Evade Subrahmanyam fame Nag Ashwin at AISFM

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One of his first short films headed straight to the Cannes, no less! Then his first directorial debut was not just a hit film but was also critically acclaimed. Nag Ashwin, young and upcoming writer/director, had an interactive session with our students.

In 2013 his short film titled Yaadon Ki Baraat was selected for the Cannes Short Film Corner.

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Before his directorial debut Yevade Subramanyam, Ashwin had worked on a few films as an assistant director including on Sekhar Kammula’s Leader and Life Is Beautiful.

He’s currently busy in pre-production of his pioneering bio pic Mahanati in Telugu/Tamil/Malayalam on the life of the late legendary southern actress Savitri.

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Talking about his journey in films, he spoke at length about the hard lessons he learnt shooting in the most unfavorable circumstances in Himalayas with absolutely no vehicles at their disposal. He had to keep the crew & cast morale amidst snow, subzero temperatures, and virtually no oxygen in some places. He shared with students that his passion & only passion for his story & characters could keep him going. Nothing else.

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Our Dean of Academics and Faculty, Direction & Screenwriting, Bala Rajasekharuni, addressing the students said, “Ashwin is a good role model to the upcoming filmmakers, since he’s from a film school and he stuck to his passion while choosing his film subjects. Evade Subramanyamis a classic example of how one can write from their heart and at the same time honor the commercial realities of the industry. A delicate balance, which Ashwin achieved with his debut, which is remarkable. This balance is what we try to teach at AISFM all the time.”

AISFM staff & faculty attend an Enriching Training Session

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Empowering and enriching the lives of, not just its students, but also its faculty and employees is one of the key objectives of AISFM. Helping us with this initiative, world renowned Educational Organization Landmark Forum, conducted a session for AISFM faculty and staff. Landmark introduced their curriculum that trains to access one’s own potential to transform them into extraordinary leaders.

In the first part of the session, B K Shashi Kumar, Landmark the trainer, led the participants by encouraging them to brainstorm about a new opportunity to invent a new possibility in one important aspects of their life. In the second part he covered about the kind of material that’s taught during the Landmark Forum sessions.

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Landmark Education is a global leader in the field of training and development, offering courses and seminars that are innovative, effective, and immediately relevant, in many cities around the world. A fundamental principle of Landmark Education’s work is that people and the communities and organizations with which they are engaged have the possibility of not only success, but also fulfillment and greatness.

HR department of AISFM hosted this session, because, the management believes in providing all-round education for it’s faculty & staff preparing them to face the pedagogical challenges of the present times. Working professionals tend to get caught in their daily mundane routines of predictable job chores, and forget to grow to their fullest potential as human beings and professionals. Hence, the management makes it a point to bring in such educational workshops to campus – which inspire their team to be true lifelong learners.

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.”

“Don’t Prove a Point, Do it for Yourself”, says Swapna Ashok 

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On the occasion of International Women’s Day on March 8th, well-known TV host, writer, singer, journalist and radio jockey, Swapna Ashok came to Mayabazar, AISFM campus for a very engaging, interactive and lively session, which was held exclusively for women.

Currently managing editor of Telugu news channel Sakshi TV she started her career in TV anchoring with TV9 (Telugu) and has done popular shows like Shara Maamule. She later moved to radio as the regional programming head of BIG FM 92.7 and hosted interview shows including Dil Se and Close Encounters. She comes from a family who have coincidentally been associated with radio; her mother Jyotsna was a FM radio presenter known for popular programme JAPA 4 and her maternal grandmother was Radio Bhanumati of All India Radio, Chennai fame.

Starting off on a high note she posed a question to all the women audience and asked ‘what does Women’s Day means to you’. Answers from the students and staff, ranged from been given the freedom to make their choices in life to taking their own decisions. Talking about her experiences of working in the media industry, she said that “Media is responsible for the influence it can impart to the society at large as we are in a sensitive profession” and went on to speak about the role of media in shaping society.

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To the question ‘What is empowerment to you?’, some of the students raised valuable concerns that they face while been part of society at large and noted that change should start at the grass root level to make a difference. “Creative when rearranged is reactive and we need to think of different and creative ways to deal with various scenarios,” she said and added that “If you want to do something or bring about a change, do it for yourself but don’t do it to prove a point to others.”

The session ended on a charged note where a select few voiced their opinion about the need of the hour and what message needs to be conveyed. “Respect individuality”, “Teach boys from childhood about how to respect women”, “Teach girls to be strong and empowered” were a few of the messages that struck a chord. Swapna concluded the session with the message that self awareness is required for women to be empowered and said “You define, you decide, you choose!”

“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.”

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.