Provoking Thought & Action – Seminars Held By Digital Academy – The Film School

Since our inception in 2002, Digital Academy – The Film School (DA) has endeavored to go beyond the conventionally defined charter of an educational institution. It is our belief that the responsibility of a center of excellence transcends the courses it teaches to the students enrolled. An institution must therefore reach out to a larger audience, for a bigger purpose than its primary role as an educator to its students.

 

The most coveted educational institutions have followed this same philosophy. To come to the aid of the industry they prepare students for, by provoking thought & action outside the boundaries of their own grounds. By advocating affirmative action, intellectual debate and discussion on pertinent issues. Schools like the Harvard Business School to institutions closer to home, like the IIM’s and IIT’s, regularly organize forums where students, teachers and industry leaders are united on a common platform to brainstorm, interact and find solutions to relevant topics.

 

At Digital Academy – The Film School, it has been our sincere effort to bring about the same level of opportunities and the same degree of out-of-class debate & discussion. To create events that shape the industry and prove to be the best possible platforms for detailed discussion on a range of subjects pertaining to the study of Film, the making of Film, and to the Film industry in general.

One such seminar that DA organized was on Post Graduation Diploma in Films & Television for the students of the Garware Institute, at the Kalina Campus. The seminar was conducted by award winning Spanish Cinematographer Dani Sanchez-Lopez, winner of the prestigious Cecil B DeMille award for his path-breaking Cinematography in the Film ‘Heal’. By bringing together a world renowned DOP amidst young students at Garware Institute, DA was proud to reiterate our commitment to Mumbai University and to the continuing interaction between students and Film personalities & Technicians.

At DA we understand our role as a center of excellence far extends the world class courses that we teach at the school. We need to be a motivator of positive thought and action. It is a constant and relentless pursuit at DA. One that you have to experience to believe!

A Path For Every Dream

Film Making is a complex and multidisciplinary medium. Different people have different aspirations, about the roles they want to play in the process. While some want to be Directors, others are more inclined visually, and want to be Cinematographers. While some want to express themselves in front of the camera as Actors, others want to create the characters that are being portrayed by being Script Writers. The facets are endless, but that’s where Digital Academy – The Film School, gives you the winning edge.

 

At DA, we understand and appreciate each facet of the Film making process. And like our infrastructure and teaching talents are not restricted, neither are the courses on offer. We have put a lot of time, thought, and effort, into designing courses that address each aspect of the Film world. The only thing left for you to do, is to decide which one, and commit to your dream!

For the hungry young Director, it is crucial to have an understanding in each of the filmmaking specializations. Because only then can that person truly serve as the captain of the creative ship. Our Film Making course does exactly that, by providing theoretical & practical learning in the areas of Cinematography, Sound, Editing, Acting, Production Design & Production. Spread over 6 months, this intensive training yields only the best amateur Film makers, that are eager to make the next big epic.

Like the detailed plan for a new building that’s to be constructed, the Script, or screenplay in film terms, is like the constitution of any film. Our Scripting course hones in the nuances of screenplay writing in budding writers over a rigorous 52 session program.

 

To make a Film from scratch to finish, writing your own story and then Filming it, DA offers the Film & Television Direction Course. The emphasis here is on independent study, learning through the writing of an ‘original’ Screenplay and the making of a Film.

If it is the poetry of images that moves you, DA presents the Cinematography course. After all, in a visual medium like Film, it is the moving images, that ultimately move & engage the viewer. Not only will you get hands-on practical training in Film and digital cameras, along with extensive lensing and lighting practicals, but will also get a rigorous input in the aesthetics of image making.

 

Editing, that all-important function that decides how you will be told the story. The where, when, why and how of everything on screen. Editors are not just technicians, but the real story tellers of a film. DA’s Film & Television Editing course will provide hands-on practical training using FCP and Avid Express DV, and the fundamental and aesthetic principles of non-linear editing for Film and Television.

What would a Film be without sound? Not only would one not hear the dialogue, one would have no atmosphere without sound. DA’s Sound Recording & Engineering course provides technical & creative training, by employing state-of-the-art equipment used in professional studios. The art of music programming and recording as an independent art is also taught here.

Acting is to Film what a race car driver is to the racing team. He or she is the driver of the Film and the story. At DA, the Acting course offers a comprehensive course in which we try to hone the skills as well as recondition the minds of the students so that they may perform to the best of their abilities and become great Actors that embody and exemplify the Film’s story.

 

Production, the actual logistics of Film-making. Distribution, the physical spread of the finished Film. Exhibition, the actual mass screening of the Film. All crucial aspects that fall under the purview of an increasingly involved, inventive, and creative Producer. The Producer’s Course at DA delves deeply into all these aspects. We offer the expertise that will gain a steady and lucrative entry for the students as independent professionals or as parts of a commercial set-up.

With that comprehensive list of course choices; Digital Academy – The Film School, offers the most updated and in depth training possible in Films. We like to say, if you have a Film dream, we’ll put you on the right path!

 

How To Analyze A Character & Play It Perfectly

Do actors play a character, or do they play themselves as a character? That is the eternal question an actor faces when analyzing a written character and deciding how best to portray it. And while this process of analysis is the primary job of an actor; there are no hard and fast rules of how to do it.

Different actors have different methods. Take some of the world’s most iconic and accomplished actors. Some, like Aamir Khan, use ‘method acting’; where they immerse themselves in the skin of the character. They try and live their characters by behaving and embodying the part. Like Robert De Niro’s famous portrayal of the boxer in Raging Bull, for which he went through not just an emotional and psychological transformation, but also a physical variation by putting on and loosing weight.

Then there are more instinctive actors who try and find aspects of their own personalities in the characters they are to play. An acting giant such as Meryl Streep is one such actor, who relies completely on instinct (not preparation in advance), to play her characters. Says she, “Acting is not about being someone different. It’s finding the similarity in what is apparently different, then finding myself in there.” Similarly, Craig MacDonald is of the opinion that, “The best acting is instinctive. It’s not intellectual, it’s not mechanical, it’s instinctive.”

 Whatever your method may be – getting into the skin of the character, or playing it by instinct; one thing that runs common in playing any character, is a certain amount of analysis. And it is that analysis in which an actor’s interpretive powers come in. Its all about creative imagination, with a caveat of being realistic. Actors and their interpretations will always vary. Take the film Ghajni for example – while Surya played the memory-loss protagonist in the Tamil original a certain way, the same character was played very differently by Aamir Khan in the hindi blockbuster remake. Which was better, is also a matter of subjective opinion.

What however is not a matter of debate, is that learning the true art of character analysis and portrayal, requires years of training. And this process ought to be studied in a scientific and methodical manner. Reading books, observing great actors, are things that will always help. But by taking a program at an accomplished film academy will instill an erudite, informed, and in depth manner of really getting into the character analysis process, and then manifesting those learnings in an engaging performance.

Aspiring actors in India today have that opportunity in the form of world class film academies, that will hone their raw skills and polish them to shine like sparkling diamonds. Give your passion for acting the education it deserves, and see your creativity flourish… after all…

Without wonder and insight, acting is just a business. With it, it becomes creation.
~ Bette Davis

 

How To Mold A Story That Appeals To The Audience

As a story teller or script-writer, it is your prerogative to put forth the story that you want to tell. But while that is your undisputed right; it is also incumbent on you to tell a story that engages the audience, involves the viewer, and engrosses cinema-goers. How do you ensure that the story you are telling, one that is extremely personal to you, meets the criteria to holding the audience captive? By following some simple rules.

 

  1. A Real Story – Whatever your story may be, if you root it in real people, and real situations; it will immediately be identified with, and that will make it engrossing to the audience. That is not to say it must be sweet and rosy. It could be negative too. But it must be true. People can tell if a story is contrived or cooked up. Because in life, the themes that exist are only so many. Writing a story that borrows from real life and real people; even if it may be set in fantasy, is the way to go. People want to see real emotions.

  2. Entertaining – The other key aspect to build into your story, is entertainment. Again, that is not to say that your story need not be serious, or intellectual, or poignant. Take the greatest films for example. Lets take Salaam Bombay by Mira Nair. Now that’s a gritty, somewhat sad story of the street life in Mumbai. But it is full of entertaining moments. And that’s what engages people. Because it is the entertainment that makes even the most serious story, palatable to a movie-going audience

  3. Intelligent – People are not stupid. So give them credit for a certain level of intelligence, and don’t mock it in your story. People appreciate that you have faith in them to understand what you are trying to say.

  4. Visual – Especially for script-writers in film, being a visual medium, write minimum dialogue, and use visuals to tell the story instead of too much talking. Its a cliche but true, that a picture speaks a thousand words. Use that. And you will definitely engage your audience.

  5. Character – Last, and perhaps the most important – to really engage an audience in your story, you need to have strong characters. People are not perfect, so don’t have perfect characters. Your characters, at least the primary characters, must have flaws, and their own individual stories, that receive as much attention if not more, than the plot of the story. People need to see real characters with problems, and to seem them develop and change over time. At the end of the day, its the only thing that guarantees an engaging experience.

 

Keeping all these pointers in mind, you can still write exactly the story you want to tell. Because rather than being impediments, these are the very rules that will help you write a much better & more effective story. So go ahead, and tell your tale!

 

How To Write Beautiful Scripts

What makes a great film? Of course there have to be great performances from the actors, sound direction from the director, and beautiful cinematography from the cinematographer. But before all of that, and perhaps most importantly, there must be, a great script. So the onus of a great film, with a captivating story, falls on the ingenious and inventive script-writing abilities of the script-writer. So how does one write compelling scripts?

 

  1. Honest, Real Life Stories: Truth is always the most compelling. The plot might be fictitious, but the basic stories that one writes, the characters that one creates, need to be rooted in real life. That’s when people identify and empathize with the characters and with the story

  2. Discipline: On a slightly different note, but equally important, is the discipline of writing. Writing a script is no easy feat. One has to commit to it wholeheartedly, and devise a schedule that one follows religiously. Only disciplined training can yield good writing

  3. Conflicts & Character Arcs: One’s story needs to have a main character. And that main character needs to have a flaw. For example, if there is a father & son story, the flaw of the father might be that he is too hard on his son. But if this flaw remains true until the end, the story becomes much less involving. Instead, if the character evolves, and by the end of the film, realizes that he was too hard on his son and is willing to change; the story becomes a lot more believable, and then the involvement from the audience is rewarded with the change that comes about in that character. No one wants to see one dimensional characters. Change and evolution are imperative to a good script

  4. Pacing: The structural pacing of a script is extremely important as well. Too often, one feels that a film was very gripping until the interval, and then lost its hold – or vice-versa. For this, the script needs to be written with a keen eye for its pacing – by providing plot points and story aspects just the right amount of screen time as they deserve.

  5. Education: And finally, to truly master all the above tips; the best way is to get a great script-writing education. There are too many nuances and facets to script-writing. And by learning the art & science of script writing at a professional school from seasoned writers; will give you an in depth and thorough understanding of how to develop stories, characters, and screenplays

We often feel that we have a story that needs to be told. A story that begs to be made into a film. But to truly turn that idea into a viable and engaging script requires hard work, discipline, creativity, and a number of writing basics. With the right background, it is all possible. So when are you going to tell your story?

Return of the Studio System in Indian Cinemas?

Indian cinema started as an individual’s passion and slowly turned into a segment of family entrepreneurship. People like Harishchandra Sakharam Bhatwadekar, who took up the helms of Indian Documentary Production in the 1890s, Hiralal Sen in Calcutta and Dadasaheb Phalke in Kolhapur, who experimented a lot in theatre recording and mythico-social fiction Films, were Film makers who used their family, friends and servants as crew and Actors. In a way, the initial years of Indian Film making was modeled on the Hindu joint family structure and not as a capital venture.

As the idea of the talkie slowly crept in, during the 1930s, a need for conglomeration was felt. The model of America was available as reference – the capitalist model of assembly system for manufacture. At that time, India was going through an unpredictable economic change. On one hand, the rural self-sufficient economy had broken down and on the other hand, Gandhi’s call for self-promotion in the form of indigenous industries and products had led to the emergence of a pro-active and intelligent business class striving for a free India.

(Image Courtesy: http://www.wikipedia.org)

Film industry, at the hands of Phalke and his followers, was at best a flourishing cottage industry without the promise of a continuous return. Film makers such as Ardeshir Irani and Chunilal Munim tried to get a bank loan for their projects. But as a completely unorganized industry, Cinema posed a big risk for prospective investors. Also, the whole idea of Film making, especially by Indians, was unacceptable to the conservative British. As an upstart art-form, Cinema wasn’t held in high-esteem by the elite British. With Gujarati and Parsee banias as financiers of the Films, and technicians as well as Actors coming from the lower classes, cinema was ill-reputed from the start.

With the advent of sound, similar problems were addressed in the United States. Five major and the three minor studios started controlling production, distribution and exhibition of their movies. At no point was the control of the Film out of their hands. Any uncertainty of selling the Film and showing it to a full-scale audience could be ruled out. Screenwriters, Directors, Cinematographers, Editors, Music Composers and especially the actors became members of the studio’s paid staff.

(Image Courtesy: http://www.songsvibe.in)


A similar need to connect the Film industry to modern capital was strongly felt in Bombay and Calcutta. Studio system, as a fool-proof company structure stepped in to remedy the bank’s lack of support and the problem of under-capitalization in the industry. In a way, that gave a certain legitimacy to the not-so-elite essence of Cinema in India.

As a result , state-of-the-art equipments could be purchased and used. Also, technical experiments and innovations as well as experiments in ideas were encouraged. Playback system started in a studio in Calcutta called New Theatres, much before it started in Hollywood. Different colour processes, like Technicolor and Metrocolor, were tried out. New innovations from Hollywood were incorporated in Indian studios. And then the first stars appeared.

The first trio of stars from Indian cinema, Raj Kapoor, Dilip Kumar and Dev Anand, were products of the studio system to start with. However, as their careers progressed and a major chunk of the audience started equating the stars with their Films, studio system led to an era of stars. This was due to the intake of large venture capital in the form of black money. Quite a few newcomers entered the industry as financiers/Producers. But they were interested in making a portion of their money legal and not in a sustainable growth of the industry through a disciplined, charted out process as taken by studio owners.

Under pressure, major studios like New Theatres, Vassan Studios (later Gemini Pictures), Bombay Talkies, Prabhat, Ranjit Movietones and a bunch of others either closed down or changed their operation from movie production to another niche.

(Image Courtesy: http://bit.ly/uTXOQp)

It was at this time when the Indian government stepped in to support Film Production, distribution and exhibition through organizations like Films Division, NFDC, PSBT and other similar bodies in the 1950s. However, there used to be a pro-State propagandist stance in the Films produced and exhibited by the government. Cinema being the biggest machinery for hegemony in the post-independence years, only certain expressions of mind were allowed.

Mainstream cinema of 60s and 70s, specially the Angry Young Man Films, were silently supported by the government program of integration and subordination. In the 80s, the theme of corruption, anger, inequality, underworld and romance continued. Indian cinema was not genre based then. Terms such as masala movies were coined keeping this phenomenon in mind.

Indian cinema became too parochial in this period. Bollywood became the other name of Indian Cinema, flanked by the alternate, art-house Indian new wave Films, most of which weren’t properly distributed or exhibited outside Film festivals and failed to pull a crowd. There was almost no variation in the mainstream themes. Even though both non-mainstream and parallel cinemas had really interesting stories to offer, their presentation was mostly off-the-mark and boring for the uninitiated audience.

In the post-2000 scenario, with easy access to movies with better sound and picture quality which could be watched at home, old theatres started dying. But interesting changes were occurring in the Indian retail marketplace. Shopping malls began sprouting up in every major city in India. They offered a panoply of choices under a single roof and a cozy tour across designed spaces in the weekend. These malls became meeting joints and the hub for all activities for the youth. They were the new public squares where all kinds of enjoyment and socialization was possible.

(Image Courtesy: http://bit.ly/vMivRT )

As the way to incorporate foreign venture capitals in Indian industries, American and European companies started coming to India for collaborations in the entertainment business. Companies like Reliance, Mahindra and Mahindra and UTV started operating in a structured way, reminiscent of studios in the 30s. As Bollywood became a burgeoning brand, owing to the large expat groups in the Western world, many production-distribution companies like Pathé, Channel 4, Warner Bros, Disney and Fortissimo Films started showing interest in collaborating with Indian entertainment companies. It was unimaginable, even in 2000, that every week a host of Bollywood Films could be commercially shown in theatres across Germany, Netherlands, France, America and UK.

So how do these corporates differ from the previous single Producer system in approach? The answer is simple – neatness of activities and a proper business orientation with domain knowledge. During the star system, Films were produced by short-sighted businessmen who wanted a quick profit in exchange for their unaccounted money. Staleness of thought and repetition of themes crept in easily. New corporate Film houses changed this habit. Habits of financial transparencies changed. But more noticeable was the changes in stories and the way the movies were shot. It was impossible to imagine something like Ishqiya, Band Baaja Baaraat or Delhi Belly a few years back.

As new players took over during the period of globalization, models for sustainable growth were chalked out. The new corporate structures are based on modern American Film studios. In a way, this is the second coming of the old studio system with the difference that, barring a few exceptions, the companies aren’t family bound. The studio system in India was like a feudal structure while the new corporate model is capitalistic. With fresh talent from Film schools joining these companies the current picture looks more pro-youth.

(Image Courtesy: http://bit.ly/uaZRRX)


However, like anything that’s new, the corporate structure has some problems too. Some companies are under the impression that entertainment can be run just like any other business and they tend to undermine creativity. Creativity can be controlled but can never be methodical. That would be similar to controlling the human psyche in a flowcharted manner. Mystery and beauty lies in this randomness. The old studios understood this and gave birth to some of the most beautiful works from Indian Cinema. The star system of the 50s made fixed patterns stronger with the help of stars. People used to come to the theatre to get entertained, even though they already knew the story. That was pleasure for an audience that had a limited choice for entertainment.

However, the Indian audience of the new millennium is smarter. They are consumers with a variety of choices. With the advent of so many TV channels, websites and social networking sites, it is very difficult to keep the audience glued to the big screen. So an organized market research, market segmentation, vertical and horizontal combinations in the market are mandatory to survive today. With companies like Big Pictures creating theatre chains across India and in US, the return of the studio system in the new guise of the corporate has arrived. It is for the new generation of Film lovers, like us, to see if it sustains. 

Angry Young Man and His Troubled Relationship with his Father

Indian cinema’s Angry Young Man surfaced in the 1973 blockbuster Zanjeer. It also hailed the end of a generation of cinema that celebrated the stability and status quo India was facing in the late ‘50s and ‘60s.

The Angry Young Man, in the avatar of Amitabh Bachchan in Bollywood and Rajnikant in Tamil Cinema, was a superhero of the common man’s dream. He was just an aam aadmi (common man), with powers and weaknesses of a regular human being, who has decided to act. As normal Indians are afraid of challenging their fate in reality, the Angry Young Man fulfilled the dream they could vicariously live.

However, the Angry Young Man, especially the roles played by Amitabh Bachchan, has a special distinction. He is almost always with an absent or a dead father. And when the father is present, he is in a deeply troubled relationship with him.

Let us probe this issue a little more. In more than fifty films, from Zanjeer (1973) to the recent Bbuddah Hoga Terra Baap (2011), the Angry Young Man’s character tries to restore justice, honour and dignity for himself, his family and the people around him. Except for Inquilab (1984), his fight concerns the personal space of family. And in India, who is the archetypal head of the family?

Modeled on a feudal outlook, the post-independence Indian Government framed all types of taxation, laws and governance policies, primarily on the basis of an undivided family; be it Hindu or Muslim. The unquestionable authority of the Prime Minister, other Ministers, the Supreme Court, its Judges and the Police entail from such an outlook.

The tapering figure of the father figure is central to a society and its citizens. In America, there may be a faltering loyalty to Uncle Sam. But in India, it is the father who wields the law.

In Lacanian Psychology, a male child constructs his identity throughout his growing years, by internalizing the name of the father. In short, the name of the father can be equated to the child’s position in the lawful order of the society, in its norms and customs. In contrast, an imaginary father is the figure that sets the child out to the world, alone and cut off from the peace of his mother’s lap… the blissful security lost after the child becomes adult.

In all the films from the Angry Young Man genre, Amitabh or Rajnikant, crave to return to their mother’s lap. In Deewar, the character Vijay, in his last words to his mother, says “Tujhse dur rehkar mujhe kabhi neend nahi aayi maa! Main kabhi nahi so saka maa! Aaj phir mera sar tumhari god mein hai maa. Ek bar phir mujhe sula do maa!” (I could never sleep staying away from you mom! I could never really sleep. Today, again, my head is in your lap. Put me to sleep once again!). By killing or compromising the imaginary father, and making peace with symbolic father, the Angry Young Man finishes his journey in his mother’s lap, thus finishing a cycle of action with his real father.

When the real, imaginary and symbolic fathers can not be separated, the Angry Young Man emerges. In a very simplistic, almost fairy tale overview of life, this almost always happens in Bollywood.

Among all the Angry Young Man films, Amitabh’s character actually has a real but a flawed father only in Laawaris (1981), Sharaabi (1984) Aakhree Raasta (1986) and most significantly Shakti (1982). Only four out of around fifty films where he played the role of an Angry Young Man. In almost all other films, the father is dead, mostly killed by an enemy, thus setting Vijay (meaning Victory, Amitabh’s name in most of the movies belonging to this genre) on a road to vengeance.

But that does not make the Angry Young Man’s disturbed relationship with the father a myth. In the absence of a real father, the child clutches the imaginary father in a very ambivalent way and makes it a friend and an enemy both. In officially first film of the Angry Young Man genre, Zanjeer, the hero (Vijay, again) grows up to be a police officer who’s obsessed with upholding the law (the imaginary father’s one side) and wiping out evil(the imaginary father’s other side). To complete the journey, the hero must know the name of the father. Hence, in Zanjeer, as in Shahenshah (1987), he decides to punish the bad on his own. However, it is significant that he never negates the law. He merely supplements its execution.

In this way, the Angry Young Man’s journey never collides with the ideology of the powerful class or that of the State. In fact, it is not surprising that this character was nurtured more carefully in the post-emergency India, as he talks in favour of tradition, a classless society and power structure. The hero rarely talks about bigger issues. Even when he does, as in Coolie (1982) or Inquilab (1984), he is more concerned about solving his personal problems. That actually made the character a sociological stereotype and called for a change in Bollywood’s prime genre at the end of the ‘80s, which gave birth to the dark hero, as in Baazigar (1993) or Khalnayak (1993).

The hero wants to salvage his pride (because of birth), bad karma (for good means) and lack of security as he grows up. Hence, even in a romantic film like Mili (1975), the Angry Young Man’s psyche surfaces, and the reason is the same – a shame of father’s (or parents’) deed. The ultimate goal is always to be at peace with the father, real or symbolic, by the end of the film.

Hence, it’s not surprising that nowadays the Angry Young Man comes back as the father figure himself. From a Fruedian point of view, that is how it should happen. At the end of the journey the child succeeds in becoming the father himself.

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