Keeping the Max alive – or what my first Max meant to me
I wrote down a rush of thoughts on my way home from my first Adobe Max conference. I planned to add pictures before posting but then life got in the way – homework, haircuts, snotty noses and shots. BUT the creative voice shall prevail. Indie nari was there and Indie Nari will share. For those that want the quick and dirty please check out my pictures on Behance here. For those that wish to go the distance, please read on.
Sitting on the Pacific Surfliner, sipping a glass of wine, on my way home from LA. I am people watching, reminiscing and day dreaming.
My head is brimming with ideas, my heart is full of gratitude and my soul is wide awake. Thank you @AdobeMAX for the most inspiring 4 days I’ve had in a long time.
I attended my first MAX Creativity Conference, a mixture of learning about Adobe products, classes with experts in the digital creation space and a place to meet creatives from all over the country. I want to write all of it down so I can remember it well. When I say all, I mean all my feelings, my thoughts, my observations on top of all things geeky. If you’re looking for a post on specs and pixels alone, see ya later 🙂
On Day one, Sunday October 4th, I left my hotel for Century city to attend a special screening of David Fincher’s ‘Gone Girl’ at 20th Century Fox Studios. My taxi driver received a phone call and responded in Bengali, a language I learnt while I was at Film School in Kolkata, India years ago. “Shubho Nobo Borsho”, I said in Bengali, wishing him a Happy New Year, it is the best time of year for all Bengalis west and east of the border. He gave me a warm smile and there was a noticeable slowing of the car, a more tolerant approach to the sluggish traffic.
The taxi eased into the Fox studio lot, I bid the driver, Munna goodbye. I walked starry eyed into the legendary studio, past two giant murals of favorite movies from my childhood, ‘Sound of Music’ and ‘Star Wars’. I wanted to take more pictures but was told by a burly guard, “No pictures please.” Really? No pictures in Hollywood..?
‘Gone Girl’ was what you would expect from a master like David Fincher and a writer like Gillian Flynn. It was extremely cinematic and gut wrenching. There were scenes where I couldn’t stop laughing and others where I couldn’t breathe, when you watch the movie you will know what I mean. It is a MUST WATCH.
‘Gone Girl’, is the first major Hollywood film, shot on 6K whose entire post production was done with Adobe CC. They used Premiere CC and After Effects CC with dynamic link to move seamlessly between the two. Edited by the master editor and long time collaborator of David Fincher, Kirk Baxter, the film crackled! The post team literally had an Adobe engineer parked at the studio, programming to the specs of the Editor, these innovations are available to all of us in the post world too, thanks to that. Here is a wonderful video with the Post team.
Oct 6th was the first official day of the conference, it started with a keynote at the Nokia theater. As I walked into the cool, dimly lit theater with artwork from Behance artists looping on the 40 foot screens my pulse quickened.
The video sequence that opened the presentation was just incredible! Have a look at it here.
I was in the third row from the stage as the image of gushing water burst onto the screen and the Kongos ‘Come with me now’ blasted “Whoa come with me now, I’m gonna take you down, Whoa come with me now, I’m gonna show you how!”, the bright lights danced in beams – I about died, it was A LOT of excitement for a film maker who has been in mama’s clothing for a few years now.
I felt like this was my clarion call, my anthem. I have downloaded the song on my phone to remind me of Max and remind me that time is running out, I’ve thought to death, it’s time to act! Perfect, perfect song, perfectly inspiring for me.
The CEO of Adobe, Shantanu Narayen was the first speaker. He talked about the incredible innovations taking place at a very rapid pace at Adobe. Adobe is leveraging the power of technology to give creatives powerful and precise tools for creation across devices and access to community around the world to co-create with.
“We understand that your content is how you make an impact on the people around you, at Adobe we are very proud to give you every tool you need to push the limits of your creative expression.”
The developments of touch technology are making tablets devices for the creation of professional content, rather than just devices for content consumption. The presence of high quality cameras on devices, coupled with high speed processors and mobile versions of powerful softwares, make creating professional content on the go a reality. The interconnectedness of creatives on the cloud makes collaboration across the globe very feasible.
I can do anything, anywhere, at anytime with whomever I choose to work with. I see editing videos on the beach in my future 🙂
SVP and GM of Adobe, David Wadhwani detailed new innovations in Creative Cloud. The main take aways for me were the integrated ‘Creative Profile’ that has all projects, assets, and settings saved in my profile synched across devices. Any device I sign into with my Adobe ID has all my stuff at my fingertips. I can also share files with others I am working with, changes are synched to the cloud and teams can build on each others work. The network of creatives on Behance that I can connect with or hire at the marketplace is an invaluable feature of my cloud membership.
“Companies are increasingly aware that Good design is good business, user interface and user experiences make or break brands and Adobe wants to provide creative professionals with the best tools to challenge norms and create the best designs.”
Scott Belsky, the Founder of Behance, 99U and the author of many inspiring books on productivity and creativity including my current favorite ‘Making Ideas Happen’, spoke about the importance of community in the creative process.
Community for collaboration and also to keep us honest and ‘doing’. It’s so easy for me to get distracted and let ideas fritter away when I’m not accountable to anybody. Having a community encourages creativity.
The other interesting thing about Behance is the ability to find work/artists of a certain genre from the large pool of talent within Behance. The fact that I have the potential to hire or be hired by somebody in Norway or Brazil is pretty cool!
Events leading up to my Oprah moment
After learning about many amazing new features on the creative cloud, a special guest was brought to the stage, the CEO of Microsoft, Satya Nadella.
After all the great demos of the new mobile apps, came the cherry on top.
In a very calm voice Satya Nadella said,”To help all of you get started with this journey of creating with touch we want to give each of a Surface Pro 3 to take home with you, create on it and please tell us about your experience, share it in your community.” Mad screaming ensued, my Oprah moment happened. Thank you Microsoft for my shiny new, top of the line Surface Pro 3!
MEETING ARTISTS: COMMUNITY INSPIRED CREATIVITY
The most inspiring part of the presentations for me, came on day two. It was the day we met four successful creatives from the real world, that work in different mediums.
The first creative, Ami Vitale is a world traveling photo journalist and documentarian. Ami Vitale started her career as a news journalist, covering civil unrest, poverty and violence. Her work has taken her to 85 countries and her pictures have been published in magazines like National Geographic, TIme, Newsweek etc. Her work has been showcased in several museums across the globe and she has received numerous awards. What moved me about Ami was the humanity in her pictures and the humility in her words. She talked about the growth of her vision from strict ideas of something that ‘needed to be shot’ to opening her eyes and looking around. She was told to get as close to the action as possible and bring back as horrific and sensational images as were possible, she described it as ‘tunnel vision’.
She took a step back, opened her heart to her assignments and her perspective changed. She saw the human stories behind the violence, she found commonalities in very diverse cultures. “The stories that bring us together are more important than the ones that tear us apart.”
A personal favorite of mine, was the picture of a wedding in the middle of a bombing in Gaza. Her compassion and humanity make her voice a very important one in our world torn by strife. Ami you are truly an inspiration.
The next speaker was Jason Seiler, one of the most sought after illustrators in the world. Jason’s humility belies his brilliance! Check out his amazing portrait and caricature work. Jason was first caught drawing a funny picture of a teacher in school, he was marched off to the principal’s office. When the principal saw how great his work was, she hired him to draw portraits of every teacher in the school, and so his journey as an illustrator began.
Jason is a traditional artist who was averse to ‘digital painting’ for years, but was having a tough time keeping up with his deadlines because of simple things like waiting for paint to dry. He was very clear about not wanting to use the computer as a ‘crutch’. He started trying to paint digitally when the stress of deadlines became too much, he found that he could continue his traditional process digitally.
Jason sets opacity and flow to 100% and makes his own brushes. Jason is very particular about the look of his work and never uses photographs to create caricatures, everything is hand drawn digitally. He uses the same skills and methods but saves time by working digitally. His insistence on using his imagination and drawing skills to create his masterpieces, gives his work a unique, fine art look.
Here is his illustration of the Pope for his Time magazine Person of the Year cover, a much better picture is here. Adobe has made his workflow faster and more efficient. “I still have creative control but I can work faster and meet deadlines easier. I encourage all you traditional artists out there to try working traditionally and digitally together, I’m very happy with the methods I’ve found. I’m not a big computer guy, but I’ve found a way that I enjoy that feels natural and traditional.”
Speaker three was Weird Al Yankovic! Idol of my teenage years for his covers, ‘Smells like Nirvana’ and ‘Eat it’. This past summer, the ingenious release of the #8videos8days series from his latest album Mandatory Fun was a game changer on the music/internet landscape. His album debuted at #1 on the Billboard Hot 200 album chart. If you are not one of the nearly 5 million people that have watched his parody of Happy, ‘Tacky’ on youtube,then here it is, while you’re at it subscribe to his channel so you can watch all the other videos from the album. It was his first number #1 album after being in the business 30 years.
Here was a man who was following his passion, having a blast and succeeding! What I loved most about meeting Weird Al was the celebration of creativity, he has been able to leverage the power of ideas, technology and community to succeed.
The final speaker on Day two was Lee Hirsch, the filmmaker of Bully the movie. As a mother of two children in Elementary school, I am keenly interested in learning about bullying and the prevention of it. “This year, over 13 million American kids will be bullied at school, online, on the bus, at home, through their cell phones and on the streets of their towns, making it the most common form of violence young people in this country experience.” It was Lee Hirsch’s personal experiences with bullying as a child that led him to make this powerful documentary. Can you imagine if your child is filled with dread before the first day of school, instead of excitement about going back?
Adobe has initiated a unique social action campaign called the Bully Project Mural that is bringing creatives across the globe together to raise awareness about the rampant problem of bullying, one square art piece at a time. You too can submit an art piece here.
The presentations were just the tip of the iceberg, my days were filled with workshops and lectures by professionals from varied creative fields like Video editing, After FX, Web design, Photoshop, Audio mixing and Photo editing. I had the good fortune of attending classes with Adobe Masters and creative professionals like Jason Levine, Paul Trani, Michael Chaize, Chris Meyer, Jeff Greenberg, Bert Monroy and Chris Orwig. I learnt real methods to make my productions better and also realized just how much more potential the different applications have. I was networking with creatives from across the globe and visiting booths at the Convention center to play around with the latest innovations in audio-visual art technology.
It was a real treat to be at Max, in a time and space all about me and creativity.
SNEAKS: OR WHAT THE ENGINEERS AT ADOBE ARE UP TO
Sneaks was an opportunity to drink beer and get a peek at some of the exciting new developments the engineers at Adobe are working on. Engineers had about 5 minutes to share their works in progress with the audience. It was a blast to see all the amazing ideas, a few that stuck out for me were #De-fog, #Gap-stop, #project para, #time of day etc. Go google those! The most relevant for me as a video editor was #GapStop a very useful tool to remove gaps in the middle of interviews that contain a lot of ums and ahs and long-winded statements, and make the transitions practically invisible. I think the tool animates in between frames, so that cuts don’t look like they are jumping on the screen. To take us through the very entertaining and awe-aspiring presentation was actor, writer and producer of the amazing open, collaborative, production company hitRECord Joseph Gordon Levitt! LOVE the work his company is doing. It was nice to be 20 feet away from him and be one of the loudest cat-callin’ ladies 😉
My tweet after Max bash:
Thank you Max for all the inspiration, the community, the fun, the possibilities, the innovations and the spark that I was looking for! I used to worry things had moved too far ahead and too fast and I could no longer be the creator I imagined I would be. But now I see things have become easier and faster to do and they look better! I do have more to learn about the FULL potential of all my magical tools on Adobe CC, before I can be as prolific a content creator as I want, but I feel encouraged. I see the way, I have options to grow my knowledge from within the gracious community at Adobe TV and Lynda. This creative voice feels the power.
Thank you engineers for all that you do behind the scenes to let artists have fun creating and being cool. I will never forget my first MAX and I will be there for Max 2015!
I just co-wrote a Bollywood Screenplay!
Posted on September 18, 2014 Leave a Comment
For the past few months, I’ve been co-writing a screenplay with an old friend from college, author Varsha Dixit. Together we adapted her Bestseller ‘Right Fit Wrong Shoe’ into a screenplay for a Blockbuster Hindi love story a la ‘Kuch Kuch Hota Hai’.
Think Bollywood Rom-Com, with tons of humor, sass and family drama. We are actively seeking producers who want to make our screenplay into the next Big Bollywood Hit ; )
The prolific Varsha has written four books in the past 5 years. She is a popular fiction writer, whose books are meant to entertain. She has a massive fan following amongst young women in Delhi, Kanpur, Chandigarh and Patna. Her fans have been clamoring for a film script, since her book first came out in 2009. Her tagline describes her style best – ‘I think deep and write light.’
When we started writing together I told her upfront that she would have to drive the pace and push me along. She took her job of pushing me very seriously, in her inimitable sweet style 🙂 Beneath Varsha’s kind, funny demeanor is a thoroughly disciplined and very hard working professional. Her dedication to her craft is inspiring.
Working with Varsha over skype, laughing late into the night, making up funny dialogues, arguing about how to spell Hindi words in English and digressing into long ‘heart to hearts’, has been more fun than I’ve had in a long time.
This genre is as far away from Indie as they come, it demands a big studio and stars. But, the stretching has been a nice change. Writing with Varsha has inspired me to write my own script. I’ve learnt that it’s better to row the boat and keep moving, rather than stagnate as you wait for perfect wind conditions. There is no perfect time, perfect place and perfect amount of knowledge. Life is about DOING – now!
About a sister: Payal Sethi’s ‘Leeches’
Posted on August 1, 2014 Leave a Comment
A few weeks ago, while scouring the internet for ‘meaning’, I came across a warmly lit image of a little Indian girl in a black burkha, standing in front of a yellow-green wooden door. The image tugged at my heart, so I delved deeper.
The image led me to a film in the works called Leeches, about child marriage, written and directed by the lovely, Hyderabad based filmmaker, Payal Sethi. Payal is a writer-director and co-founder of FilmKaravan, a company that produces and distributes South Asian speciality content to a global audience. Films they have supported in the past include, Superman of Malegaon and Sita sings the Blues. Last Wednesday I interviewed her about her journey in film and how she came to write this story. I was happy to find an impassioned and eloquent, kindred spirit. I have pieced together some parts of our conversation in audio files throughout this piece. I hope you enjoy listening to this wonderful, emerging filmmaker from India.
Before I get too far, I want to give my readers the most important message first, Leeches needs your help. They have already raised about $11,500 for principal production they need only $6500 more by August 14th for their post-production budget. For as little as the cost of a latte, $5/Rs. 250 you can be a part of a very special project by an award-winning woman filmmaker from India. Please contribute here, if I’m not convincing enough by the end of this article or if you don’t want to read any further just watch her video and read her pitch on the funding site. I feel certain you will want to support this special and meaningful project.
Leeches is a narrative short about the practice of contract child marriages in Hyderabad. Payal chanced upon a story in a local newspaper that revealed an intricate web of poverty, greed and exploitation that makes girls as young as 12 vulnerable to being ‘married off’ to rich older men, sometimes for as little as one night. The men pay poor muslim families money in exchange for ‘marriage’ to their virgin daughters. Sickened by what she read, Payal began to research more deeply.
“I would go to Charminar and see an Arab man with a young girl and wonder if she was his daughter or his wife.”
Her research brought her to Shaheen an NGO set up by a woman called Jameela Nishat. Shaheen gives girls from 20 slums in the Charminar area an alternative way to earn money for their families. In some cases Shaheen helps rehabilitate girls who have been cast off after a marriage or several marriages for being ‘too old’ or for being ‘married too many times’. Payal was inspired by Jameela’s courage and limitless compassion, that persists despite the countless horror stories she witnesses every day. Leeches is a way for Payal to raise awareness about the issue of child contract marriages and garner support for Shaheen.
About Payal Sethi
Payal grew up in Bangalore, India and went to school at the progressive and holistic Rishi Valley Boarding School. She grew up watching B&W Hindi films, British and American classics, thanks to her film buff parents. At 17, after high school, she went to Vassar College in upstate New York. At Vassar she was exposed to world cinema through an in depth film studies program. A deep appreciation of French cinema led to a semester in Paris, where she dreamed of becoming a French new wave filmmaker. Her visual education continued to grow at the Tisch School of the Arts’ in New York city, where she spent one semester. Despite a deep appreciation for French and American films, when Payal wrote, she always wrote about India and Indian characters. As luck would have it, in her last month at school, a friend from NYU asked Payal to replace her as an intern at MiraBai films, because she wanted to pursue an acting career instead. Payal willingly accepted and came to assist the legendary Indian-American filmmaker Mira Nair. Payal was with Mira through five films, including the post production of Monsoon Wedding, and the making of Hysterical Blindness, Mira’s short film about 9/11, Vanity Fair and The Namesake.
After 5 years of receiving arguably the best film education possible under the tutelage of Mira Nair, Payal wrote and directed her first short film, ‘Grant Street Shaving Co’,
The film went on to win several awards and has been shown at 12 festivals worldwide. You can watch this poignant short film here for a limited time. Mira continues to be a great supporter of Payal and her work. Here is an excerpt of our interview, where she talks about her mentor Mira Nair.
Payal returned to India about 5 years ago and now lives in Hyderabad. Early on, her foodie husband and her would go to the Old part of Hyderabad called Charminar to get a dose of culture and hunt for the best biryani in town. Walking through the narrow gullies of the Charminar was like visiting a place in a time capsule, stuck in the past. She enjoyed the old world charm of the architecture, the burkha clad women, the bangles of Laad Bazaar, the quaint street names…Her rose tinted glasses came off when she discovered the sordid practice of ‘one-night child brides’.
Listen here for excerpts from our conversation about her discovery of this practice in Hyderabad and how it led her to write LEECHES.
Remember YOU can help get this film funded! They need just $6500 by August 14th. Here’s the link again to fund Leeches: https://www.wishberry.in/campaign/leeches/
Listen to Payal talk about contract marriages and the intricate social web that perpetuates the practice.
It is Payal’s hope that the completed film will be shown to women in the bastis of Charminar. To show them that they have options. To let them know that they are more than just a commodity. She hopes the film will reach a wider audience at film festivals and will through a visually and emotionally stirring narrative plant a seed in them to do something to address this injustice in the world,. She hopes to raise funds for the great work Jameela is doing with Shaheen to care for and treat these child-women with dignity.
It was a pleasure to talk to Payal, I hope you enjoyed meeting her too. I apologize for the patchy quality of audio in some places, there were a lot of dropped calls the night we talked and hence there is some inconsistency in the sound. I hope you can ‘see/hear through’ the issues and focus on the issue. 🙂
Please consider funding and being a part of this special film.
Premiere Pro World Conference 2014
Posted on July 16, 2014 1 Comment
Over the past weekend I was lucky to attend the Adobe Premiere Pro World Conference in San Jose, presented by Future Media Concepts and Adobe. The only reason I was able to go was because I won a free spot in the ‘Re-tweet’ sweepstakes and stayed with a friend! While Indie Nari is still primarily a passion project, saving real dollars is always lovely 😉
The three day conference about the Hub of Adobe Premiere products for video professionals was eye-opening and inspiring. Even though I signed up for Creative Cloud two months ago, I haven’t explored the full potential of ALL the tools available! You can write your script/story in Adobe Story, which uses Metadata to create production schedules, prop lists, locations, cast names etc. On set you can start ingestion with Adobe Prelude, in which you can sort, select in and out points, make series or stitch many takes of the same shot into one long series. Then use Premiere Pro to edit footage from ANY camera in one click, PrePro CC figures out codecs and matches footage from different cameras on one timeline! Audition and Speed Grade for Audio mixing and vision processing, Adobe AfterFX for special effects. I also learnt about a ton of plug ins that are easily usable in the Adobe ecosytem, some awesome ones like RedGiant are free.
The first day was an introduction to the History of Adobe Premiere Pro by the incredibly smart and sincere engineers, testers and marketers at Adobe. There were jokes galore about how far Premiere Pro has come as a NLE since 1983. Since the start there have been 50 releases and 30 million lines of code written! Mind boggling!
Day 2 was when the sessions with experts started. I had a very hard time deciding which sessions to attend, there were 4 classes a day, with 4 sessions playing at the SAME TIME! That was a bummer, as it really was luck of the draw..so out of a potential 16 sessions I only did 4 per day. I had that old familiar feeling, I have at Film festivals..am I at the best possible film, I could be at, right now? Oh Well, that aside, at least I got to do 4 sessions on each day.
I got to meet a brilliant editor from LA, Christine Steele who has done countless commercials, docs and narrative films. She is also a teacher who makes videos at Lynda.com. Her class ‘Beyond the Basics’ was fantastic, she talked about, you guessed it, going beyond the basics! We learnt key board short cuts and workflows from her. She is very organized and her session was packed with useful information. I meant what I said in my twitter post about her
When I grow up I want to edit like this queen @Premiere_World Christine Steel #CreateNowpic.twitter.com/IZV4AkXUMI
— anjalika sharma (@indienari) July 13, 2014
The session with Luisa Winters about key framing in PrePro was very informational and helpful. Luisa’s great sense of humor and self-generated sound fx were very entertaining!
Another highlight was the Keynote by Adam Epstein the Editor for Saturday Night Live, ads and promos. Their team makes a new short film every week, concepts are thrown about on Monday, final script is on Wednesday. Pre-production starts on Wednesday evening, shoots are generally on Thursday or Friday, for a Saturday night show!!! Edit starts on set with ingesting and logging on Adobe Prelude, while the shoot is going on. Final ‘picture lock’ is a hurtling train to the finish line..sometimes the East coast doesn’t even get to watch the final graded version because when its 11:30pm on the East Coast..it is an immovable Deadline! In the past he has played live to broadcast right off the timeline!! Can you imagine that stress?
Other great sessions were with Eran Stern, a visual special FX designer from Israel. He gave us a lot of great ideas for plugins that work seamlessly with Premiere Pro, he didn’t speak too much, his style was restrained, but the amount of useful stuff he packed in was huge!
Jarle Leirpoll a filmmaker and editor from Norway shared the ‘Cool Stuff in Premiere Pro’, he is writing a book soon with the same name, that should be out in October. I am definitely getting myself a copy. His website has many free graphics and title templates that can be imported and used in PrePro. Jarle said, “If one person in the world has created something, it should be shared, so no other editor has to waste their time to create that effect again.” Way to build community 🙂 Check out his website.
Another super informative session was by Jeff Greenberg, he teaches regularly with FMC and has written books on Premiere Pro. He is awesome!
I couldn’t believe I was hob-nobbing with all these pros on a weekend away from the family. One moment I’m complaining about how alone I am and the next I am surrounded by all these amazing professionals!
Kanen Flowers, the creative Director of That Studio a media house that has produced a slew of extremely popular podcasts in the industry. From ‘That Post Show’, to Snarky TV, ‘Ruining it for Everyone’, they are also working on two feature length narratives Hero Punk and 18:20 a sci-fi feature. Mr. Prolific shared so many useful things about how he successfully runs a company, that is practically as diverse as the UN! With talented ‘makers’ from across the globe. He was very candid, approachable and really all about the community. A creative genius, who I sense has a LOT more to come. They are working on two original features with a ton of special FX, podcasts, commercials, vlogs…whew. I did say prolific.
I was sad to have missed out on Rich Harrington, Maxim Jago and numerous others for want of time…
But all in all I am feeling very empowered and ready to take my business to the next level!
Thank you Future Media Concepts and Adobe for an inspiring and empowering weekend. Grateful for all the wonderful connections I made in my new stomping grounds, California!
Posted on June 30, 2014 Leave a Comment
Summer break is upon us. I haven’t signed the kids up for summer camp..surely, this a sign of insanity.
I had rose tinted images of us running around in parks together, building sand castles, and visiting art museums – connecting in a way that school days don’t allow.
The reality is far from that. I am driving them around from one class to the next, breaking up fights over markers, rainbow loom and the cat, and feeding them about six times a day.
There are good parts, I always exaggerate for comic effect. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays are great days because we have a routine in place. The kids have swimming lessons for an hour in the morning, then a friend and I teach our kids Hindi, after that, it’s home for lunch.
Post lunch, I get two hours to work on my writing and my documentary, while the kids do their homework and watch a show. On Tuesdays and Thursdays I have nothing concrete planned, we go on errands, playdates or visit parks. These are the days, when finding time for my creative work becomes more challenging. It is easy to make excuses and find ways to avoid the page and the laptop, yet all the more critical to persevere. Unless I do something everyday, I fall into a lazy pattern and a funk.
Last Thursday, I took the kids to the library, there I found a book called ‘Women of Words’ about thirty-five important women writers. I was inspired by this snippet from the introduction by the editor, Janet Bukovinsky, it made me stop complaining about stolen time and keep creating.
“Stealing time was an essential skill for creative women of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and remains so today. Time has always been a great luxury for women, the traditional housekeepers and family caretakers, and only in quiet hours was the peace and quiet necessary for writing to be found. Women writers, didn’t let housework, depression, childbirth, war, madness, disapproval or poverty stand in their ways.”
Today I saw an amazing piece by Sa’ adat Hassan Manto on Scroll posted by a friend on facebook, and was inspired some more. You have to keep expressing in the midst of life, there will be no perfect time or place, it just has to be done and re-done. Keep expressing.
Rajat Kapoor: True to his vision
Posted on June 17, 2014 2 Comments
An Indian Film and Theater Director, writer and actor that I have admired for many years is, Rajat Kapoor. He has an impressive, and prolific body of work. In April, I had the pleasure of watching his latest film Ankhon Dekhi, at IFFLA, which I loved and wrote about here.
A few lucky people in America will have the opportunity to watch his theater troupe perform ‘Hamlet The Clown Prince’, an interpretation of the Shakespearean play by six clowns – it promises to be brilliant! Please check the links for detailed listings of the play in the Bay Area, Chicago and New York. Details for the New York shows are on the poster below. UPDATE: I just saw on Rajat’s facebook page that his US tour has been called off :(. No idea why, but its our loss.
I spoke to Rajat about his latest work and also his journey as a filmmaker/artist. I was moved by Rajat’s candor and saddened to know that a film as original and well made as Ankhon Dekhi fared badly at the box office in India. It is a pity that people didn’t make the effort to go out and watch it.
Why is it that audiences will go out to watch a Dhoom 3 or an Ironman in large numbers and totally ignore an original, very creative film like Ankhon Dekhi? The Producer Manish Mundra believed in this beautiful script, its gifted Director and his extremely talented crew of award winning technicians, Cinematographer Rafey Mahmood, Oscar award winning Audiographer Resul Pookutty, National award winning editor, Suresh Pai and Production Designer extraordinaire Meenal Agarwal. But the dismal box office response will most likely make him weary of taking a risk on a non-mainstream film again. If we want meaningful content, each of us has to support films when they release, go out there and buy your tickets and let your voice be heard at the cash register.
As ‘market forces’ race towards the greatest common denominators that sell stories, clothes, movies, music, lifestyles and foods to the largest number of people, a few artists, writers and creators try to preserve what is unique, quirky and non-main stream about India.
Here are some excerpts of my conversation with Rajat Kapoor, a visionary auteur who doesn’t shy away from cinematic work with clichés and caricatures, but takes the time to create well rounded, honest to the core, real Indian people. It’s films like this that we will turn to in the ‘future new shining India’ to remember our Baujis and Bittus.
Anjalika(Anj): I watched Ankhon Dekhi at IFFLA. I thoroughly enjoyed it and got totally into it, laughing out loud! Great work!
Rajat Kapoor(RK): Thank you, thank you..
Anj: The typical categories of ‘yeh experimental hai’, ‘yeh alternative hai’ or whatever don’t apply to you I feel like you are creating your own vision and your own way, that’s what’s really interesting to me as a film maker and a viewer. I loved the very talented ensemble cast and the dialogue was pitch perfect. You must be feeling happy about how the film turned out?
RK: Thank you, I’m glad you enjoyed the film, we all worked very hard…You know Anjalika, now, right now..I am going through a phase..I’m fighting it, I’m trying to not give in, but the fact is, its pretty depressing. Ankhon Dekhi didn’t do well at all. Right now I’m not in a very happy state..I’m trying to fight it, trying not to give in, but I’m pretty low. Every morning I try to wake up gung-ho but then by the end of the day I’m down again..Ankhon Dekhi didn’t do well at the Box office at all. It was completely ignored at the National Awards, it didn’t win anything. The Producer lost a lot of money, so the prospects of my next film are very dim..I don’t know when I’ll make it, after 6 months, one year, 3 years, ever again..I don’t know, I have no clue..and that’s not a happy thought..
Anj: I’m sorry that you are feeling this way..but it just doesn’t add up in my head. You know I don’t know what they are thinking in India..it doesn’t compute, this is a great film!
RK: No, it’s like that and it’s always been like that, for the past fifteen years that I have been trying to make films. You would think that things would get better, you know after 5 films, 6 films..but they don’t and they haven’t, at least for me…
Because I‘ve tried very hard to be in this space where I am, in terms of my films to make exactly what I want to make, its been very gratifying and I have no regrets and I would do it all over again. But the journey, even though it has been exhilarating, has not been easy ever…
You know if AD had done well, even a little better, I would have been making my next film by the end of this year, but now I have no clue, when, who, how…? I have two and half scripts with me and 2 are ready and the third one I’m working on and I have to start the whole process all over again.
RK: I don’t mean to sound sad, because this is something that I have chosen and I have no regrets…but I’m just stating facts.
I’ve got a lot of love for Ankhon Dekhi and I’ve got incredible amounts of love for this film, random people have come up to me and said, “Sir can I give you a hug?” I mean its just beautiful, and people on the internet, on twitter people just flowing out love, and I’ve not experienced this kind of love for any of my other films, so its been very gratifying and all of us are very proud of the film, the whole team the camera man, the Production designer, the music director, the actors, we all know we have made something really good.
And, I also know that the film will live and blah..blah..blah..blah …but..(laughs lightly)..in spite of all that, in the day to day working, trying to reach producers, trying to get them to call you back…that can be kind of frustrating.
Anj: I don’t know how to say this in a delicate way…you know ‘kadar nahi hain’ India mein, I don’t know why?
RK: Kaheen bhi nahi hai..yaar..kaheen bhi dekh lo, if you look at the box office hits in the US the top 10 grossers, its all Captain America and Thor and blah blah…it’s what’s working, you know that kind of crap…anywhere in the world it’s the same, maybe in India it’s a little bit worse. For instance last year, I really loved the American film ‘Inside Llewellyn Davis’ completely ignored everywhere, at the box office, the Oscars, everywhere…what a film…we’re in good company so I’m ok.
Anj: I really appreciate your candor and honesty…I am often plagued by insecurity myself. Half the time I don’t know what the f*&% I’m doing, wondering why I’m doing this? Why don’t I just go get a job in a bank or something but I think an artist, can’t help but express themselves and we are all the richer for that…
RK: Yeah, I often say it’s a sickness that you can’t get rid off. You have to make films, you know it’s a sickness so you have to…Very often I’ve asked myself this, ‘why, why? Why do you want to do this when it’s a daily humiliation, really, at least trying to make the film and then trying to release it and its huge it takes…a lot. 20% of my time is actually making the film and then 80% is trying to get it off the ground. And I ask myself, why? The only answer is, that it’s a disease…there’s no way out, so you have to do it…
Anj: I think that your core team that you surround yourself with, you work with the same people over and over again, and they are all incredible. How long have you been with them?
RK: Rafey was one year junior to me at film school, in FTII and I assisted on Mani Kaul’s ‘Nazar’ and Rafey assisted Piyush Shah on camera, so that was the first time we worked together and we’ve worked together ever since. It’s very nice to grow together in a way, with your collaborators.. that’s one thing that I like, in theater people I’ve worked with 25-30 years back, I’m still working with them and we’re still creating together. I think it’s fabulous.
Anj: I am so envious of that, you have no idea. In my mind, that is success.
RK: I think so, I take great pride in these relationships, we go through shit also you know, not with Rafey but with many others…we’ve fought, we’ve not talked to each other for a year …and after that we’ve come together and still worked on things together..I think that’s great!
Anj: I admire that, you’re creating your life on your own terms, and you’ve found the people that believe in you ..whether the box office registers it or not..the fact that you’ve worked with these people for so many years, that’s incredible to me, I would give an arm and a leg for that!
RK: I feel so good right now!
Anj: You should! To have a close community of artistic collaborators, what is more important than that?
RK: You know Anjalika, I often say this and I really believe it that in fact the truth is, there are about 15-20 people in the world whose admiration and love and respect I crave and if these 15-20 people like my work, it’s done for me. If it’s a box office hit, great. If it gets awards super, and if it doesn’t that’s ok too, if these 15-20 people like my work. My essential thing is my film should please me and after that these 15-20 people. And I want them to say, ‘Wah wah wah! Kya film banayi hai aapne!’
Anj: Wah wah wah kya film banayi hai aapne!
Anj: Your artistic journey had been so prolific, and I’m counting Theater and film Directing, writing, acting..all this stuff, you have such a great body of work. Where do you get the energy? Where does your spark come from?
RK: I am driven that’s for sure and I am disciplined. I do manage to put in time for writing,. When I’m not shooting, I put in at least 3-4 hours a day. I look at Woody Allen and I am envious of that! That guy has made a film every year, that is something! How does he do that? He writes, shoots, does post and starts writing the next film. I mean he goes on and on, and he makes good films. It’s amazing! So that’s my inspiration, I have a long way to go. 48 films in a 45-year career! I’m a big fan and I’m still discovering his films, I saw ‘Celebrity’ two days back. Wow. Wow, what a film!
Anj: You talked about the importance of discipline in your creative work.
RK : If I don’t spend 3-4 hours a day, doing something worthwhile, I start feeling very restless. I also spend a lot of time with my kids and my wife, a lot of time. I think I spend more time with my kids than most fathers do, but I still manage to find time for writing. A few days ago I was travelling to Poona to go to FTII with a film. The journey was 4 hours. For two hours we were talking and the rest of the time I spent working on my script. I was trying to find solutions to problems in my film..
Anj: Can you share what you are working on? Or is it too early?
RK: Sure, there are three things I’m working on, one is a gangster film, which is ready which will need at least 6 crore to make, which is big by my standards, I don’t know where that money will come from. The other one is one I like very much..its a mad kind of film, its more in the space. Its called RK RK, which I like very much..and I want to do it fast, but it will also need about 4 crores, but I’m thinking if this money Is not going to come easy, I’ve started writing the third one, which I think can be made in 1.5-2 crores, which is like a horror film.
Anj: What is the theme of RK RK?
RK: RK RK bata doon kya aapko ?
Anj: Aapko batana hai, to batayiye.
RK: Its with me, I’m playing RK, a film director, I’ve just finished the shooting of a film and I‘m editing it and its not going well at all. And I’m also acting in that film, the one that I’ve shot and I’m editing in the film. Then I find out from my editor that the character has run away from the film. The film is about getting him back into the film, so that I can finish the film. That’s what it is. I’m so excited about this film, but I don’t know how to get money for this film? Who will finance it..blah blah blah blah..
RK: I am very excited about my upcoming trip to the US with my new play. We will be playing in San Francisco, Chicago and then we will play in a small theater in the Village in NY. I am so excited! You would like the play, if you like my films…it’s a mad play it has 6 clowns who are trying to play Hamlet, and they massacre it in the process..
Anj: Of course!
Anj: Who do you think watches your movies? What kind of person watches your movies?
RK: You know it became possible for people like us to make films, Anjalika, after the multiplexes came in in India in 2000. Because, a. there were small screens with 150-200 seats, so it became economically possible. And a lot of people who had stopped going to cinemas that were watching satellite TV and cable at home started coming back to cinemas, I think the middle-income group and young professionals and students. Young professionals and students are our audience. Even when we go out in the country with our plays to Hyderabad, Delhi, Bangalore, Kolkata, the people that come to watch our plays are young Profs and students.
This group of people is looking for new types of entertainment. They also watch Salman Khan films, but they also watch our kind of stuff. But they still don’t want to go and buy a ticket for 250 rupees, they would rather watch a pirated copy at home. They will watch Dhoom 3 in the theater, and they will all say what a dumb film it is, how stupid, how bad but everybody will watch it, so it will make 300 crores in two weeks, But for this type of film they say, ‘arre dvd par ayega to dekhengey’
Anj: What kind of movies do you like to watch?
RK: All kinds, I have a huge list! Number 1 for me has always been Chaplin, Fellini. After that I have a huge list which goes from Ozu, to Eric Rohmer, to Scorsese, Pedro Almodovar, Billy Wilder, Ritwik Ghatak…it’s a huge list..People I really admire.
Anj: Who would you say is pushing the envelope creatively in India today?
RK: The only person I like is Anurag Kashyap once in a while, I’ve liked Dev D, Gangs of Wasseypur part 2, I know it’s harsh but that’s what I think, I also liked a Marathi film Harishchandrachi Factory, I liked it very much. Oye Lucky was not bad, Love Sex aur Dhoka I have not seen, but Shanghai was terrible. I am not that enthused by others.
Anj: Did you watch Ship of Theseus, Fandry?
RK: I saw SOT..Fandry I liked, but you know..I like it but you know…its in a tradition of realism that is at least 40 years old, so it moves you, it impacts you, but I could have left that film in the first half an hour. Its cute, its nice, its sweet, its well done, the boys are great..but I could have left the film. But I’m glad I stayed, I liked the end, which was very impactful, and its nice but I can’t say anything more.
Anj: I think I know what you mean, the details in your film, the props, the costumes, to the oil in the hair, the language, the house, the streets, the authenticity of characters, to the sounds in the background…people don’t realize the density of thought and work, it just goes by in a second…
RK: Yes, that’s cinematic work you know. The problem with us is you know that we get swayed by the story. ‘Kahaani bahot powerful hai yaar.” Or “It’s a story that needs to be told” but that doesn’t make great cinema all the time.
Anj; at what point in your life did you decide that I want to express myself? I want to do this ..
RK: When I was 16 I was absolutely certain that I wanted to make films
Anj: What did you watch that made you feel that?
RK: There was no one film, I grew up on Bollywood and Hollywood films like everybody else, but at the age of 16 I joined a film society in Delhi University, where for the first time I saw Fassbinder and Godard, Herzog and Bergman..it just blew my mind. I’m not sure if the decision was made after that or if it was already made..I think it was already made.
I knew ‘I’m going to make films’ I just didn’t know how it was going to happen, but I knew I wanted to make films. When I would think of my future, I saw that ‘camera’ and ‘action’.
Anj: Do you think that you are beyond your time?
RK: Laughs lightly..I wish it was like that. You know I don’t think I’m doing anything great, Anjalika..Kumar Shahney and Mani Kaul, I think what they did was something great and what Kumar continues to do. Of course I think I’ve been true to my vision, and they to theirs. But their journey has been one that has been really hard and admirable. And the fact Mani didn’t get to make a film in the last ten years of his life, and I was very close to him in those years…and he kept trying and he kept wanting to make a film, even on his death bed he was talking about his next film, I think, that’s heart breaking. We as a society, the moment he dies we all say oh what a great man, what a great artist, but when he lives nobody gives a crap..
Anj: What are you trying to achieve when you make a film? What would make you happy?
RK: I told you, the love and admiration of those 20 people..you know I really think that success is how close you come to a vague image that you had in your mind at the beginning. I think that’s the only criteria for success in art. Because you have an idea, a vision, an image in your head and you try to come close to that. The whole process of making a film is to try and realize that, to come close to that. I think the only gauge of success is how close you come to that, if you have or haven’t.
Anj: I really admire your work, and I hope that you will continue to follow your vision
RK: That you can be certain about..
Premiere Pro Retweet Sweepstakes Winner!
Posted on May 28, 2014 Leave a Comment
OMG!!!!!!!Thank you so much…I am winner of more than the conference..thank you so much for the shout out! Really excited 🙂
Congratulations to Anjalika Sharma, winner of the Premiere Pro Retweet Sweepstakes! Anjalika won a free ticket to this year’s upcoming Premiere Pro World Conference, where she will be able to continue to advance her editing skills.
Image taken from Indie Nari blogpost: Being “Indie” is Hard
Anjalika Shara received a National Award for Best Debut of a Director in the Indian National Awards in 2001. She has a blog that chronicles Indian Film that inspires her, as well as her own work as a film maker, interviewer, photographer, entertainer, writer, and creator of independent content. To see Indie Nari, Anjalika’s blog, click here. Currently she is working on a feature film while continuing to work independently.
Image taken from Indie Nari blogpost: IFFLA 2014 – A diverse cinematic feast for the spirit!
Thanks again to Premiere Pro World Conference and a big CONGRATULATIONS to our sweepstakes winner, Anjalika!
My piece on SOLD in Mint Lounge
Posted on May 17, 2014 Leave a Comment
Today is a happy day, an article I wrote about the film ‘SOLD’ was published in one of my favorite Indian publications, Mint Lounge. I interviewed the Academy winning Director, Jeffrey D Brown in LA during IFFLA. Jeffrey is a compassionate, purpose driven human being. It is my honor to share his film and his mission with the world. There are over 6 million girls under the age of 18 that are sexually trafficked in India. Please read my piece and follow the mission of this film. Together we can make a change in the fate of our children.
Brown and producer Jane Charles have been working on the film now for seven years, both driven by the hope that they can make a difference in the lives of the thousands of trafficked children they met during their research. “What started as a desire to do something meaningful in my life has turned into a life purpose,” he says.
A conversation with Nagraj Manjule on Indie Nari TV
Posted on May 9, 2014 Leave a Comment
I met Nagraj Manjule the day before his beautiful film ‘Fandry’, a story about caste discrimination in India, won the award for ‘Best Feature’ at IFFLA. A fortnight later her won the National Award for the ‘Best Debut feature’ at the 61st Indian National Awards.
I was struck by his humility and lack of pretension. Nagraj tells stories from his own experiences, that are rich in emotion. I look forward to watching many more beautiful films made by him.
I had the pleasure of interviewing him, Nagraj talks about the making of ‘Fandry’ and Discrimination. I would love to hear from you in the comments section here and on my youtube channel.
Thanks for reading, watching and following, Indie Nari.