Chat Archives
Chat on "Wildlife Film making" dated July 20, 2014
  • Susan Sharma: Today's chat is on wildlife film making
  • Susan Sharma: Shaz yed, an award winning film maker is joining soon to moderate the chat.
  • Susan Sharma: Sorry, Shaz Syed
  • Susan Sharma: Shaz, while we wait for others, please tell us how you decided to take up wildlife filming.
  • shaz: Hey Susan
  • shaz: thanks for having me over...glad i could make it this time!
  • Susan Sharma: Yes, welcome to the chat room1
  • shaz: wildlife and i go a long way back..a very long way in fact...i recollect a vivid connection with the natural environs around me even when i couldn't make sense of cameras, scripts and other complex things that i indulge in today
  • saraswati: hi susan, nice to chat after such a long hiatus
  • Susan Sharma: Hi Saraswati welcome!
  • shaz: it was therefore a simple case of following my instincts through the course of time- of course off beat as it is, everyone around me thought it to be rather silly! :)
  • saraswati: hi shaz nice to hear from you...
  • saraswati: how long have you been doing wild life filming?
  • saraswati: i do think its a great challenge
  • shaz: but here iam- a half decent film, some awards for starters...and hopefully a long way to go ! :)
  • shaz: hi saraswati
  • Susan Sharma: after your award, people have changed their mind I am sure.
  • shaz: if you mean filmmaking in particular, i think it been just around roughly three years
  • shaz: yes susan, i would like to think so myself...its strange indeed, as India is full to the brim with stories, with a very few people who want to tell them
  • Susan Sharma: Saraswati has made a few good films herself.
  • shaz: great to know that
  • Susan Sharma: Do you still make films Saraswati? If no, why did you stop?
  • Susan Sharma: Sarawati, you there?
  • Susan Sharma: Ok Shaz, story telling takes a back seat when it comes to wildlife filming, I think
  • Susan Sharma: What do you say, Shaz?
  • shaz: no worries susan iam around for the next hour
  • shaz: well literally speaking, it doesn't .. it is paramount to every film
  • shaz: in fact it comes well before every technical skill that goes into making the film .. and to think of it, after watching a film, it is not a shot that stays with you...its actually the story thats being told with the help of that shot
  • Susan Sharma: For example conservation documentaries hardly have a market. The blue chip films dominate the silver screen.
  • shaz: indeed they dont
  • shaz: perhaps they too need to change the way they tell a story
  • shaz: :)
  • Susan Sharma: Well it is good news-if conservation related stories can be told to inspire and educate
  • Susan Sharma: What channels do you watch for inspiration?
  • shaz: well there are no fixed channels that work for me...so far as natural history films are concerned
  • shaz: BBC 2 and 4 have been on a general basis very good indeed
  • shaz: national geographic comes up with good ones too...so does discovery
  • shaz: even Doordarshan plays some good ones
  • Susan Sharma: What do you think is te way forward for budding new wildlife film makers?
  • shaz: the film that won the awards this time, all my skill set and story telling ability i got having been mentored by this gentleman who was an ex-BBC for 30 years
  • shaz: so yes my loyalties are with them..they are really good
  • Susan Sharma: So it is important to have a good mentor.
  • shaz: there is actually a lot that can be done in india- for starters we need a film school i feel..and a lot of hands on experience..
  • shaz: most people from the generation behind me have learnt with experience- years and years of it- of how to tell teh story
  • Susan Sharma: And what about training? Is it necessary/helpful to have training in script writing, camera handling etc?
  • shaz: yes a mentor, a good film school and an environment wherein there are others as enthusiastic indeed helps
  • Susan Sharma: With DSLR cameras around everywhere almost anyone who shoots video can edit and tell a story. What do you say about that?
  • shaz: it saves the individual some peace of mind and energy- everyone cannot survive on passion alone you see! and i have seen some potentially real good filmmakers in teh making fizzle out owing to lack of encouragement'
  • shaz: they can shoot allright...they can edit too..but is that a good story w.r.t to its technical and aesthetic aspects is what iam bothered with
  • shaz: equipment actually comes later...much later...first one needs to gather what they want to show to an audience...and how interesting in the story
  • Susan Sharma: Video stories are a great way of communicating. For eg. video volunteers is a group of ordinary video makers who are making some waves.
  • shaz: iam sure there are a lot of genres of filmamkers who are coming up really well
  • shaz: wildlife filmmakers is what iam referring to in particular here
  • shaz: its quite a different art you see :)
  • Susan Sharma: But in the case of animal stories, the qualty standards are st so high by BBC, NG and others, Doordarshan may have a better /local story, but viewership?
  • shaz: yes i do agree to some extent on technical standards and access to high end equipment .. but to be honest susan a good film can be a very very simple story as well
  • shaz: something on pigeons does have the potential to be a very good film
  • shaz: and if i may, i can give my own example here
  • saraswati: i agree with shaz...what matters is the story telling
  • shaz: i shot for 22 days single handedly, with just one local lad to help me carry the equipment
  • saraswati: and frankly i find a lot of the BBC NG stuff very boring
  • shaz: my kit- a canon 7D + two lenses and sound equipment
  • saraswati: though they can be very high quality
  • shaz: and a tripod
  • shaz: so your point isnt completely invalid susan...yet it is imperative that one gets the right way of telling a story for it to be a good one
  • shaz: so for starters, get a pen and paper, research the subject thoroughly- logistics, elements, ethics dramatic sequences etc. .. and then start to think in terms of equipment :)
  • Susan Sharma: BBC documentaries are normally very good, I find. though I will not say the same about NG/Discovery. There is more of visual impact there and less of story.
  • shaz: and if you dont have the exact equipment you think you need to shoot, then think of working around it- use alternative techniques of shooting..be resourceful :)
  • shaz: indeed i agree..like i said, BBC finds a fan in me
  • shaz: but a lot of BBC stories sell their rights to Discovery
  • shaz: so its hard to tell who has originally conceptualized the film
  • shaz: if you're not from the industry
  • shaz: and then there is a lot of shifting between industries
  • shaz: some top leads in the BBC make the shift to discover or ngc at some point in time in their careers
  • Susan Sharma: How does an independent film maker fund himself in India? Crowd funding could be an option.
  • shaz: yes crowd funding i have heard is a good way to go about it...just make sure you have a person who knows the best way to market the idea...a lot of times, great filmmakers aren't good marketing people and so good stories lose out owing to a lack of resources for having to make them
  • Susan Sharma: or being commissioned by a channel
  • shaz: i was almost about to say that- but there are a lot of things that go into it..and its a vast vast discussion
  • shaz: because even if you have a very good proposal, at times, without the right leads, your script wouldn't go noticed
  • shaz: i would suggest that make the first film either as a collaboration with local media houses, or even individuals who are willing to invest money
  • shaz: or even better- finance it on your own!
  • Susan Sharma: it does take a lot of courage. And Shaz you deserve credit for doing it. I have seen your film on the monsoon and it does tell a visual story beautifully.
  • shaz: for a simple idea, that doesnt incur a lot of expenses, it is possible to keep a check on teh budget
  • shaz: a student from the same place i passed out, made a film on a compost heap just outsdie of his locality
  • shaz: all teh equipment came from the university, and he just had to step out of the house with his younger brother (who he had got to do sound!) so you can imagine how much he would have spent on the film
  • shaz: the film ended up winning a good award at a national level festival in teh UK
  • Susan Sharma: I hope more young people with ideas will make films on India and its animals.
  • shaz: indeed i hope so too!
  • Susan Sharma: Shaz a few ending comments for those who who will read this transcript?
  • shaz: thats a tough one ! :D
  • shaz: well i would say that just when all that you see and hear around you seems to lower your compassion and enthusiasm, just think of why you had started in the first place :)
  • shaz: everything else would take its course
  • Susan Sharma: That is really philosophical Shaz. And so very true too.
  • shaz: invest- time! - thinking, conceptualizing..make the idea the centre of your world...even if it happens not at that very time, you always have it with you - ready to be shot
  • shaz: all that matters is what you give in to make a story
  • shaz: and that i feel becomes your own story in a way :)
  • Susan Sharma: More films and more awards to you. Thanks for the time and the thoughts you shared
  • shaz: and you would want it to be a successful one! :)
  • shaz: so thank you, god bless..and thanks loads susan for this opportunity
  • Susan Sharma: Saraswati, anything more to add?
  • shaz: kinds regards
  • Susan Sharma: I think she is probably not connected.
  • Susan Sharma: Well, thanks. I am closing the chat room.
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