Lights, camera, action!


Filmmaking is an ever-evolving industry that individuals with a predilection for creativity may choose as a career. The increasing digital disruption only enhances the diverse career paths available. While specific front-stage roles like directing, acting, producing, and cinematography often garner aspirational spotlight, successful filmmaking remains a collaborative effort. It requires specialists in multiple modalities, including screenwriting, editing, casting, sound design/mixing, lighting, music, costume design, make-up, and so on, each requiring vision, skill, and talent. These roles can be a learning experience in themselves or a career on its own. However, initial years working in these back-end roles have also been stepping-stones to success for many veteran filmmakers and actors.

Film basics

Formal education in filmmaking provides the foundation to build a meaningful career. A degree in film studies, tailored to one’s specific interest, can provide the skills and technical basics to work on the set. Popular courses include directing, acting, production, editing, cinematography, music production, screenwriting, sound design, production design, 3D animation, and graphic design.

In India, students can apply to programmes of varying lengths and expertise. The Film and Television Institute of India (Pune), Satyajit Ray Film and Television Institute (Kolkata), and Whistling Woods International (Mumbai) offer some of the top programmes in the country. Overseas, specifically in the U.S., top schools offering film programmes include the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), University of Southern California (USC), New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts (NYU), the American Film Institute (AFI), Columbia University and Columbia College.

Irrespective of the school one attends, and the specific department chosen, surviving and thriving in the film industry require some internal reflection and preparation. For example, a beginner’s checklist for a director/filmmaker would include: (a) Having something to say; (b) Having a vision of how you are going to say it; (c) The ability to execute your vision. Other requisites include intrinsic drive, decision-making, people skills, consistency, persistence, and the ability to tackle what’s in front of you and move forward without getting emotionally attached to successes or failures one encounters.

Practical experience is everything. After graduation, one could begin as a production assistant, work in multiple departments, and learn about as many facets of filmmaking as possible before choosing a specific filmmaking speciality. A helpful tip would be to show up and do the best you can, even if the job assigned to you isn’t to your satisfaction. This is a sure-shot way to get rehired again as filmmakers and key crew members always need reliable, consistent team players who show up regardless of the job and how hard it is.

The future

Filmmaking — its medium and method — are being transformed by digital catalysts, including the popularisation of over-the-top (OTT) or streaming platforms. In the age of content abundance, and new audiences warming up to the Internet by the day, world-class content is what will keep production houses and studios relevant and in business. This, in turn, will open up a world of opportunities.

For example, streaming platforms monitor and analyse audience behaviour to understand what works, trying to reverse-engineer storytelling based on what is being watched and how the audience engages with it. Increasingly, analytics and data science could come to supplement the operations of these e-platforms. There are AI bots currently analysing scripts and determining their commercial and creative viability. Although controversial and questionable in some sense, studying audience behaviour to create content could be an evolving field, which will prescribe how to keep subscribers coming back for more.

Another forthcoming trend that could affect job creation is the proliferation of interactive content with multiple storylines where viewers can participate in the making of the story, meaning that makers must go beyond the single-thread storytelling. As gaming elements come to be merged in filmmaking and, as digital technology emerges, computer-generated imagery, virtual reality, and augmented reality could segue more and more into so-called traditional cinema.

Technology is also going in a direction by which one can create libraries of existing iconic stars — say, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Rajnikanth, or Amitabh Bachchan — by capturing and modelling their voices, likeness, expressions, mannerisms, and styles. Who knows, it could be possible to create a film ‘starring’ these stars 50 or 75 years later.

The author is a Chicago-based filmmaker and the director of ‘The Last Victim’

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Printable version | Aug 5, 2021 5:00:32 AM |

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