Guest Lecture by Filmmaker, Mr. Mahesh Nair at Digital Academy- The Film School.

Mahesh Nair is a Writer and Director; he has an excellent record as a documentary Filmmaker and journalist prior to working on feature films. His documentary on Mumbai’s Dabbawalas, which he wrote and directed for BBC World TV, has been internationally acclaimed and is often used as a case study by Indian and International Management students. He had the opportunity to work with one of India’s leading Filmmaker, Mr. Ram Gopal Varma for many years. He was Varma’s Chief Assistant Director and was also the co-writer of Ek. His upcoming film“Accident on Hill Road” is due to be released shortly.  
 
Mr Nair commencing his talk said that the most important factor to be a Filmmaker is the Passion to make films, the burning desire to reach the dreams come what may. It is exactly what drives an individual to a point where the entire focus is shifted to just one goal in life, which in turn can change your destiny. Elaborating on this, he said, “ Everyday when you wake up and think of being a filmmaker and it remains in your mind, that even today, even tomorrow, whenever you wake up and you are not bored, the thought of being a filmmaker excites you and if you are able to maintain it for day in day out….. that is called passion, passion for films and being a filmmaker”. He stated that, as a professional you must be very passionate about your work, and must be sure of your goals in life. Nobody can assure you, but yourself. If you think you have it in you, just absorb it and embrace it so tight that it remains and stick to you as your second skin. Citing his mentor’s example he said that. Mr. Ram Gopal Varma sleeps, drinks and eats Films, for him there is no life beyond Films. 
                                                                                         
He advised the students to learn the craft and chisel their skills and talents to be finer craftsmen. He said that, craft is something that you learn and acquire through sheer hard work and perseverance. If Filmmaking is your goal, you can learn the craft by watching various genres of films and as students you need to be zealous enough to watch films and try to understand what part of it excites you and bring out the reactions in you. As filmmakers you need to learn to get the effect for films from within. His suggestion to students was to assist directors and filmmakers to learn the craft and be experts in the trade after finishing Film School.
 
 
If you are a writer, go about it discover your true calling and write. This also applies to the other facets of your profession, if filmmaking excites you and gives you creative satisfaction, just shoot. Exploring different avenues of your abilities and frequently working on it is an added advantage in possessing your skills. The reaction you get from people helps in building a strong foundation as a filmmaker, it makes you aware of your own pitfalls.
 
 
As a filmmaker one should know the process right from the scratch, which involves pre and postproduction work. The entire canvas is based upon strings of various palettes coming together to form a spectacular sight for the world to see. In order to enjoy this view, every feature of filmmaking needs to be finely observed and acted upon with the final outcome in mind, which can be only done if one learns the trade of managing people and conveying exactly what you want to do. If that goal is not achieved then it becomes very difficult to be a filmmaker. If you want to be a filmmaker you need to learn to manage your team. Rapport building is the most essential thing one must learn in this trade and always work with people who are far superior to you, as it helps raising the quality of the films. The process of filmmaking is all about managing people, managing egos and matching your wavelength with like-minded people.
 
 
As a filmmaker there has to be something unique about your own film, there should be a part of you in it, personal branding is necessary to be noticed. He further stated that in order to understand your unique quality, you need to get opinions from people who are closest to you as every individual has a different style and that style reflects in your film. He commented on the uniqueness of the styles by saying, “The more unique it is, the more unique your voice is, the more easily it will be heard”.
 
 
Rejection is part and parcel of every profession and one must be prepared to accept it and take it with a pinch of salt. It is important to know how to cope up with rejection and not be bogged down by it. Since people have varied opinions about films, you cannot argue on that, it’s all about perception; therefore a vast difference of views would be there. These reactions and opinions help you become a better filmmaker learn to accept rejection and never give up on your passion.
 
 
He further started showcasing the clips of his new movie, based on a true story. The reason to display his work was to give an insight to the students about his realistic approach towards making films. He was passionate about making realistic films but was always rejected, but his passion for making films stood strong besides him and kept him going.
 
He was highly impressed with the infrastructure of Digital Academy – The Film School and stated that. “The academy is well equipped, offering students the opportunity to learn the craft of filmmaking. They just need to learn and face the world to know the reality of filmmaking”. He also mentioned that students were pretty interactive and it’s nice to meet the students and youngsters to get a perspective of life from them.

PAROMITA VOHRA, RENOWNED WRITER & FILMMAKER HELD A GUEST LECTURE ON FILM MAKING AT DIGITAL ACADEMY- THE FILM SCHOOL, MUMBAI.

Paromita Vohra, renowned Writer & Filmmaker held a guest lecture on Filmmaking at Digital Academy- The Film School, Mumbai.

Paromita Vohra is a Filmmaker and Writer. She has written, produced and directed ‘Morality TV and the Loving Jehad: Ek Manohar Kahani’, a documentary on moral policing and tabloid culture set in Meerut, ‘Q2P’, a film about toilets, and the language of urban development with a focus on Bombay, ‘Where’s Sandra’, a film about sexual and community stereotyping of Christian women, often referred to as ‘Sandra from Bandra’ in Bombay, ‘Work In Progress’ about the World Social Forum which took place in Bombay in 2004, ‘Unlimited Girls’, an exploration of what feminism means to different people in urban India which has won several awards and many more.

Her work as a writer includes the feature films ‘Khamosh Pani’ (Silent Waters), about a woman whose life is transformed by growing fundamentalism in a Pakistani village (Dir: Sabiha Sumar), for which she won the Best Screenplay award at the Kara Film Festival, 2003 and ‘Khamoshi: The Musical’ (Additional Scriptwriting), which was directed by renowned filmmaker Sanjay Leela Bhansali.

Ms. Vohra has conducted many workshops that focus on creativity, politics and media with young people. At the lecture she began by asking the students some questions about the birth of an idea and its progress. The emerging discussion was an inquiry into the concept of creativity and its anatomy. Talking about this she said, “The social background, culture, gender, location, where we come from, make and shape the way we look at the world around us… the connection between the what we are and the world around results in a kind of idea… it is a combination of something very general and something very particular to yourself…” Elucidating her process she said that the birth of an idea is often in a very general space, like perhaps a newspaper clipping which catapults into an interest resulting in an idea. The idea begins to transform as one starts reading and thinking about it. Discovering all the ingredients that make a story engaging all over the world develops the story. Stories are ultimately about interesting events and how characters relate to each other; the plot can be easily made, however, what is of essence is the larger philosophical argument that is the theme of the film.

Another important aspect of Filmmaking is the perspective from which a film is told, every story can be told in an infinite number of ways and it is the decision of the filmmaker to choose where he positions the story. In the non-fiction realm the story is actually a relationship between research and imagination. Explaining this she said, “With research you have to constantly keep looking for what you want to tell, because you can endlessly research on something, but you need to find the story within that you have the urge to tell…there are infinite number of plots but it is only the larger philosophical idea that can have multiple interpretations…”

There is a notion amongst Indian filmmakers that they need to capture a large audiences attention, for which they endlessly dilute their films to make it basic for any kind of audience. But generalizing something does not necessarily make it universal. To transcend barriers a universal philosophical core is needed. Explaining this she said, “You can learn the craft of scriptwriting and it will help you put your ideas into a good script… but you need to have a good relationship with ideas, written material and basically with how people live their lives… because craft is not enough…”

Talking about the conditions of the Indian Film Industry she said, “Sadly, if you have a truly unique idea/ story, no big corporate house will fund you… its always an individual with a genuine interest in the story who will end up financing such a project because in our industry, the Producers only want to know about the stars in your film and stars don’t want to play character roles… that unfortunately is the dynamics of our industry…” In spite of this it is possible to make the film one wants to make if one is prepared to struggle. The misconception that a film is worth something only if it’s a feature film is a dangerous mentality because it excludes many individual efforts that have resulted in very good cinema and it is important to be exposed to different kinds of cinema, because there is always something to learn. She felt that people who are in the field of filmmaking at least should not have such biases, especially because they are exposed to various kinds of cinema. It also depends on how one perceives filmmaking. Explaining this she said, “History is never one thing. Someone after all writes it and as soon as you change the author of a history, the history itself changes. In some sense writing film is like writing history… that’s why I think its important to read a lot of non- fiction and be interested in non-fiction, because non-fiction is just in fact stories about our reality that we tell ourselves…”

Speaking about writing she said that story telling is the same in non- fiction and fiction only the mode is different. For her film ‘Unlimited Girls’, which was about gender and feminism in the urban landscape, she had many conversations with women on the given topics and wrote the film for an audience that would relate to those concepts. She took care to not get embroiled in the ‘target audience’ canard, simply because she feels the term implies a ‘shoot to kill’ approach to Filmmaking. She perceives Filmmaking along with all the other Arts, to be a conversation and just as conversation can sometimes mean one party not understanding the other, what is essential is that one is able to say what one has the urge to say.

She advised the students to be aware of what kind of writers they are and be very clear about what they are good at and especially what they are not capable of. She suggested that they draw from people and places, not DVDs and literature. Concluding the lecture she said, “You have to become interested in people, in the way they speak, their opinions and their roles in a particular situation and story – if you want to tell real stories. Then you script your story in a way that allows for unplanned things to happen. The writing is done to create the shape of your film like a map, you can’t decide everything…”

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

SHARMISHTA ROY CONDUCTED A GUEST LECTURE ON THE SUBJECT OF ART DIRECTION IN CINEMA AT DIGITAL ACADEMY- THE FILM SCHOOL.

Sharmishta Roy, renowned Production Designer & Art Director conducted a guest lecture on Art Direction in Cinema at Digital Academy- The Film School, Mumbai.
 
 Sharmishta Roy has worked on movies like ‘Kuch Kuch Hota Hai’, ‘Kabhi Kushi Kabhi Gham’, ‘Gajagamini’, ‘Fiza’, ‘Mohabbatein’ and many more. She is the daughter of the illustrious Art Director Mr. Sudhendu Roy and one of the first women Art Directors in the Bollywood Film Industry.
 
Enumerating what Art Direction is all about Ms. Roy said, “The job of an Art Director is as important as that of the Cinematographer or Costume designer, because what we are doing is without speaking a single word, we are communicating the culture, socio-economic status and personality of the people in the story being told…” .The Director asks the Art Director to create an ambience. The job of an Art Director is to create an extension of the Director’s vision or perception of how he envisages a film. This involves looking up references, doing drawings based on research work that involves studying similar films, books or even nature. For the final execution the drawings are given to highly specialized people who can understand and analyze production drawings and finish making them in a very short period, they also keep the construction and finishing under the stipulated budget.
 
The process usually begins with a script narration by the Director, where he explains the dialogues, the scenario and the characters. The character sketches of almost all the characters are given to the cinematographer, costume designer and the art director, who sit together to design the character’s space, costume and ambience. Explaining this she said, “If the Director decides that the film is set in the 1950’s then the Production designer, which in India is the Art Director, decides the costumes, ambience, lighting and basically visualizes all the elements with the Director. Then he translates this onto paper and realizes the visualizations through a set designer, set constructor, set dresser and set prop designer…” So what the film looks like finally largely depends on the way the Art Direction is done. Every script can be interpreted in numerous ways; the final output primarily depends on who interprets the script in what way.   
 
Describing her work in ‘Mohabbatein’ she said that for Narayan Shankar’s character (played by Amitabh Bachchan) the ambience, lighting and costuming were made to suggest a rigidity and isolation in his personality, which was achieved by shooting his scenes in a monochromatic tone and contrasting them with the vibrant colorful parts of the students. Speaking about color she said, “You don’t have to be obvious with color, it doesn’t have to scream visually unless the script demands that… Each one of you will develop and have your own kind of styles and practices, some will work and some will not… but you have to be honest to the script and understand what it is about the story that you want to express…”
 
Like painting, every form of art is a means of expression. Film is a collaborative medium, so at every level of collaboration the film undergoes a change due to the inputs of the various professionals. Enumerating her understanding of what can jeopardize the sanctity of the final film she said, “A lot of my work earlier used to shout out and be boisterous, but with time I have realized that I should mellow down a little and let the film take over… with a certain degree of maturity and understanding I have begun to realize that I need to be humble enough to accept that my work should enhance the film and its characters, not function as a showcase for my talent…” She advised the students to work with groups that they feel comfortable and enthusiastic in, because the production time that lasts more than 7-9 months can become disastrous if the atmosphere is not inspiring.
 
Story boarding is an important process of Art Direction because it helps to visualize what is required, what is not and to eliminate many unnecessary costs. Even though the dominating star system controls a lot of the shot taking in the Indian industry, as an exercise story boarding helps to create a concise idea of the shots required so that economizing the shots can be easier and faster. Color finds its role in the shots, with this process. Each color has its own psychology and a specific physical reaction. Citing the Hollywood movie ‘The Sixth Sense’ she said, “In The Sixth Sense, the color red was used in every frame where a spirit was around, not blatantly but through subtle objects like doorknobs etc… So if I understand color theory and know how to use it then while I’m decorating I will tend to use the colors that are suggestive of the desired emotional reaction required in the scene…” She recommended the students to read books and material in color theory and to understand the significance of colors in different cultures, societies and other frameworks. She cautioned them against using color literally and urged them to understand the palette and wield it consistently and in an intelligent, balanced manner.
 
She stressed on the importance of communication in this field, especially between departments, because it is absolutely necessary that the work from all the departments comes together and functions in a cohesive manner. In some sense the Cinematographer and the Art Director complement each other. Explaining this she said, “A lot of times, the things that are discussed in the Direction department don’t reach the Art Director or the Cinematographer, leaving them in a lurch because if dialogues are changed or anything is changed, then they should ideally translate into changes from the Art Director, if they want to be true to a script and want to preserve a nuanced quality…”
 
She encouraged the students to think about Art Direction as a big responsibility wherein they have to design along with express through the visual framework the soul of a film. One of their key roles is to interpret characters and their spaces. Explaining this she said, “If I’m given a house to do up, then through the script I can imagine the temperament of the character and predict his space through that… but it is not just superficial structures that make up a space, you need to understand the nuances of a space, the influences and the history of a space to recreate it…” There is also a need to be honest to a story rather than ponder to what other people think is the best approach, so one must be sure about what one is trying to communicate.
 
It is essential for students to understand that each individual has a specialty or a forte, which he/she is good at, so an Art Director cannot do all kinds of films. That is why technicians should seriously consider each project that they do and not jump into each an every project that comes their way. As Ms. Roy’s parting advise, she said, “If you are not willing to take risks then you wont move ahead… Just remember to invest your time greatly in research, analysis and study as well as be quick thinking… figure out things, anticipate things… and when you think something is absolutely necessary for the film, try your best to communicate to and convince your Director to make or finish the set in the way that is required…”
 
 
For more information contact:
Tel. no.: +91-22-28257009/+91-22-28257008
%d bloggers like this: