought up in Kolkata, he moved to New Delhi, where he graduated in English Literature. He was employed in Legacy Entertainment, a company started by the Dalmia group to make television programs where he learnt his basics.
 
Not being schooled in Film, he is a self taught Filmmaker. He struggled to get an unconventional film like ‘A Wednesday’ made and has persevered towards a prodigious set-up which will allow him to direct the films he envisions, with minimal interferences, by attempting to co-produce them himself.
 
Talking about ‘A Wednesday’ he said, “I took it to all the big (production) companies…None of them were interested in a first time director like me, who was demanding a cast like this (Naseeruddin Shah, Anupam Kher etc), for a serious film with no songs and no heroine!” When asked about whether choosing to have songs or not was a tough decision, considering their entertainment and marketing potential, he said, “See the story should be worth telling…don’t waste your audience’s time, it should be cathartic…entertainment has many different definitions…if my film can make you talk about it for two hours…that means it has connected with you…that is also entertainment…”
 
When it comes to writing, he prefers to think of ‘writer’s block’ as just a mental condition, summing it up by saying that either one feels like writing or one doesn’t. About his process for ‘A Wednesday’, he revealed that the trick was to get the ‘end’ first and work backwards towards the beginning. He prefers to first think thoroughly through the story, become clear about the beginning, middle & end, and then write it. The gestation period for ‘A Wednesday’ was around two months and the writing period merely seven days. Characters and casting, he felt, took shape as one writes the film. He explained that all the gadgetry and technical details of the film were accurate and carefully researched with the help of Mr. Rakesh Maria (Mumbai Joint Commissioner of Police) and the character of the hacker emerged from discussions about real life cases with Mr. Maria.
 
Having directed many one hour specials for Television, earlier, he reminisced how he would treat even those productions as he would a film, simply because he wanted to be making films later. He lamented the meager creativity on Television and joked about the rising level of ‘creativity’ on news channels these days, but concluded that Television needed to go back to those one hour specials and that intelligent programming was the need of the hour.
 
Returning to the topic of cinema, he spoke candidly about how Hindi literature has greatly helped him in his writing especially with dialogue and that Bimal Roy movies have helped him tremendously whenever he has been stuck. According to him, to be a good Director, one has to read a lot, watch a lot of movies; as an individual push oneself tenaciously and be very clear about what one wants. Cinema being a collection of arts, he thinks that a good script along with all the other processes of Filmmaking and great teamwork, make for a fantastic film.
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SAURAB SHUKLA, WRITER OF CULT FILM ‘SATYA’, CONDUCTS WORKSHOP ON FILM MAKING AT DIGITAL ACADEMY- THE FILM SCHOOL, MUMBAI.

_MG_0147Saurabh Shukla, the Star Screen Award and Zee Cine Award nominated Indian film and television Actor, Director and Screenwriter held a workshop for the students of Digital Academy – The Film School Mumbai (Bombay) India, on the topic of Scriptwriting, Direction & Filmmaking.

 

Shukla began serious theatre in 1986 with roles in plays like A View from the Bridge (Arthur Miller), Look Back in Anger (John Osborne), Ghashiram Kotwal (Vijay Tendulkar) and Hayvadan. In 1991, he joined the NSD Repertoire Company – the professional wing of the National School of Drama – as actor. The next year, he got his first break when Shekhar Kapur, impressed with his work, created a role for him in Bandit Queen.

 

Aiming right at the heart of the issue, he asked, “Why do you want to make a film?” Concluding that it is a strong desire to communicate a perception, a story or reflection of society, he asked, “Why film? Why not music, theatre or the other arts? Why as me, do I make a film??…It is not a passion or profession for me, it is a compulsion for me…if I don’t make films, I get sick, I’m not happy!” displaying his vigor & intensity, he quoted filmmakers like Robert Rodriguez (El Mariachi) who did not wait for their films but ploughed ahead to create their films against all the odds.

 

The first step in the path towards creation is the ‘right’ idea, judging an idea as good or bad is secondary. Ideas are born in the landscape of Art; Art brings freedom- to say what we want to say, to share an idea or concept; people will identify or relate with it only if the creators themselves identify with the idea. From the idea one has to brew the script.

 

Writing is a tedious process, it involves extensive thinking, writing, reading, even enacting and continuously rewriting. But how one approaches the film is what sets the conditions for the conception of a film; it must be a natural and candid approach. The beginning is precious, the first shot decides the pace, feel and look of the film, “Every scene especially the beginning has to transport people into that scene, so don’t try to hurry the beginning…the detailing is very important…” saying this, he proceeded to show the beginnings of some movies like Lawrence of Arabia-David Lean, Fame-Allan Parker and Amadeus-Milos Forman. With these, Mr. Shukla illustrated how innovation helped in increasing the intensity and by revealing the action slowly, a thrill and suspense was created which succeeded in transporting the viewers into the films.

 

_MG_0091Talking about his first director, Shekhar Kapur’s film ‘Elizabeth’, he said, “When you write a script, you use words & language to communicate, in direction one has to rewrite it; the elements are different, the actors, the movement, the frame etc come in to play…one has to think in a different way. Like it or not, filmmaking is about writing…”

 

One among the many queries that arose from the students was how does one write dialogue, as it must seem real and true to the characters and their situations; how much is research and how much is imagination? To which, speaking about ‘Satya’, he answered “We did not go to chawls or spend time with the gangsters, I was at the time still more of a Delhi person; then how did we manage the realistic kind of dialogue? …Humans are the same whether Delhi or Mumbai…the psyche is the same, behavior is based on how you see the world and how you project it to make it seem believable to the world…I have a certain background and I use its quality and tone to write my dialogues…”

 

It is important to take the thought from an original space and then convert its physicality of expression. In Satya, a lot of language inputs came from the actors themselves; the lingo was adopted but the spontaneity of dialogue came from improvisation, which is not ‘adjustments’ rather it is finding the layers in a script. And to develop such a script, the artist must never be satisfied; the process should be an unending quest for perfection. On being asked, what is the ideal location for writing, he said, “I cannot write when I am alone; I have to be in chaos…my process is not secret. I like reading out my scripts to anyone-the chauffeur, a neighbor…as it helps me see my script and understand it better…who I’m reading it to becomes immaterial…”   

 

Another stage of writing is ‘editing’. It is a system by which meaning or narrative is created through the joining of shots. Likening the editing process to the process of cooking, he dispelled certain myths about editing, “If it’s not working in the rushes, then even if editing can hide the mistakes, the film will definitely lack something…”

The sequence from the film Fame by Allan Parker, in which an art school cafeteria filled with the cacophony of noise and chaos, gets effortlessly converted into a roomful of pulsating music and energy, displayed how editing alone cannot be responsible for such a conversion. It creates rhythm and pace which works along with the visual quality and other elements to create the spirit of the scene or film.

 

With the realm of editing one realizes that direct story-telling isn’t enough. Without the unfolding of events in a dramatic fashion, there will not be a body for the film. After hearing out the suggestions about what drama really is, he said “Even I do not know what is drama…but I know the elements…a situation where the character is smaller than the situation…is dramatic…”

 

Again he picked out choice scenes from three movies, Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho-where many elements of drama are present (love, robbery, need for money etc), Abbas Kiarostami’s ‘The wind will carry us’-an ordinary situation’s potential for drama, like running around to get a signal during an important phone call, becomes obvious and in ‘No country for old men’ by the Coen Brothers, the dramatic tension was created because of the audiences knowledge that the character is a killer, bringing to us the two elements of suspense and surprise.

 

However, everything can be dramatic, it is the way one tells it that creates the drama, “There is nothing called fast pace or slow pace…every film requires an optimum pace”

This optimum pace and the information given to the viewers are the primary tools for creating a dramatic impact. The anticipation generated prior to the moment also depends largely on the ‘detailing’, “I personally don’t like black and white characters…everybody is a shade of grey…a darker grey or lighter grey is achieved through detailing…” said the selective Saurabh Shukla.

 

With the beginning of the robbery sequence in Dog’s Day Afternoon directed by Sidney Lumet and written by Frank Pierson, Saurabh Shukla concluded the workshop on a lighter note, portraying through the clip how minute details of the characters are so integral in pushing the story forward and also why the humor generated was so effortless and yet funny.

 

Citing his own example, he tossed some pointers to the distraught students who were still boiling with questions.

·        Make writing a habit.

·        Be confident, desperation kills a lot of things.

·        Keep reinventing yourself, don’t be scared, be fearless.

·        Writer’s block is like the common cold, there is no cure…

 

With a sincere tone he thanked everyone and said goodbye.

 

Digital Academy offers courses in Screenplay Writing, Film & Television Direction, Cinematography, Film & Television Editing, Sound Recording & Engineering, Production Design, Producers Course, Film Making, Acting and Animation & FX.

 

For more information contact:

E-mail: response@dafilmschool.com,

visit:- www.dafilmschool.com

Tel. no.: +91-22-28257009/+91-22-28257008

NATIONAL AWARD WINNER, SANKALP MESHRAM SPEAKS TO MUMBAI UNIVERSITY STUDENTS ABOUT CAREERS IN CINEMA.

IMG_3904Dr. Abdul Kalam visited the Mumbai University in October 2005. There he pondered why the University, in spite of Mumbai being the film capital of the country, did not have any film education. That is how the idea of a tie up between the educationists & a film school was born. After careful investigation & study of many film schools in Mumbai, the University decided that the best and only people they would work with was Digital Academy- The Film School. With a seminar at Kalina, on the 153rd Anniversary of the University, a Post-Graduate course with a very modern educational pattern was introduced.

 

The function was attended by renowned editor/filmmaker Sankalp Meshram who briefly addressed the entirely packed hall. 

 

Mr. Sankalp Meshram, after doing his Post Graduate Diploma in Editing from the FTII Pune, has been working as an Editor and Film Maker. He edited the Feature Film ‘Katha Don Ganpat Roanchi’ in 1997 (Marathi), which won the state award for the best Film apart from being shown at various International Film Festivals and the National Award for Best Editing in the year 2001 for the Film ‘Lokapriya’. He also wrote and directed ‘Chutkan Ki Mahabharat’ which got him the National Award in the year 2005. He is the Head of the Editing Department at Digital Academy- The Film School, Mumbai.

 

He narrated the story of the chance beginning of his film career- how he narrowly escaped the dazzle of science, was forced into commerce and was almost on the verge of completing his Chartered accountancy when he secretly wrote the FTII (Film & Television Institute of India) entrance test, passing it successfully. He doubted the decision & then finally decided to join.

Filmmaking is a calling, not just a profession” he said, having worked in the industry for 15 years now, with no regrets. The ones who receive this calling have a strong affinity to its form and are almost fated to be part of it. He believed that it is a misconception that filmmaking is for specific kinds of individuals or artists; all that is needed is the talent for story telling and most people already told stories. He encouraged a few to volunteer their activities of the day, before coming to the seminar. Some responded with sparse pointers while some others traveled even into flashbacks of why they wanted to be a filmmaker. These examples showed that humans employ speech patterns and make decisions based on priority of subjects or words and even the duration. Even everyday communication is an act of story-telling; only in cinema the technique is different, the language used is visual & aural (not necessarily words).

 

A well told story is one which has the right elements told in the right way. It requires a critical balance between conscious & unconscious editing. The experience of dreaming is similar to that of watching a film. Their strange events and strange editing somehow reveal some things about the self, but in an almost entirely non-verbal manner; cinema aspires towards this beauty of dreams- the perfect illusion.

 

“An act of film viewing itself is an act of filmmaking, the idea of a film is based on the creative faculty of the audience” saying this, he emphasized that imagination is not the luxury of a few people, it is a necessary survival faculty needed to process the present, forecast the future, create probabilities etc. There are gaps and spaces in the world around. Imagination is what helps to complete this world. Filmmaking depends on the viewers’ imagination to fill in the gaps.

 

 

“Why do we need to learn filmmaking?”

It is a difficult art form; it consists of a new kind of syntax and language which needs to be nourished by talent & instinct. This has to be acquired exactly like the skill of riding a bicycle must be learnt- gracious trial & error until the process is internalized. And finally it all comes down to how good one is at creating a cinematic language which is universal and connects with the audience.

“There is a method to the madness in cinema…its all about training your instincts to become an instinctive filmmaker…”

 

Digital Academy offers courses in Screenplay Writing, Film & Television Direction, Cinematography, Film & Television Editing, Sound Recording & Engineering, Production Design, Producers Course, Film Making, Acting and Animation & FX.

 

For more information contact:

E-mail: response@dafilmschool.com

Visit:- www.dafilmschool.com

Tel. no.: +91-22-28257009/+91-22-28257008

ANURAG KASHYAP, ONE OF THE MOST VERSATILE AND PROLIFIC FILMMAKERS IN CONTEMPORARY HINDI CINEMA SPEAKS TO MUMBAI UNIVERSITY STUDENTS, ABOUT CAREERS IN CINEMA.

IMG_3887Mumbai University, on its 153rd Anniversary announced its association with the Digital Academy, initiating the Post-Graduate course in Film & Television and invited Mr. Anurag Kashyap to speak about careers in Film & Television.

Anurag Kashyap is a critically acclaimed Indian film director and screenwriter. He is considered one of the most versatile and prolific filmmakers in contemporary Hindi cinema.

In 1999, Kashyap won the Best Screenplay award for ‘Satya’- a cult film based on people who are part of the Mumbai underworld and the Special Jury Award for his short film ‘Last Train to Mahakali’ at the Star Screen Awards. His feature film debut Black Friday won the Grand Jury Prize at the 3rd Annual Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles (2005) and was a nominee for the Golden Leopard (Best Film) at the 57th Locarno International Film Festival (2004).

One of his concerns was to explain the need to ‘learnfilmmaking. A course helps because it teaches you the very basics, the fundamentals of filmmaking, “You need to know them to reject them and create your own rules & methods…” he said. He reflected on how many times he has come across people who keep talking about how they want to ‘shoot’ their film, when it’s not about the ‘how’ but rather the ‘what & why’. Directors like Danny Boyle are capable of simultaneously editing, shooting and generating narrative, but achieving that state is a slow process, which is to achieve that degree of instinct. Earlier it took people years of struggle to pierce through to the medium, both in the corporeal sense of access and cerebral sense of understanding, finally becoming filmmakers at 50 or 60 years of age, whereas today there are people as young as 21 who are making films, precisely because of abundant film education.

When it comes down to the actual act of filmmaking, the film emerges through the passion and vision of the creator himself and how he applies himself to the process of imagination. “I still don’t know what camera aperture is, but I have an eye for location and detail…if I know what I want to create, then I can go looking for it…” When in the process of realizing his concept or idea, he is open to ideas and change. He believes that if one can discern the essence of their films, then they won’t go wrong when they are allowed to let go of themselves. Like when he had to shoot on an empty street with neon signage which was crowded throughout the day and so shot at 4am, with a particular blue shade of the sky, resulting in a psychedelic imagery, which he discovered that day by accident, he realized the potential of ‘chance’ in filmmaking and also the importance of continuing in spite of all odds, “Go outside and make a film, then go see why it didn’t work…why the audience didn’t connect with it…find out the external and the internal reasons of its failure…such an integral angst one has to go through…What must motivate the maker is not the ‘Oscar’ but the journey…” he said, outlining the importance of the journey of filmmaking which is endless.

 

On being asked about whether the current spate of independent production houses catering to a more self-determining group of filmmakers, is a trend that is here to stay or not, he replied that such a condition is almost a necessity, as his own survival depends on the survival of the likes of him, which is why it is his responsibility to preserve this condition or trend. Citing the presence of his blogs as a place where students and film lovers can unite and discuss many issues pertaining to film, he warmly welcomed everyone to join this new era of films, to make use of all the resources available and finally to make the film itself more important than their own selves.

 

Digital Academy offers courses in Screenplay Writing, Film & Television Direction, Cinematography, Film & Television Editing, Sound Recording & Engineering, Production Design, Producers Course, Film Making, Acting and Animation & FX.

 

For more information contact:

E-mail: response@dafilmschool.com,

visit:- www.dafilmschool.com

Tel. no.: +91-22-28257009/+91-22-28257008

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