90% of a Director’s work is that of a manager: Chaitanya Tamhane at IFFI 51 ‘In-Conversation’ Session

Panaji: Independent film makers have to start from scratch, said Chaitanya Tamhane, whose virtual ‘In-Conversation’ session with Bollywood Hungama’s Faridoon Shahryar of 51st International Film Festival of India (IFFI), the well-known film-maker shared his views and advices for ‘Making of Independent Films’

How does an independent filmmaker zero in on a budget?

There is no formula when you are shooting a film, Tamhane says, adding that he likes to work from scratch. “Finance is a problem for most independent film-makers. Multiple variables help in zeroing in on a budget. Shooting in a place like Mumbai will, of course, be costlier. It also depends a lot on the working style of the Director. Independent film-makers need to spend more responsibly. I personally assert a lot of control on financial aspects of film-making.”

 

Choosing a subject

“I can only do what I find interesting. Any film needs an amount of optimism with hope. A filmmaker needs curiosity and passion for exploring different cultures”.

OTT vs Big Screen

“OTT platforms are like a new lease of life for independent film-makers”, says Tamhane. “In India, practically, there is zero market for my kind of films. On top of that, the marketing of the film has to be worked out properly, in order to gain an audience. Earlier, in the monopolistic distribution chain, fighting a battle to win in the market was almost impossible. However, OTTs open new windows of opportunity.”

Speaking on the struggle of independent filmmakers to find an audience, he asserted that audience has a responsibility to send a message that there is a market for these kind of films.

However, nothing can beat theatres, he says. “I don’t think anything can replace the theatre experience. While lots of cinema chains around the world are struggling now, I would want theatres to retain the same kind of popularity and viewers to have the same kind of experience as they had earlier.”

Experience of being mentored by Alfonso Cuarón

Tamhane informed that he got a chance to spend a year with the Mexican director Alfonso Cuarón, while working on the Oscar-winning film Roma. “It was overwhelming, daunting to watch him on the sets of Roma. It taught me there is craft. The important thing is having a vision. It was an absolute pleasure. This experience has definitely enabled me to expand my vocabulary as a film-maker.”

The Disciple

‘The Disciple’, written, directed and edited by Tamhane will soon be available world over, he informed.

It is a coming-of-age Marathi saga set “on the fringes of Indian classical music and its subculture” in Mumbai. This is his second film, which not only has the backing of celebrated filmmaker Alfonso Cuarón as the executive producer but is also a product of various cross-border collaborations. It is shot by Polish cinematographer Michal Sobociński; Polish independent distributor, New Europe Film Sales, and California-based Endeavor Content are handling its sales; Los Angeles-based film company, Participant, has mentored the project; and the film was mixed in Germany.

 

Being a Director

“A good director has to be a good manager. 90% of the work is just that. The filmmaker is the conductor of an orchestra. Very little scope of idealism in it.”

Responsibilities of a Director? It is to keep a team motivated, said Tamhane. “You talk a lot to a lot of people all the time, but you are lonely at the top. If a film fails, it is seen as the Director’s failure. That way, it is really a lonely job. A film-maker’s life is full of hustle”.

Importance of writing a script

Script is a blueprint of the Director’s intent, said Tamhane. “The way I work, I focus mostly on the script. A film is ultimately about what you are trying to say. Good writing is much-needed in today’s cinema”.

The writing part is a lonely process, feels the noted Director.

Making a film on sensitive issues

“There is still so much self-censorship. Ideally there shouldn’t be any censorship. There are many film-makers who have found clever ways of telling a story about sensitive issues. Sometimes these limitations can make you more creative.”

Language of the film

Language is a matter of texture, said Tamhane. “I will make my film in a language in which the story flows better”. He further stated, “Cinema has its own universal language. So, literal language does not matter. People are very much used to watching films with subtitles.”

How important is casting?

“After script, the most important factor in a film is casting. 70% of work is done by having the right casting. The reason we go to watch a film is because of the human beings in it. The viewers should be able to empathise with the story and the humans in it.”

Learning process for a Director

“I think it is important to keep working. But teacher is real-life experience. Beyond that, one should have conviction in their work.”

Importance of silence

“Silences are important. If a film is only like noise, personally it doesn’t attract me much. Contrast, rhythm and textures are needed in a film.”

Longevity of a film

“It cannot be decided from before. Depends on viewer’s reaction.”

However, keeping up with the changing landscape of entertainment industry is important for budding Directors, he advised.