AISFM launches Corporate Role Play workshops

AISFM_Fiirefly_38AISFM faculty Nitin Mane, MFA (USA) & Bala Rajasekharuni, MFA (USA), who is also the Dean conducted a workshop of Corporate Role Play at Firefly Creative Studios, Hyderabad.AISFM_Fiirefly_32Bala and Nitin blended various actor training methods to bring out the hidden talent of the team members, accommodating a variety of personalities and their own unique modes of expression. AISFM_Fiirefly_26Every creative exercise concluded with a briefing on how those techniques can be applicable effective tools for self development and team building in any setting, be it home or the work place. AISFM_Fiirefly_16Using humor as a medium to engage the group, the instructors walked the participants through a process of profound learning, yet, making it fun to spend their Saturday morning for. AISFM_Fiirefly_13The workshop is one of the recent initiatives of AISFM outreach programs, which has started with a summer intensive teaching methodology workshop in collaboration with Critical Education Academy, Los Angeles.AISFM_Fiirefly_8AISFM believes in creating an ongoing synergy between its in-house academic expertise and various societal settings in the outside world.AISFM_Fiirefly_18

Rhythm Mojo & Prism – AISFM Students explore TV & News Production

Live hands-on experiences bring filmmakers closer to realities of the industry. AISFM always believes in this and ensures that it brings forth such enriching and learning experiences for its students. Such is the recent initiative, ‘TV & News Production Workshop’ in the professional movie set at Annapurna Studios, that was used in many blockbuster movies like Manam, Rarandoy Veduka Chuddam, Jai Lava Kusa & Manikarnika. The set rocked with Rhythm Mojo, a Rock Show and Thorough the Prism – A Talk Show by AISFM students.

Editing faculty, Satyendra Mohanty and Direction faculty Prem Ragunathan conducted a TV News and Production workshop with full fledged professional technicalities.

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There is a big difference between film and television, which they wanted to highlight so that the students would get the right kind of grooming and exposure to TV. Understanding the purpose, focus, the process, the aesthetics and the business of television shows is crucial to make a mark in the TV industry.

Students of cinematography, editing, sound, advertising and MMBA came together and worked as a team to get these two shows on to the floors. They were further divided into teams and each team had a responsibility to handle; the faculty was happy to see how harmoniously they all worked together, and the result is an end product of industry standards.

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Mohanty – an alumnus of FTII and currently a faculty at AISFM is a teacher with enormous knowledge in film and television production.

“A film can be made into a piece of art with the right editing and before editing, the ingredients are present but a film has no form yet,” Mohanty said and added that the most important qualities that need to be developed in an aspiring editor are patience, willingness to learn the nitty-grities and good observation.

“These days, editing in film and TV are almost becoming the same, because films are also adopting the multi-camera system,” said Mohanty when asked about the differences between the two media. Most TV shows are edited in real time, so you can actually cut out scenes when they are being enacted, he added.

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Prem Ragunathan, faculty of Direction, an experienced professional in TV reality shows threw light on the difference in direction methods in TV and film. He said that in films, the director comes up with an idea and approaches a production house whereas in TV, the channel comes up with an idea and the executive producer then finds a director to direct it. Sometimes the executive producer will have a program producer who himself will direct it.

To ensure that students understood this crucial difference, they were divided into teams as per the structure of a TV channel. It worked out well as each student realized what goes into TV production and were able to understand and experience it in real-time.

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Moving on to direction as a career, Prem emphasized that one should be instinctive and meticulous with excellent observational skills and one must also be able to communicate clearly, not just through words but also through visuals, he added.

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What’s his advice to students? Echoing Mohanty’s thoughts, he too said “Watch a lot of films!” Quick to emphasize, he added “But not as an audience; you must watch films to be exposed to the filmmaking technique. Take a pen and book and watch films alone and write about what you watch; it can help you understand the movie better.”

The interview rounded off with Prem praising the AISFM curriculum and campus, “students at AISFM have a thirst for knowledge and the campus provides the faculty, syllabus and space to gain this knowledge. As the campus has numerous trees, one can sit under a tree and get creative he said, “Any tree could be your Bodhi tree!”

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The workshop was indeed a great experience for the students and AISFM aims at providing many more such experiences to its students during the course of study.

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.”

AISFM’s Pioneering Teacher Training Workshops Launched

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“How did you learn to learn?” A thought-provoking question that sets you to ponder deeply about the teacher-learner relationship. This was just one of the many questions and thoughts that set out the attendees to deliberate upon. Various pedagogical strategies like Experiential and Reflective learning, and Critical Pedagogy among others were explored at the ‘International Teachers Training Workshop’ conducted by AISFM in collaboration with Critical Education Academy, USA. Select school teachers from various International Schools from twin cities participated in the daylong intensive teaching methodology workshop brainstorming on ‘why we teach the way we teach and how to teach the next generation.’

Launching the workshop, AISFM director Amala Akkineni said, “We have been in the Film & Media education for the past five years and we take pride in ourselves as a holistic educational institution, and one of our missions is to improve the quality of education around us by actively participating in and advocating educational research in India. Hyderabad education scene is currently as vibrant as ever before with the advent of numerous international schools, institutions and work spaces.”

Workshop directors, US based Educational Experts Dr. Ambika Gopal Raj, Ph.D. and Dr. Lauren G. McClanahan, Ph.D., took the participants on a rigorous daylong journey through various educational methodologies that are changing the face of education in the United States & other Western Countries today.

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Dr. Ambika Gopal Raj, Ph.D. (USA), is a Professor at the Charter College of Education, California State University, Los Angeles. In her 16 years of teaching career, she launched various M.Ed. & MA programs, developed new methodologies in education with a synthesis of experiential learning, critical pedagogy, creative pedagogy and “storying”(as opposed to ‘storytelling’) as a novel way of looking into one’s own learning process. She has also authored a book titled ‘Multicultural Children’s Literature: A Critical Issues Approach’, a SAGE Publication, which is readily implemented as an official text book for M.Ed. programs in various US universities.

Dr. Lauren G. McClanahan, Ph.D. (USA), Professor, Secondary Education, Western Washington University, Seattle specializes in using Film & Media as a way into formal education to enhance the learning experience covering multiple intelligences as well as critical thinking and creative thinking in secondary level students.

Amala Akkineni, Honorary Director of AISFM, speaking about this pioneering effort and the thought behind launching these workshops, said “These two reputed educationalists from the United States – who are known for such transformational workshops for educators encouraged the participants to pause and take a look at various new approaches in education the world today. Learning cannot be forced or commanded. It is a complex process. The mounting pressure on students to get higher scores does not help. We hope our efforts will bring in breakthroughs of pedogogical research for teachers in Hyderabad and across the country.”

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Elaborating further, she said, “One cannot live in isolation or expect to succeed standing alone. Our students come from across the country, and to enter their worlds to let them know about the career options they could have is certainly our responsibility. But before that we need to lay the foundation in the education system itself that each student is unique with his/her own learning style and  yet, they are the products of a combination of social, geographical, cultural convergence of all he or she has been exposed to during the growing up years. Providing a space for teachers to take time to re-discover themselves as learners, helps their renewed understanding of their own teaching processes and styles.”

Bala Rajasekharuni, Dean of Academics and Faculty of Direction & Screenwriting, speaking about this initiative said that, “this is just the beginning of an ongoing outreach program that AISFM has launched. In future we will introduce workshops for school children also. This will bring awareness among them about other educational opportunities beyond the existing conventional choices. This can result in helping them chose a career path of their own choice that utilizes their innate talents to the fullest.”

Participating teachers lauded AISFM’s efforts in launching such a program for the benefit of local educational system. They were from various schools of the city, and received a Certificate of Participation, from Amala Akkineni. They also received a membership in AISFM International Education Network to attend such future events, and an ongoing mentorship by AISFM’s Academic Advisory experts from United States.

Drone Filmmaking – Master Class & Demo Workshop

The forefront of drone cinematography has paved its way up along the technical aspect of filmmaking in the course of time. A remote controlled operation to capture the flying view through the camera connected to a so made “drone”. As captured footage is meant to ignite a stimulating emotion in the viewers mind, the drone can be controlled in a way to cater to the stimulating emotion that the filmmaker wants to portray.

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Venkat C Dilip, Cinematographer (DOP) for Oohalu Gusa Gusa Lade and Jyo Achyuthananda, was at the AISFM campus to conduct a Master Class and a Demo Workshop on how to shoot with a Drone, for our Cinematography students. Venkat, as cinematography is his expertise started off by offering his teaching on the subject of camera, light, composition and then connecting it to cinematography.

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Our guest lecturer, followed by the Master Class, arranged a Demo-Workshop where he could demonstrate the process of drone filmmaking. With the help of Venkat, our cinematography students attempted to fly a drone and experiment with it on the footage. With a couple of tries, the demo workshop managed to provide a gainful insight to the students in a broader depth of cinematography. As the students would use such techniques in their future job roles, it gave them a practice on how to get the job done in the future, this particular way.

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Venkat mentioned to the students that the vision of the eye is the best element to judge a shot’s authenticity. With the evolution of technology, it has become precisely convincing to execute a filmmaker’s vision on screen. The modes of executing the vision have varied from medium to medium. Speaking of Drones, the technique behind its functioning is fascinating and the best way to know about it is, is to use it. The students during the Q/A exchanged a decent discussion on the nuances and trend from the top cinematographers in the west, doing it right and the assistance of technology needed for achieving the footage.

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The medium is still the message. A lot of drone films are experiments to see what can be done. Eventually, those techniques will, hopefully, just become another toolset cinematographers can use, like tracking or Steadicam shots. As various mediums and concepts keep innovating, technology does too. The filmmaker with his equipment in today’s day and age can achieve anything on screen. It’s the idea, the process and definitely the execution in the end that matters. Luckily, though, directors are born tinkerers, so learning a new trick comes easy. It’s even a bit fun.

A 2-Day Filmmaking Workshop: Vancouver Film School

Michael Baser (Head of Department, Writing for Film and Television), Bob Woolsey (Independent Film Maker), Rodger Cove (Senior Instructor, Feature Script / Character Essentials) from Vancouver Film School were at the AISFM Campus from 18th March, 2017 to 20th March, 2017 conducting a workshop for the filmmaking students.

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While the 1st Day included covering the aspects in: Storytelling, Basics of Scriptwriting, Script to Screen, Theme and Plot building, Moving Master (single shot scene) it was followed by the 2nd Day which included activities like Blocking a scene, Scene Rehearsal, Shoot: Moving Masters, Screening. The students were a part of a discussion with the delegates of Vancouver Film School. Exchanging thoughts on the craft of filmmaking, techniques of screenwriting and the execution of an idea translating to a decent result on screen.

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Michael Baser, Rodger Cover and Bob Woolsey were impressed with the campus facilities provided and the exposure being gained by the students. “As the institute is located within the premises of a studio, it helps them getting a better understanding on a working environment while they are studying about the same,” they said. The Vancouver Film School team also would be happy to host exchange programs between their students and the students of AISFM as cultural diversity can be a key element to analyse new perspectives.

The students on the other hand, could get a better grasp of the basics that revolve around the process of filmmaking. With different stages of the workshop being aimed at mastering the basics of the craft, the students had to go through a learning curve in order to complete the workshop. As the stages of the workshop were meant to be a progressive learning for the students, it also acted as a great build up for the final product at the end of the two days.

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“My learning’s definitely are that I got an opportunity to strengthen my basics of writing and also, I understood why to keep it simple and that writing is the cheapest way to better the film on which they stressed upon on” said one of the students who attended the workshop.  As these workshops are meant to nurture the technical and skill aspect of filmmaking in these upcoming filmmakers, it enhances the basics and makes the execution of their ideas easier.

The students of AISFM look forward to more such workshops from global professionals all over the world playing key roles in the field of filmmaking. As the industry demands valid skill sets for each technical aspect, these workshops help in building a foundation for students to build an idea, pitch/sell it and by the end of it, release it on the big screen.

“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.”

“It’s about how well you translate the script onto the screen”

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A man of few words, he lets his work speak for himself. His work of making a movie look spectacular not just visually not aesthetically too. His visually stunning and brilliant work has been appreciated in all his movies, be it the recent blockbusters Oopiri, Manam, Rakta Charitra or his debut movie Rhythm.

P. S. Vinod, a cinematographer known for his work, he has worked across different film industries, from Bollywood projects, including MusafirPyaar Ishq Aur Mohabbat, Tees Maar Khan, Bullet Raja to Tamil with Appu, Aaranya Kaandam, Kadhal 2 Kalyanam to the Telugu film industry with Paanjaa and many others.

He was at AISFM earlier this week to conduct a two-day workshop for the students; who were eager to learn more from the hands-on experience they thoroughly enjoyed. Speaking to us after the workshop, the famed cinematographer shared his thoughts on what cinematography means to him and what he feels about his recent movies that have been blockbuster hits.

What is it about cinematography that inspires or challenges you?
The thing with cinematography is primarily to do with your ability to visually translate a story onto the screen and there are two aspects to it; the technical part of it and purely the emotional part of it, aesthetically what it does to you. So each shot has a certain meaning, a certain emotion, it is meant to draw certain emotions and the challenge is in trying to make sure that what the narrative demands, you are able to fulfil that and make sure that the emotional quotient of the story is not lost. It’s not just about making pretty and beautiful images; it is also about how well you translate the script onto the screen, I think that’s where the challenge is.

Do you think cinematography styles have changed majorly?
There has definitely been a sea shift in the way cinematography has changed over the last decades from the film to the digital medium. There has been a sea change in cinematography itself from the time digital has come in; it used to be a lot more composed and lot more proper with every shot earlier. In general, most of the times, the discipline on the sets is generally not as good as it was in the film days. Because now you normally say let’s avoid a rehearsal, let’s try doing a take; so you lose your ability to plan, as you go on in the rehearsal you see the actor, where he is going, what is h going to be doing, so all that goes with digital and the number of takes, and the amount of coverage that you have is a lot more with digital; with film it is a little more precise. I think basically it is the same as how you would click an image earlier, when you are shooting a picture in the non-digital days with a digital SLR with 36 photos, every frame would be properly composed and you wouldn’t press the shutter button until you were very sure of what you saw in the screen. Now when you look at it, you click 100 pictures and then you go home and pick the one that you like кредитная карта онлайн. So, you are more trigger happy now than before which kind of does translate onto the screen, so it kind of puts more pressure on the shoot. Earlier there used to be a clear differentiation between the good takes and the bad takes, so if somebody doesn’t like a set of takes, the film was kept aside. Now, everything is out there, so somebody will say I like this but there could be something that is technically an issue, and it could be used for other reasons.

You’ve worked in different film industries, what’s the major difference?
There is a clear shift in the way the films are done in the South and the way films are done in Bombay. It primarily boils down to the fact that Bombay has more inputs from all the others teams like the costume or art, and it is independent, once you give them the briefing that this is what is needed, then they take off from there and we don’t need to get into it on an everyday basis, which is not necessarily good or better but it is just a different way of functioning. In the south, every single thing is routed through you. If somebody is picking up a costume, they ask if it is okay. If the art director is picking up a curtain, they bounce it off you to check if it is okay, if furniture is being brought, they run it through you to see if it is okay; which in a way is better if you have more control of every single element that is going to come to the screen, but at the same time it is more pressure because you will have to listen to 20 other things than just two or three things; so both have their pros and cons.

Studying in a film school, do you think students have an added advantage?
Yes, definitely! It is important to get some basic technical knowledge. Even if you are assisting it is nice to come from some kind of background to understand what you are doing, to know the technical aspects and then see how to apply it, when you assist somebody or do it on your own; it helps you. Today, all the more reason for students to do so because earlier you would assist somebody and then move up. But now, with more exposure and enough learning from a film school and with aided software, you can walk around with your camera and you can make a short film or a feature film if you want. So it is a lot easier for you to do something on your own instead of going the route of having to assist somebody. If you know the basics, you can start shooting on your own.

What does the film industry look for in students?
I think we are slowly getting into a slightly more systematic fashion of functioning which is also happening in the South, where you have more people who are technically qualified to get into each and every stream. Earlier you had people start from scratch. But now with a background from a film school, it becomes easier, so they can directly start from the fourth step. So it becomes easier for them and for us to start work.

You’ve worked with Nagarjuna in his recent movies, Manam, Sogade Chinni Nayana and Oopiri, any interesting anecdotes/experiences you would like to share?
I’ve been really lucky to have worked with Nagarjuna in three back-to-back films with totally diverse kind of characters. In Manam, where he was playing almost a child kind of character, then from there going onto Sogade Chini Nayana where he was a flamboyant mass hero kind of character and from there to a person on a wheelchair in Oopiri which is a complete contrast to his previous one; and to see him adapt to all of the characters was interesting.

“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.

Never stop dreaming: Neelkanta

neelakanta

“I didn’t go to a film school ever. Now that I’m at AISFM, teaching students, it makes me look at myself through a different perspective,” says ace director Neelakanta. The award-winning filmmaker was at AISFM recently to help students in their song workshop project.

For this project, students learn to direct a song sequence. From conceptualization and choreography, to composing and shooting – students put in their best for the project.

And this year, director Neelakanta was roped in to help students in their project. He was often found surrounded by eager students – checking out shooting locations on campus and giving them tips on direction.

“There is a lot of enthusiasm among students at AISFM. They are bright and want to learn so much. It’s amazing to see such young people exude exuberance and passion,” says Neelkanta.

A student of Loyola Public School and Loyola College, Vijayawada, Neelakanta realised early on that his true calling was films. After completing his BCom he moved to Chennai to pursue his dreams. There, he began assisting director Vallabhaneni Janardhan and worked with him in a couple of films.

He then produced the film Jamadagni, directed by Bharati Raja, starring superstar Krishna. Neelakanta recalls that his ‘classroom’ was the sets. “Being on the sets gave me great insights into the art of direction. I’ve always liked Bharati Raja’s films Pathinaru Vayathinile and Sigappu Rojakkal. And being on the sets with him was enlighting.”

A fan of ‘alternate’ cinema, Neelakanta attributes his knowledge of cinema to the great auteurs. “I’m a big fan of directors like Hrishikesh Mukherjee, Basu Chatterjee, K Balachander, Bapu garu, Satyajit Ray and ilk. A lot of my craft has been honed watching their films and learning from them. In my time that was the best kind of classroom learning you could ask for,” he says.

“My movies are greatly influenced by the style of K Balachander. The way he weaves interpersonal relationships and delves into the psyche of the character, it’s so realistic. I strive for such realism in my films,” explains Neelakanta.

In 2002, Neelakanta won two national awards for his film Show – one for best feature film and the other for best screenplay. In the year 2003 he won the Nandi award for best screenplay writer for the film, Missamma.

But he admits that no one taught him how to write a screenplay. “Though I learnt a lot being on the sets, no one taught me how to write a script. I did it by myself,” he explains.

Quiz him on what it takes to make a good film and he says, “It all begins with the story.” He elaborates, “When you have a good story idea, you need to work on it. You need to see how you can translate it to a script and how that script takes your vision on the big screen.”

But a story alone cannot win the day for you, he says. “If your story is good, but the direction is bad, your film will suffer. If story and direction are good and cinematography bad, then too your film will suffer. So, in filmmaking, all departments are important. As a director you need to keep a close watch on everything,” he explains.

Having spent years in the industry, Neelakanta is hopeful the regional industry will see a drastic change in the way films are made, just like Bollywood. “I like the way Bollywood has found that fine balance between art and mainstream. Directors like Vishal Bharadwaj and Anurag Kashyap make these strong, socially relevant films and yet, manage to fill theatres.”

“To begin with, it’s wrong to demarcate films and call them ‘art’ and ‘commercial’. It’s all about storytelling. But for long we have been fed on this concept of how a film should look and how it should be categorised. It’s amazing to see independent cinema has found so many takers in Bollywood,” he says.

As far as Telugu films are concerned, “we are getting there” he feels. “The change in Telugu cinema is happening slowly but surely. There are independent movies being made, and they are getting good response from the audience. But the scale on which they should be made needs to get bigger,” he opines.

“No film industry can compare to the grandiose of ours. I hope the same money is pumped into Indie cinema. And I feel it won’t take long for us to get there.”

While breaking into the industry is not an easy task, the director offers some words of advice to young aspirants. “One needs to have perseverance. Never give up. The industry is a tough and ruthless place. If you want to survive, you need to strive. Remember, your hard work will pay off one day. But till that day comes, never stop dreaming.”

BFA_Filmmaking