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Things I’ve Learned as a Moviemaker

Things I’ve Learned as a Moviemaker

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Film as a Painting

I think film is more like a canvas, a painting, and
you make it alive with flesh and blood characters. You have to have
a particular vision; a film has to have a certain look to it, and
you have to create that look. All of the various components contribute
to that painting, whether you are talking about the production designer,
the actors, the locations, the music. All of this adds to the complete
canvas. And if one portion is weak then the canvas in not complete.
These things cannot be compromised on. If there are money restrictions
or whatever then you go and steal the money from somewhere else.
These things reflect in your work so you can’t compromise on them.

Passion-Based Producing

You need to have a passion that propels you. I read
Carson McCullers’ novel, The Ballad of the Sad Café, which
we made with Vanessa Redgrave and Keith Carradine. Now, I read the
novel—it’s a wonderful book—but what prompted me to want to make
the film was two pages from the novel in which a character describes
what love is. It is so riveting, so extraordinary, that I was completely
shattered by it. And I said for this alone, I want to make this
film.

Winning the Director’s Battle

The director is the commander of the whole operation.
The director must make the actors and technicians feel that the
contribution they are making is valuable. The director must bring
that out of them, as opposed to being a tyrant or a demanding person.
Giving them the confidence and offering them the maximum. So if
your costume designer or production designer or composer has that
confidence, you have won your battle.

Coverage Counts; Get the Reaction Shot

As a director, there were certainly shots on In
Custody
that I didn’t cover. I covered some material in long
shots and then close up/reaction shots but it should have been covered
much more extensively, especially on the reactions. I was overly
confident and also didn’t want to spend the time. That’s one of
things I have learned, that I must cover all the character’s reactions
carefully.

Early Lessons in Moviemaking

Early on in my career I learned that to realize a
story, you have to spend the time. And if you don’t have the time,
find the time. Otherwise, the picture will fall short.

Networking

When I came to this country with my first film, The
Creation of Woman
, which was nominated for an Oscar—it was a
15-minute short film—I worked. I called practically everybody in
the Yellow Pages and said, ‘I am here from India and I want to make
a film.’ And I was only 22. If you have real motivation and passion
to do something, you’ll do it, whether you are Asian American or
whoever you are. You have to find that motivation within yourself.

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