For independent animators like Jahnavi and I, getting screened in film festivals is the best way to get our work seen. Getting selected for a film festival can be a difficult prospect, where you compete for a very limited number of available screening spots with thousands of other filmmakers. The anxiety doesn’t end there, once you are selected, it suddenly dawns upon you that your work will now be open to a live audience, and you have to cope with the prospect of watching your film alongside other people.
It was a year ago that we finished work on “The Sweetmeat Boy”, and in that time, we have been screened in seven festivals across the US, Europe and India. Our first screening was in the ‘The Cardiff Mini Film Festival’ held in the capital of Wales just a couple of weeks after the Brexit vote. ‘The Sweetmeat Boy’ was nominated and screened in the Fiction category, alongside some very interesting live-action and animated films by both established filmmakers and newcomers from Europe and the US. We had the opportunity to get to know other filmmakers here, like Barrie Willacott and Ian Lapworth. One of the filmmakers we met was Robert Brown, who had started his career working on one of our very favourite animated films, ‘When the Wind Blows’. His hand-drawn animated short, ‘The Tooth Fairy’ was screened alongside ours.
One of the most fun moments was a brief geek-out with George Pavlou, who directed ‘Rawhead Rex’. It is a 1980s Irish-English horror film about a monster who terrorises the Irish countryside. This is an adaptation of one of Clive Barker’s stories from his Books of Blood series, and while the film is not totally faithful to the original story, it remains a bit of a guilty pleasure watch with its bizarre plot and stupidly fun creature effects.
Our second screening was in Los Angeles, in the ScareLA film festival, as part of the annual ScareLA HorrorCon. We were screened here in the “Wicked Witches” category. My brother, Nipun, and his friend, Anirudh, attended the festival in Los Angeles on our behalf. Here’s a picture of them with an Elvira impersonator (apparently there was a two hour long queue to the real Elvira, and they hoped we wouldn’t notice that the impersonator looked rather different. Yeah, not bloody likely).
We were next selected for the Cyprus Comic Con, which we missed attending by a whisker, as the festival was held about a week after our holiday in Cyprus. Our friends, Melina, Thomas and Christina attended the festival in Nicosia on our behalf.
Apart from these three, we also got screened in the AxWound Women in Horror film festival in Vermont, the Fright Night Film Fest in Kentucky, the Broken Knuckle Film Festival and the Chennai International Short Film Festival.
And now, after a year of patting our own backs, we have decided to focus on the next few projects. We have a few ideas lined up and some are at a more concrete stage than others, but one of the more fun things we did recently was to experiment with live-action film making. Some members of our family volunteered to act, and be laughed at, in a very short horror-comedy that we filmed on our last trip to India. The film is called ‘The Jinn’. One of the most important things we learned while making this film was that working with actors, instead of puppets, presents unpredictable challenges. Patience becomes a very difficult virtue when an actor (or indeed one of the directors) breaks into a fit of giggles even as the all-important sunlight is fading, or when an actor, with otherwise great diction, bungles a dialogue just when everything else is perfect. No matter how many behind-the-scenes blooper reels one might have seen, the challenges of live-action film making need to be experienced to be truly appreciated. Although stop-motion animation is extremely hard, we now humbly admit that live-action film making is no stroll in the park either. We are currently in the post-production stages of this film and hope to have this out sometime soon.
Moving on to the most important project that we’re working on at the moment. It is another stop-motion animation short film on the death penalty in India. Jahnavi’s brilliant script is in Hindi, encapsulating the experiences of prisoners on death row. The tentative title of the film is ‘Jhakki Kisaan’ in Hindi and ‘I am Ramdeen’ in English. Making sure that the film is as effective in both Hindi and English has already presented us with unique and frustrating challenges, which are likely to only increase in the next few months. We are very excited to start filming, and are currently in the process of story-boarding the script. Next, we will move on to the music and the fabrication of the sets and characters and will keep clicking pictures of anything exciting to share on the blog. My upcoming few pieces will be about the process of making ‘Jhakki Kisaan’/‘I am Ramdeen’, from puppets to set-design to filming, so watch this space!