Standing on the shoulders of Giants: AISFM goes to Bologna

Masters student Varun Chaphekar was selected by AISFM to be a part of a three-week filmmaking workshop by the International Filmmaking Academy in Bologna.

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International students of the three-week filmmaking workshop hosted by the International Filmmaking Academy in Bologna

It was a jam-packed schedule and it went non-stop from the moment they all said hello. The group participating comprised 13 students in all, from various universities from the US, UK, South Korea, Prague, Canada, China and India.

The three-week workshop was divided into masterclasses and the ongoing Bologna Film Festival; Il Cinema Ritrovato, organised by Cineteca Di Bologna.

Week one concentrated on the film festival where everyone attended screenings in an open square. There were times where they had live musicians play while they screened silent movies. It was as European as it could get.

Some of the movies shown were, Gian Vittorio Baldi’s Fuoco! (1968), Francesco Rosi’s Salvatore Guiliano (1961), Marcel Carne’s Le Jour Se Leve or Daybreak (1939), Jean Renoir’s unfinished film, A Day in the Country (1936), Andrzej Wajda’s Samson (1961), Xie Jin’s Two Stage Sisters (1964) and the highlight for Varun, was Eric Von Stroheim’s, The Merry Widow (1925) because it was accompanied by the Austrian Orchestra!

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The Austrian Orchestra playing the score to The Merry Widow

Week one was spent watching a lot of these movies and going back the next morning to discuss and analyse the films from a filmmaker’s point of view with the Vice-President of the International Filmmaking Academy (IFA), Owen Shapiro.

In the middle of the first week, the participants also got to attend an interview with Costa Gravas, best known for films with overt political themes and most famously known for the fast-paced thriller Z. He was also supposed to be one of the Master Teachers for the workshop, but due to unavoidable circumstances, he has to go back to Brazil on post production work.

Varun calls him an ‘extremely sweet and gentle’ person who came and shared his experiences, hardships, controversial background, his film education working with Rene Claire and his views about the Nouvelle Vague filmmakers.

The following weeks had sessions with four master teachers. Dani Menkin, an Israeli documentary filmmaker who’s directed films like 39 Pounds Of Love, The Dolphin Boy and JeT’aime, I Love You Terminal. Diao Yinan, writer of Shower and director of Uniform, Night Train and Black Coal, Thin Ice. Gian Vittorio Baldi, a well-known European filmmaker who has directed many films and shorts since the 1960s and produced films of Robert Bresson, Jean Luc Godard and Pier Paolo Passolini, to name a few and Gian Luca Baldi, a music composer who has recently composed a new score  for Charlie Chaplin’s The Gold Rush, 2012.

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A movie being screened on the streets of Bologna during the festival

There was a lot of learning over the three weeks! The importance of having a passionate team and a bond that needs to be built with your team, a three-act structure in documentaries which makes it much more appealing and the importance of detailing, time that needs to be spent on pre-production work, tips on working with professional actors, the importance of location and much more.

While they worked on assignments, participants explored the city and the culture and had a chance to head out of Bologna to Venice and Florence and the three-week session ended with a gala dinner, gelato ice-cream and lots of hugs! Bonds were created which they hope will last a lifetime.

Here are Varun’s key takeaways

  • Being friends with, and knowing a person who comes from a completely different cultural background in itself is a fascinating experience. I had the privilege of knowing 12 very different personalities in Bologna. The amount of learning I got through this experience was quite unique and it is something which will stay with me forever.
  • Getting the opportunity to interact with legendary filmmakers was another outstanding experience. We stand on the shoulders of giants like them who have made films that have either changed or affected people’s lives in different ways and that’s what we aspire to achieve through filmmaking.
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Varun with Gian Vittorio Baldi

The best pieces of advice you received

  • Be humble in your achievements.
  • Create things with simplicity; it is extremely underrated. Something that seems to be disappearing in today’s day and age. The importance of static shot in filmmaking, for example.
  • During collaboration, spend a lot of time with your collaborators to get to know each other. People will deliver what you want even without you uttering a word to them, when you create that bond and understanding outside of work.

Favourite moment from the entire trip

Oh there are many! Every Wednesday, Thursday and Friday in a street called Via Mascarella, the atmosphere was so intimate, with jazz and local food! Everything there revolves around four restaurants; the Bravo Caffè, the Cambusa Restaurant (Ristorante Cambusa), the Moustache and the Cantina Bentivoglio. I will fondly remember is the city itself, Bologna is all about music (street music, in particular) and food.

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