Hollywood VFX Expert Phaneendra Gullapalli at AISFM

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AISFM had a Master Class with Mr. Phaneendra Gullapalli, a Hollywood VFX expert, and a member of the team that won an Oscar for the Hollywood film The Curious Case of Benjamin Button for visual effects. Phaneendra  has also worked on visual effects for movies like 2012, Mummy-III, Transformers-II, Tron: Legacy, Star Trek: Into Darkness, Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief and many more. Students enjoyed the interactive and engaging session with the expert greatly.

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Speaking about his journey from Vijayawada to Hollywood, he recounted how he fell in love with animation & visual effects early on in his life. He kept pursuing his passion inspite of being rejected four times for internships at famous Hollywood studios. The secret to his sustenance and success? He says “One third of your life is spent at your workplace and I didn’t want to pursue something that I was not happy with. I wanted to pursue my passion, so I took up animation. Some people give up after a setback. I didn’t because there is a thin line between winning and losing.”

What level of artistic instincts and capabilities, and how much technical skills should a person have, asked a student to which he said that “it is good to have both backgrounds if possible; artists and technologists together is a good combination.”

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Speaking about the process of visual effects in a typical film, he gave a walkthrough of his role of expertise in the process of filmmaking. He demonstrated how with Halon virtual camera, wherein you shoot your film before you shoot your film live. This method was used on projects like Bahubali, where by this previsualizataion, lot of production cost can be saved as the director can pre-emptively make changes to his visualization, rather than trying out his ideas on expensive sets.

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‘When do you come into the picture?’ was another question posed. “VFX and post production are collaborators right from Stage 1 and on a daily basis,” he said and cited an example of Bahubali, “We would shoot 10 to 12 shots for the scene and Director Rajamouli would pick one for the final scene.”

Talking about the role of a VFX supervisor, he said that he ensures that each scene is shot as per the requirement. “In Mummy III, the green screen was blue instead of green, so it is the supervisor’s job to ensure such things don’t happen.”

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Phaneendra also shared tips and tricks used in the industry and said that to tackle the challenges of lighting conditions, a chrome ball can be used and software like Nuke, Maya or Houdini. Talking about the work culture in Hollywood, he said “the culture is a lot different in Hollywood and there is no hierarchy per se but it is more about the role/job description of each individual on the team.”

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What happens towards the end of a shoot, how does an editor receive the scenes? To this, he said that actors have reference points and so do the VFX artists. “For example in the movie The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, we wanted to show an old man’s body and Brad Pitt’s face, so we shot two different portions of the same scene and Brad’s face was superimposed on it.” He went on to add that directing actors is also a fundamental requirement for VFX artists and said “In Mummy III, there is a scene where the demon is holding a sword, to make it more powerful, we made the hand holding the sword shake, which was the improvisation of the VFX artist.”

Sharing his thoughts on the current entertainment industry in India, which is growing at a rapid pace, he said, “These are certainly exciting times as the industry is evolving with new platforms for storytellers like Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality. Example: Mr Rajamouli embraced virtual reality on his last feature film Bahubali2 and you can check it out here http://baahubali.com/vr/

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Content vs Technology, your take on the right balance required to succeed?  To this, he said, “Working on various tent-pole Hollywood feature films I have learnt that story is paramount. Every Hollywood director that I worked with used technology as a tool to create visual experiences that stand out which I believe is striking the right balance.”

What is your favorite movie in terms of animation/VFX and in the ones that he has worked? For this, he shared, “I’ve spend almost two years of my life working on Tron Legacy which is no doubt my favorite feature film till date that I worked on.”

Sharing his thoughts about AISFM and its facilities, Phaneendra said, “I’m impressed with AISFM’s facilities during my tour and believe AISFM is second to none. AISFM is in good hands with Mr. Bala Raj steering the ship with his phenomenal Hollywood industry & academic experience. I hope students will leverage the AISFM’s facilities, resources and personnel.”

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His advice to aspiring professionals in this field, “Focusing on foundations and fundamentals will enable students to adapt to the ever evolving industry and help them be at the forefront at any given time. For example: Virtual Production never existed prior to feature films like Avatar and today it’s pretty much the standard and integral part of film-making process.”

Closing the master class, Phaneendra gave some words of advice, “Job opportunities in other areas like virtual reality and augmented reality are now there to connect to the consumers. If you are up to speed with these latest technologies, then you have more chances. There are lot of applications in diverse areas – like Apple X has IR tech etc. The gaming industry is also garnering a lot of interest, and training in these areas is a good idea.” He further added, “Networking and working hard is very important and of course there is no stopping to your learning curve.”

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The art of ‘screening’ it right!

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Film post-production is not just about the editing, sound design, VFX and DI processes. It is the workflow at the end of the above processes that if got right, makes ‘all the’ difference for the screening of a film in the theatre; more than ever in today’s era of Digital Cinema where technology is evolving constantly!

Most student filmmakers are mainly fascinated with the selection of the cameras that they are shooting in, the audio-visual editing aesthetics and the color correction during the DI stage.

But what exactly happens AFTER DI and audio mixing?

Do the files come back to the editor?

Who is responsible for the final audio visual syncing and theatrical exhibition?

How do we ensure that the audience across the oceans see the uniform color and look that we strived for during the shoot and post processes?

How does it reach a theatre/multiple theatres across the globe at the same time?

How do the theatre calibrations affect the sound and visual delivery?

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For the benefit of the students, a Master Class was conducted by the AISFM Editing Department, where Kishore Reddy, General Manager, Marketing and Operations, Qube Cinema Technologies, held an interactive and engaging Master Class session titled – “Why Digital Cinema,” where all these questions and more were answered along with a historical perspective. Qube Cinema is a company that has vast experience in the production, post-production and exhibition industries. A subsidiary of India-based Real Image Media Technologies, Qube Cinema draws on decades of domain expertise in the media and entertainment space.

The specialised technical Master Class workshop was for the senior edit, cine, sound and MBA students and covered varied topics like Necessity of Digital Cinema and DCI, Process workflow of Digital Cinema (finishing and distribution stage), Pipeline from the DI post facility to the theatre screens, brief overview of the different stages, Colour and delivery standards/ parameters + Cross conversions, Standardisation, Prevalent data packaging formats (DCP, DCDM, etc.), Servers (QUBE, SCRABBLE, UFO, etc.), Understanding  different types of audio calibration in theatres (Dolby – 5.1/ 7.1/ Atmos/ Auro, etc.), Projectors, Digital Theatre Broadcast (transmission) and decryption, etc.

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Adherence to intense encryption methods/processes and regulations for data security was stressed, with case studies of film piracy.  Business models for producers and distributors were also discussed.

Students thoroughly enjoyed the Master Class and interacted with Mr. Kishore Reddy to learn more about the field of theatrical exhibition.  He also discussed about the DCP options available to the student filmmakers.

Veteran Editor Marthand Venkatesh @ AISFM

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Working with the best, interacting and learning from industry professionals in an important part of education at AISFM. Veteran Telugu film editor Marthand K. Venkatesh who has edited more than 400 feature films, conducted a Master Class for our students.

Life experiences and social awareness are his biggest teachers, which have sculpted his societal positioning and aesthetics in his edits across genres. A third generation filmmaker, he interacted with the students at length about the learnings of his editing career. More than 80% of his films have been extremely successful at the box office.

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He bagged prestigious Nandi Award as the best editor for films like Tholi Prema, Daddy, Pokiri and Arundhati. He shared his insights into the industry including his personal aesthetic conflicts as a filmmaker and the balance he attempts to strike in his editor-director relationships.

Making his expertise available to budding editors, enlightening them about common editorial concerns and sharing his trade secrets through advice was the crux of his Master Class. While all the students benefited greatly from his session, a few students have penned down their reflections about their learning experience. Read on to find out what our students have to say.

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Mahesh Gaddam, (4thYear, BFA, Editing + Direction Specialization)
“We learnt many important things during the workshop; like: Work flow – Editing the first cut of the film on the basis of just the visual intensity of the rusheswithout knowing the story or having the director guidance gives a fresh approach and visualization.

Repeated analysis of cut in silence (without sound) makes you understand the flaws in the edit. Each key character gets a different pattern according to their characterization, (where we discussed an example from the film Happy Days).

When the film is based on a specific character’s journey, the editor has to focus on that character and emphasis more on his arc. (Here we discussed the film Fidaa).

Edit suite is the “first auditorium” and the footage has to excite the editor.

Over usage of opticals (transitions) is spoiling the content in contemporary film making.”

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Chaitanya Khairkar, (2nd Year, MA, Editing + Direction Specialization)

“The best part about the masterclass was that he was vocal about his thoughts and gave us knowledge about how the real film industry works. He didn’t sugar-coat or mince his words, instead told us about the real commercial side of the film industry. He shared his knowledge about his motivation for cuts, the internal and external rhythm of the scene as well the characters.

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He spoke about the difference in his approach for different films, for e.g. His approach was different for Pokiri than that for Billa; Pokiri was rougher whereas Billa had a more stylish flavour to it. He also shared his thoughts about his recent release Fidaa, and explained how the first half of the film was different from the second half; how the cuts relate to the protagonists of the film, while the ‘Hero’ had smooth cuts, the ‘Heroine’ had abrupt and quick cuts to it and her character was more bubbly and lively, as lightning speed.

He explained his working pattern, where he mentioned that he does not take part in pre-production stage of the films; he avoids listening to the story of the film before the edit, and he does the first cut of the film all by himself not allowing the director to take part in it initially. He also gave tips for the freshers who are trying to get into the industry, and explained the job of an assistant editor.”

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Athul Prabhakaran, (4th Year, BFA, Editing + Direction Specialization)

“Mr Venkatesh believes if everyone does their job to work for the film’s best, then the film will obviously work, any sign for the addition of just aesthetics and not story is not what he encourages. When the edit is first received, he gets his assistants to set up scenes with the good and bad and then comes in to edit. He reviews this finally with the director of the film to completely achieve the perfection the film deserves, sometimes with a lot of healthy arguments and discussions and so forth. He says that the director may stop a personal style from coming in. But it’s never bad to try, only that the final word comes from a director who is confident. The other people who may influence your edit design may be the cast members or the producers who panic and jump to editorial decisions. This may be seen as working for individual characters but not for the entire story.

He thinks commercial action films do not require much intellectual thought into how they are set up. It’s always fast paced with structures that hit marks. Editing films by filmmakers like Shekar Kammula is what gets him going as he gets to explore characters through edits. In Happy Days he set up a style of edit for different characters. In Fidaa the lead character in the girl takes the films narrative pace.

We spoke about silences and how they are really important. As easy as action films are, if they don’t have any silences in them, they tend to get loud and this can be down played with comedic scenes or emotional sequences. Silences, he says should also guide in edits without music or sound designs; they will allow for places that show a lag.”

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Abhishek Khapre, (3rd Year, BFA, Editing + Direction Specialization)

“Mr. Marthand explained his own way of editing films. He talked about treating movies of different genres in different ways. For example, an action film is cut or paced a little faster than something like a “feel good” movie or a family film, which has slower cuts to help the audience absorb the emotions. This, he feels, is a difficult task. An editor should feel the pulse of such films and edit intuitively to bring out the required emotion.

Moreover, each character is also treated in different ways by Mr. Marthand to bring out their characteristics. He gave an example of keeping two frames of lag for the hero, two frames of lag for the heroine and maybe 4-5 frames of lag for the antagonist. This creates a difference each time the character is seen on screen. He also talked about using different transitions and optics for different characters, e.g. dissolve for some, speeding up the footage for some, and using straight “visible” cuts for others.

Lastly Mr. Marthand talked about knowing the demography the movie will cater too. This may change the editing pattern. If the movie has a famous cast, then the editing pattern may change for a commercial movie as it has to cater to a specific audience. If the cast is not that well-known then the editing pattern changes along with the expectation of the audience.

Overall Mr. Marthand held a productive session and gave an insight into the Telugu film industry and the job of an editor in the industry.”

Master Class with Veteran Film Writer Akella

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Master classes are always looked forward to, by our students. For it is the value that the master class setup brings; all students benefit from the master’s comments on a subject and get expert advice, while still learning the finer nuances of their art. They also help students network and plan their future career development.

This time it was a Master Class by the veteran and versatile creative artist and film writer, Akella Venkata Suryanarayana, popularly known as ‘Akella’; who is a film writer, film director, TV writer, TV director, stage writer, stage actor and director.

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Akella has written more than 200 short stories in all leading Telugu magazines and many of his stories were translated into various Indian languages. He has also written more than 30 novels and he was credited with “Yuva Magazine Chakrapani” award, “Visala Andhra” award, “Vijaya Monthly” award and “Andhra Prabha Novel” award. His most outstanding novel “Dharmo Rakshathi Rakshithaha” was translated into French. The celebrity drama writer has written more than 40 plays, playlets and traditional plays (Padya Natakam). His theatre plays won 13 State Nandi awards.

The Master Class was attended by great enthusiasm by our Acting and Fundamentals of Film Direction (Telugu) students. Interacting with the students, the writer-director spoke at length about the importance of a story, screenplay and dialogues. He laid emphasis on the importance of characterisation, behaviour, body language and emotions for actors and how it is essential to read books to gain more knowledge and perspective.

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Bala Raj (Dean, Academics), who was present on the occasion, also shared his valuable inputs about the film industry and the importance of hard work and dedication to one’s craft.

The Master Class offered our creative and motivated students an opportunity to gain valuable insights into the working of the writing and directing fields of the film and television industry.

Master Class by Sunitha Tati, Well-Known Film Producer

Sunitha Tati, well-known film producer in various regional films, conducted a Master Class for the students at AISFM. Sunitha comes from a background of executive producing movies under Guru Films Pvt. Ltd. She has worked with industry bigwigs like Daggubati Suresh Babu and Gautham Menon. As the session started, Amala Akkineni, AISFM Director, addressed Sunitha Tati, by introducing her to the students and welcoming her to the campus!

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Sunitha was born and brought up in Vijayawada and completed her bachelors degree in business management from George Mason University and went on to do her PG course in filmmaking from New York University. Starting off about her story, she mentioned how her education in New York prepped her in being on set and understanding the functionality of each technical aspect involved in the process of filmmaking. Considering herself a “storyteller”, she feels the need to convey a story is necessary for any filmmaker to execute an idea and depict it on screen.

With an experience in working for T.V and film respectively, she understands the difference between the two mediums and advised the students on how they could pave their way in making their career in either of the two. Engaging in an interesting Q/A session with the students she covered various areas of discussion in film and the current industry dynamics онлайн заявка на кредитную карту. Talking about each student’s favorite director, different tastes and different movies, she made the interaction informative by sharing her personal experiences with the essence of professionalism.

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Before starting out in the Telugu movie industry, she worked in TV 9 (Telugu) as well as Radio Mirchi. In her stint at Ramanaidu Studios she worked as an assistant director for various movies including Malliswari, Jayam Manadera and Nagesh Kukunoor’s Hyderabad Blues. Apart from movies, she is an active Rotarian and trustee & founder member of Support Cancer Awareness Foundation, a NGO based in Hyderabad.

“The Fall Guy”, Bob Brown visits AISFM

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Bob Brown was at the AISFM Campus addressing the students and sharing his experiences about the time he was working as a stunt man and later a stunt coordinator in a numerous set of Hollywood projects, including both film and television. Bob is also a World Champion professional high diver.

A stunt coordinator is usually an experienced stunt performer hired by a TV, film or theatre director or production company for stunt casting (i.e.) to arrange the casting (stunt players and stunt doubles) and performance of stunts for a film, TV or a live audience. He has been nicknamed “The Fall Guy” as he is known for his high falling stunts.

With a vast number of films, from 1985 to 2017, Bob is one of the most experienced professionals in the business having an experience of over 30 years. He has had a successful transition from being a stuntman, to a stunt coordinator to a second unit director and then a director/producer of his first feature film called “Urban Games”, but he enjoys doing stunts the most.

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Bob started off with an introduction about his field of work and engaged in a Q/A session with the students, speaking about his process as a stunt coordinator, while having different experiences on different films. As he has been in the industry for quite a bit, he follows his set of methods and techniques to get the output required by the director.

Filmmaking being a collaborative process, Bob and his team play a vital part in the sequencing of stunts, ensuring the actor’s safety and delivering the product as per the vision of the director. On the job, he ensures enough rehearsals are done to make the shot seem realistic.

Bob has constantly been experiementing on the move, travelling to different parts of the world and contributing to the process of filmmaking, in a global way. As the job requires a passion for the risk and threat, Bob was always, from his childhood interested in watching action movies and found the movies really fascinating.

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He draws his inspiration for stunt ideas and moves from Jackie Chan. Inspired by video games, playing them gives him a lot of ideas on thinking of a new stunt. With a technical point of view, he does prefer long takes and is also a fan of a scene with multiple cuts, if executed perfectly. As he is also well versed with editing, he endures the added advantage of knowing what he wants, right in his head.

He also spoke about the other side of the industry where a few stunt coordinators can offer a lot but with the risk of safety. Bob has the right mindset for choreographing stunts realistically and safely with the use of the “right” equipment. He also spoke about VFX and it’s relevance in the idea of any stunt. He feels the need of a healthy working relationship with the DoP and the director to be very essential for creating something great on screen.

Sets of videos of his sequences were shown to the students throughout the interaction. You could see the versatility, in his body of work as each sequence had an extra edge to it; from integrating an animal in an action sequence, or blowing up cars, or the kick-punch sequences with an accurate sense of choreography. Speaking about the difference in TV and film, he says, “After a TV sequence, I don’t get that feeling of ‘Oh! I did it!’” He enjoys doing film sequences better as the scale of it is much larger in size, he said.

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Bob believes a stunt is as good as the preparation put behind it. He is also a fan of shooting on film over digital as film is richer and has more texture. Emphasizing on the rehearsals is a key to his success as a coordinator, he said. He was also a stunt double for Jim Carrey and encourages the idea of safety and professionalism.

Talking about his journey on how it was when he started out he shared instances where he donating blood from time to time for a few dollars. With 150$ in his pocket and the willingness to go behind his dream he moved his way up slowly and steadily getting noticed by all the studio heads. His recent body of work includes movies like XXX: The Return of Xander Cage, Pixels, San Andreas, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, The Lone Ranger, Modern Family, Transformers: Dark of the Moon, Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief and many more.

The students were very interactive and discussed many topics with him and had a witty exchange of opinions. As Bob started out with having no film background and made his way up with sheer passion, he says, “Education always prepares you for what you are up against. It’s great that students can get an education in Film and Media prior to their work, as it makes them ready for it. Like being on a set, and knowing the functionality of it.”

Editing decoded, from the master himself!

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National Award winning film editor Akkineni Sreekar Prasad visited us for a Guest Lecture at Prasad Labs, to address our students on the topic of film editing. It was an honour and our pleasure to have him amongst us! He shared many an anecdote about his experiences while working on his award-winning films and interacted with the students.

Known for his works in Indian cinema he has worked on Hindi, Malayalam, Tamil, Telugu and English films and his last National Film Award for Best Editing was for his work on the feature film Firaaq. He has won the National Film Award for Best Editing seven times and owns one Special Jury Award, throughout a career spanning over two decades. Some of his notable editing works are Yodha (1992), Nirnayam (1995), Vaanaprastham (1999), Alaipayuthey (2000), Dil Chahta Hai (2001), Kannathil Muthamittal (2002), Okkadu (2003), Aayitha Ezhuthu/Yuva (2004), Navarasa (2005), Anandabhadram (2005), Guru (2007), Billa (2007), Firaaq (2008), Pazhassi Raja (2009) and Talvar (2015).

AISFM Honorary Director Amala Akkineni and Dean Bala Rajasekharuni welcomed the guest, who needed no introduction. Sitting down for a long discussion with the students, he said that he was as nervous as he was as when editing a film. He got nostalgic about the place because he recalled that every time they finished editing a film, they come to Prasad Labs and view it. “That’s the most interesting part of a film when you see the first copy of a film and you know if it’s working or not.”

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Recollecting how his journey began in the industry he said, “It happened by chance. Dad and uncle were in the film industry. I was fascinated by books and thought journalism would be a good option. While that was yet to happen my dad asked me to come help out in the editing room and just watch and observe. During that process I got involved in working and then it became exciting because every day, every scene was a new story. I don’t know if I should regret not having a formal training but I think it is very important to have a formal training also, it’s a way of getting exposed to the techniques but it’s not the end of it. You will need to do an apprenticeship maybe but you will be much better trained than a person with no formal training.”

Students of different batches attended the guest lecture and trying to understand his perspective on various topics they asked him many questions and gained insights. Here is the excerpt of the session:

With over 300 films in your work record, what according to you is film editing and how has its definition changed over the years?
Film editing to me itself has changed over a period of time, from when I started off and today. If you go back in history, editing was started off mainly to join two strips of film, to make a video clip bigger so that they can see more. Slowly they realised the possibilities of how joining these film pieces into different forms could make it much more interesting. Then they tried to juxtapose a close up and slowly over 100 years, it slowly evolved. Initially editing was more functional and film was shot to a very bound script. As time passed they saw more possibilities in it. When I started, I was looking at it excitedly as a concept of storytelling and really never understood that editing can be much more than just joining those shots that the director wants to join to make it a scene. Slowly it sunk into me that a scene can be shown slightly in a different manner and you can withhold information, which was possible in editing. I should thank all my directors, for each one of them passed on some learning and a different perspective to filmmaking. Many people have asked me if I have a particular style but I have never felt it necessary to create a style and consciously I’ve never tried to create a style for myself. I would always try to get into a personal equation with the story and try to move with the story. Whatever is best for that story for those visuals I edit, we are not here to question what is been shot. Initially it was not possible to collaborate, but now it is easily possible to do that for the films I do, where I see the rushes immediately or two days later so I am able to give a creative input where it can still be corrected. Earlier that was not possible and whatever was given, we would try to make a structure out of it and polish it.

Editing impacting cinema as a tool for storytelling, where does it stand in the conventional workflow of filmmaking?
The whole concept of films is that you are trying to tell a story so that’s of paramount importance for the audience who is getting glued onto a scene in a particular story at some point. In our Indian ways of film, we have a lot of items inside a story and the audience has got used to it, like the leeway of songs etc. But if the story is not gripping for you at any point of time, then you would probably lose interest in the film. So the editor’s job directly is to make the story seem interesting and see to it that the story keeps moving all the time and it doesn’t become redundant or static; even with constraints like having breaks like songs or fights. The editor has to be conscious of his contribution and ensure that the story is moving in every frame of the film.

Is it a misconception that an editor comes only in the post-production of a film? How important do you think it is for an editor to be involved in the pre-production and production stages of a film?
I think it is very important for an editor to be a part of a film in preproduction itself because there are various things which he will be able to help in. In the story itself, if an editor is equipped enough to judge a story, he can suggest changes. What happens is that when you write a story most of it gets translated, 100% of it is never translated due to various problems. So even if 75% of what a director has visualized has been put on screen, then it is a huge effort. Some people don’t even visualize 50% of what they’ve written on paper. When a story is been written, there will be a lot of things that will not flow in the story and they may not be able to realise it sometimes. An editor’s insight will probably make him imagine how it will transition from one sequence to another, from one mood to another and can be corrected. And if computer graphics are involved, then it is better if the editor is involved from the beginning so that the whole system is smooth and there are no problems later in post production.

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So does editing start right from the development of the concept?
Yes, that is how it starts for me right now. But it is not fair for me to say that that’s how it could start for everybody. It didn’t start like that for me initially. Over the years I made it a point that it was not just cutting and pasting, and I started involving myself involuntarily also into the process with the director. You need to have a very good rapport and wavelength with the director. About 30 years ago lot of people would not have given importance to editing, and were very clear that this is the way it will be shot and edited. As time passed, filmmaking evolved and they realised that you could shoot more and get the best out of all the angles shot. Also with the advent of latest equipment there is a chance for us to experiment on a number of variations.

Editing starts during the shot division stage itself. Could you please explain how important editing is even for directors?
For a director also, it is very important to have an idea of editing in some way or another, maybe not in finesse or in totality. But if he knew from where it would be cut then it would be much easier for him. For a newer director it is always good to sit with the director and see how to break down the shots; why a close shot, why a wide or top angle one etc. The younger directors shoot with multi-cam and shoot all the angles for the whole sequence and then mostly leave it to the editor to decide. Just because we have all the shots, it doesn’t make sense to use all the scenes.

What are the misconceptions about editors that you have heard over the years?
Editing is not about lot of shots, editing is more about the shots that make an impact. It’s not about the number of cuts in a sequence. There are a number of advantages and disadvantages of working on a digital platform. Advantages are endless because you can cut on any number of options. In the olden days they were editing on a smaller platform and they never watched it only on television, they watched it in places like this lab, so people would have an idea of how much would an expression register for a person.

Sometimes we change the story in the editing stage, can you please narrate any from your own experiences?
Once the shoot is done, we are editing in sequences and the overall flow is not seen. Once you put it into a story form you realise that there is repetition of information or obstructions, which need to be solved. 80% of the screenplay does change in the editing stage which will be in the interest of the film moving at a brisk pace. You need to show it in a concise manner. But when you write, not everyone can write like that. An example is a film called Kaminey. It had a peculiar problem which was that there were two characters and one was that of a person in action sequences and the other was of a love story. So in the parallel narrative when we put more time in the love story, the other action part was getting lost, so we had to strike a balance where it was almost uniformly similar in length. Another thing was that there was a wonderful 4-5 minute sequence in the beginning which had a great impact but at the same time what was after that was losing its impact so I had to tell the director the bad news that the scene had to go and he was shocked because they had spent lots of money on it. But as a director he didn’t buy it. In Bollywood there are screening for focus groups and their opinions were similar to mine. Then we took out that scene and showed it in other places to other groups and they liked it in terms of narrative of two brothers, so we had to remove the whole scene.

Another example is Firaaq, where there are five parallel stories and we had to maintain the rhythm of the five stories equally so that no one story got prominence. So we had to restructure the timing in such a way that the scenes end in almost a similar length. We also had to move a large chunk of the story form the middle towards the end to give it a climax for the theatre audience. Screenplay does change at the editing table to a large extent.

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What according to you makes an amazing cut?
Editing is not about showing off cuts. Probably there are situations and scenes where you show off cuts to make a point. But when the audience is watching he is seeing a movie not cuts, he does not know about cuts. We do use cuts when you want to jerk the audience into something or frighten them to create a certain effect. Predominantly you should not feel a cut and it should just flow with the story.

When our students saw Firaaq, they were surprised with the seemless editing for a topic like riots?
It also depends on the director because she was not trying to sensationalise the topic. She was affected by it and we tried to be sensitive to the issue and not sensationalise it in any way. It was her idea from the start which was to be an emotional experience. It needed that emotion to be carried forward.

It is said that an editor orchestrates the emotional rhythm, how important is the rhythm?
The rhythm is set by the story. So if that is clear to me what is that you want to convey then it helps. If you are working with people like Mani Ratnam, then he is also trying to convey an emotion even in a song, it is not an escapist song. There will be a balance of romance and story and it will not look just like a song. The amount of duration of a particular moment is important to convey a particular emotion. I follow; for every action and reaction there is a particular time. It cannot be a staccato type of editing, it will not seem real. So that amount of time you have to judge and leave. How to make it real and not synthetic is what you can set. If it is a retort, it has to be immediately etc.

In the Talvar climax conference room scene, how did you maintain the cuts?
There is a slight humour in the scene and it is a very unconventional scene for a climax where each team feels their investigation is right. So as a filmmaker we slightly have a tendency if you notice, although it seems objective, to make it look like Irfan Khan’s investigation was probably the real one. So when he was saying his lines ridiculing the others it always required the underline of the others reaction to make him look like he was making fun of them. The fun was the reactions of the others, if not it would not have lifted the scene to the level it did.

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How tough was it to show the same scene so many times from different perspectives?
That was the biggest challenge in that film for me, to start the story at the same time. Although the screenplay had the structure in place, as an editor the challenge was how much to show and how much to rewind because it shouldn’t get monotonous. So we slowly filtered out the monotony as the edit went on. If you realise the third is a short version because we realised it will not hold good. We just highlighted the points of difference or contention.

What are the job responsibilities of an intern and what hierarchy is followed once a student joins the industry?
The intern should know how to handle the equipment. Probably he/she might not know how to handle an assistant director or director, so he/she will have to observe. If he/she is becoming an editor then he/she has to make his/her own game plan. But if he/she is joining an editor as an assistant, then he/she should watch their workflow. It requires a year at least for them to get used to it.

You rarely use transitions in your films?
I don’t generally see it as a requirement, so I don’t use transitions because I feel it becomes unreal unless I am really trying to tell something. But for pure film viewing I don’t feel the need unless it’s a specific purpose like denoting a passage of eight years. Usually I am able to convey what I want to convey without these effects. For example, the jump cuts in Dil Chahta Hai.

What is your advice for budding film professionals?
Be passionate about what you are doing, whatever discipline you are going to take. In editing you need a lot of patience. You should be aware of where you are going to operate and create a market for yourself. That’s very important, so work towards that and explore that. You definitely have to experiment and try to do something different, so that you can make a mark for yourself. The most important thing is that you have to be clear where you are getting into in the industry, which market and be aware of that industry before you enter that industry.

See the rest of the photos here: http://bit.ly/2baHkgt

 

Bharathan Kandaswamy’s Master Class at AISFM

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Keeping each session fresh and interactive, bringing in a whole new perspective that would benefit students are the Guest Lectures here at AISFM. Students’ gain new insights and get to interact personally with them, thereby strengthening their belief of having taken up the right career choice.

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Visionary leader and renowned film personality Bharathan Kandaswamy held a Master Class at AISFM earlier today. The veteran shared his thoughts and experiences with the students and the students on their part, asked questions and gained a great insight and knowledge into the world of films be it complete management of the preproduction and production process as well as marketing and distribution arrangements.

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Bharathan Kandaswamy has represented Indian film industry in several international festivals and conferences such as Cannes, Toronto, Los Angeles and Tokyo International Film Festivals and has over two decades of (24 years) of experience as Executive Producer of films overseeing many big budget films such as Roja, Muthu (Dancing Maharaja), Saamy, Kuselan etc.

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Be it in the field of literature or diverse aspects of film-making, many a personality have graced the campus earlier to hold a Master Class. In the past Amitabh Bachchan, K.Vishwanath, Anupam Kher, Mahesh Bhatt, S S Rajamouli, K Vishwanath, Vikramaditya Motwane, Vijayendra Prasad, Lakshmi Manchu, Amish Tripathi, Teja (director) amongst many others have come to AISFM.

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“I am more of a visual story-teller”

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“I dream in 35mm”, says he and reminisces about how the fascination for it all started. “It all started in my childhood when I was seven years old”, he adds.

That’s Shaneil Deo, who is the talk of the town these days, thanks to his excellent work as a cinematographer in the recent Telugu thriller Kshanam. The visual feast and stunning frames in the film attracted movie goers. His work on the short film Layla got him several international offers but he chose to come to India when the makers of the movie approached him at an international film festival last year, because the story of Kshanam intrigued him.

“I have always been inspired by the world of photography and filmmaking. Using both as a medium, I have learned to channel my thoughts, capture fleeting emotions and use them to create beautiful memories. I believe in expressions of individuality, which lies for me in snapshots, editing and cinematography. Through films and photographs, I strike to capture all elements and create the most unique representation of the world around me,” says the talented cinematographer.

In AISFM to conduct a hands-on workshop on the finer nuances of cinematography, Shaneil spent good two-days with the students. Spending some ‘moments’ with the ‘Kshanam’ cinematographer, here are the excerpts of our conversation with him.

  • You say you have been inspired by the world of photography (and filmmaking). Is cinematography then, a natural transition?
    Absolutely! My father was a photographer, so I got my first camera from him. And I started doing photography, by shooting family birthdays etc. and I was inspired by movies and moving pictures, and that led me to try out of curiosity which then led me to cinematography.
  • Which medium are you most comfortable with?
    I enjoy both photography and cinematography, but I am more of a visual story-teller, so it comes down to cinematography. I actually feel photography is harder than cinematography, because you have one chance and one time to capture the moment and with cinematography you have 24 frames to tell a story, so I find it a little easier and I prefer cinematography in that sense.
  • Within photography, do you prefer the black and white format or the colour format?
    I love the drama that black and white creates. So, if the lighting is falling on a face and you just shoot in black and white, then you can isolate and make the eyes focus on a specific part. That way I enjoy black and white photography or monochrome as it is called.
  • “I dream in 35mm”, says your status on a social network page; how did the fascination for it all start, can you share more about the first thing that attracted you to it all?
    I was about seven years old and I had gone to a movie. I don’t remember which movie, but I walked in and walked out after watching the movie and felt like I have never felt before. The emotional adventure and roller-coaster ride that I went through after watching the movie, with goosebumps on my body, that’s when I realised that this is something that I can do and would love to do. One simple movie that made me feel like I never felt before, and I had decided what to do.
  • What’s coming up next, work wise?
    As of right now, I am finishing up the remake of Vicky Donor, after that just negotiating couple of pictures. I went to Cannes and met some producers and things have not materialised as of now, but I am in talks with a French team.
  • From SFO to Hyderabad, has it been difficult culturally?
    The journey has actually been amazing. Culturally it has been very different. I was born in Fiji and raised in the US and I don’t have any family in India. My first trip to India was in 2013 and I was there for one month and it was a culture shock at that time. The culture was different, the language was different. I don’t speak Telugu but I speak Hindi. I only knew about Bollywood movies and never knew about Telugu movies per se. So coming here now, after three years, was okay to adjust because being here once before, helped. People are nicer and very cool to work with and it has been fun. I haven’t picked up the language yet. They all teach me bad words first (laughs). But besides that I am pretty comfortable and I can travel on my own now.
  • How has your trip to Hyderabad been? What do you like most about our city?
    It’s been good. But I despise the traffic. The food I love! (he says with a big happy grin). I have tried every biryani house in the city. I am not big on eating rice but biryani is something that is out-of-this-world! I have tried biryani in the States and it is nothing like the biryani in Hyderabad.
  • Any tips for our students?
    First thing I would like to mention is dedication to the craft and what I mean by that is learning; to not stop learning about the craft. Just because you learnt a technique does not mean that, that is the only technique. There are so many different ways and techniques in doing that same thing. The field we are in, photography or cinematography, there is no one way of doing things, no right or wrong. It’s the way you perceive something. It’s how impactful you can make the frame, that’s what counts in the end. So I would say, focus on learning the craft, push yourselves, get out of your comfort zone, learn new techniques, try new things, be at it, regroup, reassess and try again. But most importantly, be dedicated and be self-confident. Even if you don’t do it right, you will try some other way. I grew learning through trial and error. I didn’t go to a training school and I wish I had this training facility available for me when I was growing up. There were schools back home, but it didn’t work out for me. We are in an environment where you can ask questions, there are people who have more experience and have done this before, so use that facility. Ask questions; bother them with lots of questions until you get the answers. So there is no reason that they cannot learn.
  • Your thoughts on studying at a film school per se and learning on the job?
    I feel that they both go hand-in-hand. At school you learn a lot, you learn how things are set up and you take that knowledge and learn how to apply it on the real set. On the set, it is good to see what is happening, but if you don’t have the knowledge of how it is happening and how to apply it then it is just like looking at the sets. So taking this application that you learnt at school and then going and seeing how things are implemented, that makes more sense for someone who is new. So this background of studying at a film school is critical.

He ends the discussion saying that he learnt Hindi just by watching Bollywood movies. Any favourite stars? “I would love to meet and if I get a chance to work with, then someone of the calibre of Irrfan Khan, I like his powerhouse performances,” he signs off with a smile.

Nassar: “A chain of emotions makes up a film”

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Veteran film actor, director and producer, who has worked in the Indian film industry for over 30 years, visited AISFM recently for a master class with our students. The actor had previously come in for a quick chat with our students, a few months ago.

Nassar made his acting debut in K. Balachander’s Kalyana Agathigal (1985) portraying a secondary supporting role, before moving on to play villainous roles in S. P. Muthuraman’s Velaikaran (1987) and Vanna Kanavugal Avatharam (1995), a film based on the backdrop of a folk art troupe, marked his directorial debut. The actor visited the school for a Q & A session with our students wherein he spoke about his experiences working in the industry and gave tips to our students for their future.

The session commenced with a question by a student wherein he asked Nassar to explain how a director approaches every actor to act in his movie. Nassar jokingly said that this can be answered either truthfully, which will end up being funny yet scary, or he can answer this by stating how an actor is supposed to handle accepting or rejecting an offer. He then went on to say, that every director must first put his script down on paper. Only then will he be taken seriously. His writer must have the patience to sit down and travel with every character through a special journey. Only then will the film be gripping. The director merely has to shoot this travelled journey, scene by scene. Now, what an actor must do is completely different. He must read the entire script not just his parts, stick to the script, but not follow it blindly. Knowing this difference is what makes an actor’s work shine through.

Choosing which actor is suited for a particular role must be given to a casting director. He understands the script, analyses it and comes up with options on who can play the character in question. He needs to study the character and choose his options ‘A’, ‘B’, or ‘C’ and present this to the director. The only thing a director must do is finalize from the options along with the casting director.

Nassar spoke about how our Indian industry is different from the one in the West. “I have worked in around 400 films throughout my career. Out of these, for at least 300 of them, I was given around a week’s notice before the shooting was supposed to begin. As future directors, this is something you must try to change in the industry.” To all the future actors in the audience, he said “The numbers of films you do; do not make you a better actor. The type of acting you do, does” He then went on to speak about art films. The market for art films is less, their budget is less and hence they need good acting in the film. They hunt for good actors. That is why the quality of art films is so much better than that of mainstream cinema. We try understanding art, but art is not something that can be understood. There needs to be a discussion with oneself for that revelation to happen, he said.

He then called a direction student from the audience, for an impromptu session. He gave the student a film’s situation and asked him to say what he would do if he was the director of that film. Soon after this, he went on to speak about the importance of a scene. “A scene is like a bead in a beautiful string of beads. It is not complete in itself. Like that, a chain of emotions make up a film. As far as acting is concerned, an actor is hired as a professional. He needs to act like one too. The director knows the process of the film, and as a director, it will be your job to explain to the actor what he is supposed to be doing.”

Nassar went on to explain the importance of sticking to aesthetics while being modern, to commence the end of his session. He spoke about dialogues, how using too many of them are not suitable when one wants to make good cinema and how the idea behind the dialogues matter more.

“We are changing fast, but we are not progressing. Previously, we were scared, because the production cost was high. We had to make sure we were able to maintain the flow of emotions from one scene to another in as few takes as possible. Now, you are in a digital age. You must be able to exploit this to its fullest extent. Let us grow digitally. Let us grow technologically,” he concluded with a smile and then obliged the students who wanted to capture this interaction by taking photos with him.