Find film making alluring? This could be the ‘reel’ity check you need!
Cinema as a career is not a practical or sustainable choice in the minds of both the filmmakers interviewed. “It is a fool’s choice”, remarked Ravi* when asked about why he chose cinema as a career. The point he was making was because of the absolute oligarchical control over the filmmaking process, there are very few sustainable avenues for successful employment.
Sarah* mentioned a similar point by stating it was not like ‘any other’ job where they joined a company and worked on monthly salary cycles, towards an annual review of performance. Instead the filmmakers worked on an assignment-basis. And often securing enough assignments to ensure a sort of stable income was the challenge.
Why opt for such a career then? “Passion” was the common answer from both the respondents. Says Ravi, “If I wanted a steady job with a steady income, there is no way I would have turned to cinema. It is the exact opposite and offers no financial or social security to the people employed. The only reason why I or for that matter anybody would want to pursue this as a career is because of their passion for cinema. You simply cannot do anything else”. It is exactly this focus on passion which offsets the real, crippling professional problems that Sarah faces herself. She says that unlike ‘regular’ jobs, she doesn’t have an office to go to everyday or an assigned desk to sit at. In fact, often she has to take up alternative jobs to tide over the period when no cinema assignments are forthcoming. “It’s all very ad hoc”, she adds. It is not any better organized when there is cinema work to be done. Ravi adds that inevitably the film is under-funded and there is a crunch of resources. There is no centrally organized place like an office or a conference room where one can hold meetings and discussions. And since filmmaking is essentially a collaborative process, the discussions tend go on forever. The venue of these range from drawing rooms to neighbourhood chai stores.
Everything carries an extremely make-do attitude of informality, which is partly its charm and its bane insists Ravi. Sarah agrees with this and says that the role of the filmmaker is close to that of a project-manager. Working very closely with camera and technical crew, the acting talent, the editing team, etc. – the filmmaker often finds herself reigning the efforts of all these specialists to ensure the overall project retains most of what it set out to do. “Bad films are just projects where the filmmaker lost control”, she says. And the crunch for resources and informality on a day-to-day operational basis is the source of most of it. “It’s like you’re constantly firefighting”, says Ravi. And he insists that it is no different for the mega productions of Bollywood. While those productions have budgets that run into crores, at the the end of the day, man-to-man technical crew resource crunch still persists because the overall teams of these films often involves hundreds of people. “You can’t involve a hundred people into a collaborative discussion & execution in a sane manner inside an AC conference room”.
But it is the element of team-building and camaraderie that ultimately sustains the profession. Sarah says that she’d probably have turned cynical and drifted away long ago had it not been for her film-fraternity friends. It’s a small community and everyone has similar struggles, she says. Hence it is not surprising that often people come through for each other in the most unexpected manner. People are the best thing about filmmaking, insists Ravi. “Films are a by-product”.
*Names changed to protect identity.
This article was contributed by Mrinmoy Majumder. To find out more about Mrinmoy go to http://goo.gl/9lJy7L
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