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From Bengaluru to Canada

Peter is inspired by Scorsese. Photo: Murali Kumar K.

Peter is inspired by Scorsese. Photo: Murali Kumar K.  

A Bengaluru boy who spent a lot of time watching films in the city’s theatres and dreamt of making his own one day, has gone ahead and achieved his dream in Canada. Slowly, as his debut feature film Blood Empires makes it to various film festivals, Peter Rajesh Joachim is back in his hometown recounting his journey, and prepping for his next film.

Peter started life in Kharagpur but returned to Bengaluru in 1997, when his folks, working in the Indian Railways, moved here. Studying at St. Patricks Boys High School, and then at Christ College (now Christ University) Peter completed his mass communication course and went on to work in Chennai. “It was there while working as a corporate communications professional that I began to understand the business of filmmaking. I figured that the person who has the money controls the film,” he grins. He decided to start saving up to make his dream movie.

Peter gives all credit to his family for inculcating in him a great interest in storytelling, specially his mother, who would put up plays in which his sisters would act. His mum also made sure he watched British comedies, while his father introduced him to action flicks; his sister influenced the kind of classics he watched.

In Chennai, he soon quit his corporate job and joined Audio Media Education to get his Final Cut Pro (an editing software which is a favourite with indie filmmakers) certification. And in 2007, he set out making corporate films and videos. “The 2008 recession worked to my advantage when clients tuned to small-budget filmmakers like me. I’d been largely self-taught in filmmaking. But I wanted to study it more formally. Eventually I was accepted at Sheridan College in Canada for their Advanced Film and Television certification programme,” Peter recounts the various steps in his career.

During the course in Canada, he met Stevie Jay, a professional actor doing a project at the college, and who acted in Peter’s graduation film. “I proposed the idea of my feature film to Stevie and he immediately accepted it. He gradually brought on board the rest of the cast, vouching for an unknown Indian filmmaker like me,” says Peter.

His dream film Blood Empires finally started taking shape. In the meanwhile, after graduation, Peter was freelancing, working for ad agencies and making music videos. “I have written, edited, produced and directed the film. All the money I had saved during seven years of my career, and with additional support from my family I managed to finance the film. Stevie Jay was my co-writer, producer and lead actor in the film.” The film was shot in 12 days in areas around Toronto city and Beaverton Township. He says he chose a crime drama for a debut film, a rather challenging genre, because “the darker side of humanity always fascinated me”. He says films of Martin Scorsese inspired him. “All the 27 cast members agreed to come on board this project for free for two reasons — to collaborate with their colleagues and encourage new talent. This makes Blood Empires the largest co-op in Canada,” says Peter.

Speaking of the kind of cinema that works today, Peter says: “People today are tired of the regurgitated old films. New filmmakers are hungry, driven, have their own personal stories to tell, are educated in filmmaking and know how to tell a story well,” he says with great confidence.

Peter is extremely enthusiastic about the film, and has now begun to taste success, despite being rejected by several festivals or having qualified till the finals and having not bagged an award. Finally Peter won a Platinum Award for First time Director at the Oregon Film Awards 2014. The film premiered at The Macabre Faire Film Festival, New York, this January, where it won Best Supporting Actor (Christopher Sawchyn) and Best Film Poster.  The film also won The Diamond Award in the Foreign Film category at the California Film Awards 2014. Peter has also won the Royal Reel Award at the Canada International Film Festival in the first time filmmaker category. “Distributors will buy a film only if you win more awards,” he says. Despite online forums being available for release, Peter says he’s a stickler for a proper theatrical release.

“This year I’m planning two films — one is a joint collaboration between India and Canada and we are looking for visionary producers who will invest one crore in it. I’m still knocking on doors. The second is a Tamil-Kannada combination script I’m working on for a feature film. I’m a Tamilian and I watch a lot of Tamil cinema. But I think in English and write in English,” he smiles, trying to explain his bearings. Peter can be reached on bempires1@gmail.com

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Printable version | Aug 10, 2020 4:31:57 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/from-bengaluru-to-canada/article6945310.ece

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