‘Find your own voice’

Award-winning Australian screenwriters and filmmakers Ian Dixon and Stephanie Phillips were in Hyderabad recently for a workshop with industry aspirants in their early teens. On being asked how they merge the gap between film training and working on the field, Ian says, “When we teach films, we are in the process of experimenting, and are trying to harness one’s skill. In SAE, Melbourne (where I teach), most lecturers are also industry practitioners. There’s no gap.”

Then there’s the question of unlearning in education that pops up while working. Stephanie says, “I really benefited from going to school. You get all of the theory, and a choice on what you would like to take and leave behind. Those who are not trained also miss out on a strong network of people.”

Doesn’t the training restrict the students in the decisions they take, making them more structured and less organic? Ian says, “We are not teaching students the spirit of filmmaking; they already have that. There is something of the craft that comes from the soul. Everyone questions where the natural spirit resides, and it’s easy to blame the training institution when that doesn’t show up.”

How does Ian look at the Indian film industry, in terms of the variety of subjects made? “The beauty of a film is that it can reflect one’s culture so perfectly. My wife is Sri Lankan, so I am a lot familiar with sub-continental cinema. The basis of all films, be it any industry, is ideally colour and movement, and Indian cinema is full of that.”

But, what about giving what the audience expects? “We need to play within that space, offer surprises and break predictability.” Stephanie, too, feels, that unlike Australia, India is very certain as to what their identity is. “We still try to make American films. However, falling in love and reuniting with a family is as universal as it can get.”