Career in Filmmaking: A good filmmaker is an artist, says Shyam Benegal
Careers360 interviews Shyam Benegal, one of India’s most influential filmmakers, who spoke on how students can go about choosing a career in filmmaking. In this interview, the filmmaker sharing insights on filmmaking profession says that it is not a job but an art which needs to be crafted with passion and for that one needs to learn every tit-bit of filmmaking that will be needed in the filmmaking career. Shyam Benegal gave birth to a new genre that has come to be known as “middle cinema”
Read this interview to know what Benegal suggests on choosing right film institutes and specialization in the filmmaking field.
Interview of Shyam Benegal
Careers360: You have been in the Indian film industry for decades. Would you advise a student to make a career out of it?
Shyam Benegal: Filmmaking is not just a job that you do; you should have passion and genuine interest in cinema. Also you must learn the ropes; which means learning everything that is required in terms of filmmaking. You have to learn the use of camera and the different lenses, and the exposures that you need to set to get you the desired image texture and quality. Also, you need to understand the nature of sound, and how to record sound; dialogues, music – solo instrumental, vocal and orchestral. Filmmaking is both a craft and art. A good filmmaker is both an artist and a craftsman.
Careers360: What according to you is a good film institute?
Shyam Benegal: A good film institute is one that will train you in all the skills required to make films; technical as well as interpretative in terms of drama and dialogue through visuals and sound.
Careers360: Is filmmaking course the right steps for aspirants?
Shyam Benegal: There is no question of right or wrong steps to join a filmmaking course. The only thing that matters is how useful the course is for the students.
Careers360: How can one choose a specialization in this field?
Shyam Benegal: The choice of learning a special skill is left to the student. However, it is the job of an institute to teach the student those skills. A director or cameraman, a sound recordist, editor or even a producer, requires a number of specialized skills that have to be learned.
Careers360: You are associated with both FTII and WWI. How do you compare these institutes with others?
Shyam Benegal: Both the FTII and Whistling Woods are excellent film schools. Full-time institutions are always better than institutes that have part-time courses.
Careers360: Is there any difference between curricula at Indian institutes and those in the West?
Shyam Benegal: There is hardly a difference in our curricula and that in the West. In fact, the FTII is among the first ten of the best film institutes of the world. FTII provides the same quality of content, skills training and everything elseâ¦People go to NYU and spend lots of money. It is much better to study at FTII at tenth of that cost.
Careers360: How do you see the work of young directors who have just entered the industry?
Shyam Benegal: Young directors today are better trained, better informed and are far more familiar with different film forms, filmmakers and their work, than they were at the time when I came into the film industry.
Careers360: What are the typical challenges you faced when you made your first film?
Shyam Benegal: The challenges were quite different at that time compared to what they are today. It was far more difficult to convince people to put money into film, because the distribution avenues for cinema were very few. There was no television, cable TV, DVDs.
Careers360: Bollywood has also grown in terms of scale, technology and reach. So how do you perceive it?
Shyam Benegal: Technology helps you to make far more professional looking and technically accomplished films but this is no substitute for good content. If you have poor content, no amount of technical skill will help.
Careers360: By and large, what is the quality of cinema in our country in terms of form and content?
Shyam Benegal: We have the same level of technological skills that are available in the most advanced countries of the world. The most important question to ask is -- Are we making good films? Not simply in terms of technical competence but good in terms of content. â¦ i.e. narrative, subject matter and so on.
Careers360: On what basis do you think our upcoming directors choose their scripts?
Shyam Benegal: It depends. Cinema is a commercial art, it’s not like painting a picture where the investment is not high. When a film is made and it cannot be commercially shown there are a lot of people who may go bankrupt. You have to consider the financial risk involved in making a film apart from the fundamental need for creative expression.
Careers360: What advice would you like to give to students contemplating a profession in film making?
Shyam Benegal: You need to have genuine passion. Everything else will follow.
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