With short films getting them recognition do first time film makers need film schools and mentors?
short films today are the go-to launchpad for filmmakers. Aided by the affordability of DSLR cameras, portable edit suites, and a willing YouTube forum, for the right visibility, filmmakers have a quick pass to the big screen. An example is Imtiaz Ali, who used to direct short films for Zee TV’s Rishtey before directing his full-length feature. The Tamil industry has several such directors—like Karthik Subbaraj, who got his lucky break with the short film Kaatchipizhai (which got noticed at Vijay TV’s Naalaya Iyankunar). But does this mean film schools and apprenticeships with directors are going out of favour? New-age directors and a few mentors get talking.
“Shorts, the final lesson”
Mohan quit engineering to do a one-year course in editing and sound at LVR Prasad Academy. He then used short films to perfect his art. “Having only assisted one director till date, I think directing short films is useful as it shows producers and actors what they’re in for,” says the director who helmed five short films for Vijay TV’s Naalaya Iyankunar. “My film Kadhalil Sudhapuvadhu Yeppadi was noticed by cinematographer Nirav Shah and actor Siddharth who agreed to produce its full-length feature. I also used YouTube to market my short films,” says 28-year-old, whose Dhanush-starrer, Maari, is playing in theatres now.
“Technical know-how, a must”
After working for a couple of years as an assistant for films like Parthiban Kanavu, Manikandan joined Mindscreen Institute to master cinematography. “Though I knew how the industry works, I needed to master a technical skill—be it sound, editing or cinematography, which is a must for any film maker. Film schools not only expose you to a multitude of films, they also channelise your creativity and help you develop a point of view,” he says, adding that the Mindscreen stint helped him put together his first short film, Wind. “It is my visiting card, showing my credentials to the industry, which is how Kaaka Muttai happened,” he says.
“Students confident, seek knowledge”
According to Menon, until just a few years ago, aspirants had to work under a director, which ended in a case of “hero worship”. “This endangers the possibility of having one’s own style. But nowadays we have more students making their own films, with their own money. And film schools only help them gain the knowledge and technical finesse they require,” he says. In 2006, when Menon started Mindscreen in a 3,000 sq ft space in Mylapore, people had questioned how he would compete with an LV Prasad or FTII. “But 18 batches later, I can proudly say it is not the size of the building, but that one student (the likes of Manikandan and Sidhartha Nuni) who’s done a breakthrough film, that defines the institute’s success,” he says.
“Production lessons on the set”
“When I was assisting R Udaikumar, I remember an assistant telling him he wanted to get into films because he’d failed school and couldn’t get a job. Back then, filmmaking was the last option, but now it is a qualified profession,” says Mohan. However he believes that the production aspects of film making—like how not to exceed a call sheet—can only be learnt if you assist in a film or two. “The new crop of directors have a point of view so strong that they break through the clutter with their short films itself. Seeing Manikandan’s Wind, I knew he’d make it,” he concludes.