US

Lights, cameras and lots of films

January 12, 2018
By SZ

Since we were extremely short on budget, we could not afford light or anything to make the shots cool and stuff.....

COVER STORY

Make a short film they said. It will be fun they said.

“Since we were extremely short on budget, we could not afford light or anything to make the shots cool and stuff.”

“Grainy footage was a major issue.”

“It wasn’t easy getting permission; faced difficulty while shooting on private property.”

“No professional actors.”

“Language barriers.”

“As a female videographer, I faced many obstacles while shooting in public. People around me passed weird comments which made me feel unsafe.”

What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger and tougher. While the participants of the Bahria University Short Film Festival (BUSFF) did not have such a good experience filming their projects, each submission was unique and – as such – gave us something to enjoy. Let’s read what they have to say.

Films for a social cause

A third-year student of Media Sciences in SZABIST, Abid Rizvi’s Tu Koi Aur Hai was about a person who tries to fit in society.

“It’s about everybody, actually,” he corrected himself. “I was inspired by a scene of Charlie Chaplin’s Modern Times where workers are given a typical task and they set about completing it almost in a mechanical fashion. I could relate to that; it’s the same in our society and everywhere in today’s world. People live a typical life and follow typical rules to achieve similar ‘goals’.

“We’re a group of five friends who worked on Tu Koi Aur Hai. We chose to shoot it at our own homes because we did not have sponsors. We could not afford lights or anything to make the shots cool. Since we did not have anyone to back us, we also faced difficulty trying to get permission while shooting a scene on street.”

Abid finds the medium of short film extremely effective in conveying an idea to the relevant audience without boring them. “Plus, the medium is great for young filmmakers who have limited budget. My advice to them is: First, don’t stop making films if one venture is not as successful as you wanted it to be. I know you put a lot of effort into them; just don’t let the number of views disappoint you. Second, it’s better if you only consider practical ideas for your movie rather than wasting your time and energy on something that’s not possible to execute.”

Another film from this genre, Farhan Abbas’ Lasting Silence is more relevant to families and their affairs. A qualified film director from New York Film Academy, Farhan really liked Mubashir Ali’s script of Lasting Silence. “Most of the schools here don’t teach students sign languages and other such things; as a result, most of us are unable to communicate with special people, he stated. “My film depicts the relationship of two young neighbours. One of the girls can neither hear nor speak. The other asks her parents if she can learn sign language to communicate and befriend her. It was unique in the sense that we usually don’t get to see such empathy, and for a child to be sensitive to it is incredible!

Being a filmmaker in Dubai wasn’t easy as far as Lasting Silence was concerned: “The film was written in salees Urdu, but it was difficult getting actors who could speak it like it was supposed to. So, we had to translate it.”

According to him, “filmmaking, irrespective of the genre you’re working in, is a very difficult passion. One should thoroughly study the topic and then deliver their best. There are loads of movies (30s-60s) on social media. However, they lack professionalism.”

And, finally, who would have guessed that a nerdy Computer Science student would like to make films? Taha from PAF KIET has made around 22 films so far.

“The main idea behind Blood Mobile is that people buy second-hand mobiles without finding out if they are snatched, without thinking that somebody might have been killed or robbed,” he stated. “In the film, a friend’s comment is: ‘Yaar, you got a phone at very low price! Was it robbed from someone?’ And the individual simply shrugged it off with ‘I shouldn’t be concerned about that.’”

The idea was given by his brother; Taha then perfected the script and went about looking for people in his circle who could not only perform well but were also closest to the specific character in real life. Casting, therefore, was one challenge that took a lot of his time. The next was to make those people come on time and shoot the film. “Time management issues, yeah,” he replied when asked about the most frustrating part of his experience. “We only had time on weekends. So it took longer to shoot this film. We even had to shoot few scenes again.”

Filmmaking has become so easy that anybody can pick up a camera and start making films. Taha suggested people should first learn the craft of filmmaking. “I’ve seen people shooting and editing films without putting in serious efforts. Their efforts are wasted since the output is not great. Now, if they learn the craft, they will be able to make better and effective films.”

Films that take you places

Essence of Karachi was quite the odd one out. Reason being that it was the only entry at BUSFF by a girl, Rabia Fareed, a Media Studies student at Bahria University. Furthermore, it was a silent film about the famous street foods of Karachi.

“There are three stages of filmmaking. In the first stage, the director decides casting, location, props, etc.; the second stage is shooting and then the last stage is editing. As a female videographer shooting in public, I faced many problems. People observing me passed weird comments which made me feel unsafe. I remember this one comment very clearly: Chalo jee ab larkiyan bhi yeh karengi.”

While it was surely not an ideal remark at the time, Rabia did not let it dampen her spirit. She found BUSFF fascinating given that people interested in different genres and categories participated and showcased their talent. “You know, if you really want to grow in this field, you have to be confident and independent. Forget about society and people around you who will push you back. You have to remain strong no matter what,” she reflected.

There was one more entry from Bahria University: Mohammad Humza Sheikh’s Travelogue of Istanbul. He did not have to deal with problems like finding a perfect location or suitable cast because everything was shot on the spot. Humza, currently studying Software Engineer besides working as a Web Developer at It Retina, had other concerns to attend to.

“This was the first time I was in Istanbul,” he began. “When you film, a lot of people stare at you and make the situation kind of awkward. Sometimes, you have to ask their permission, too. Initially, I was clueless what the end product would be even.

“Individuals who are interested in short films should focus more on the tiny, seemingly unimportant, aspects of filming than storyline or acting. They tend to forget about camera movement, for instance, or don’t have enough time for editing. Go for the professional cameras; consider shooting with drones. It would definitely be heavy on the pocket for some, though. In the end, they have to decide whether they really care to capture some of the most beautiful shots in cinematic history … or not.”

Films meant to motivate you

Every time something inspires me – be it people or inanimate objects – it somehow ends up in my writing, which is my preferred medium of expressing myself. As a filmmaker, I guess, it’s easy to get carried away, too. You may change the dialogues, set it in another country, tweak it a bit here and there so it won’t look like the source, but you would STILL be copying if your content is not original. Rabi Khan from PAF KIET (Film and TV Production) was sure he did not want to make the same “roti dhoti documentaries” that everybody else was busy selling.

“I did not want to submit a depressing short film,” he said while talking about One Shot, an inspiring treat for the students, judges, and public attending the BUSFF’s first edition. “I like boxing. I used to watch recording of different matches on YouTube. When we had to submit our thesis, I knew who my character would be: a boxer. I discussed it in detail with my group members and my teachers; after it was approved, we set about finding the location. One of the group members, Erum Mughal, was able to finalize the set through her references.”

Different doesn’t necessarily mean difficult; like other participants, Rabi’s problems stemmed from low budget: they had only Rs. 6000. “Believe it or not, 30-40 percent of our scenes were shot with iPhone,” he laughed. Comparing his work with peers who had a budget around one lac, Rabi was satisfied how his “grainy footage” turned out. “I’ve been fortunate I had my teacher Sir Khurram, Mubeen ul Haq (Bekaar Vines), and friends Ali Akhtar and Asim Sheikh sticking around. This wouldn’t have been possible without their support and guidance.”

The other entry I would keep in this category is Ar Mehroze Rajput’s Survivor. Mehroze, along with his group fellows Alasifa Mushtaq, Yasir Butt, and Salman Shah, explores the human survival instinct in this short film.

Talent matters. Especially in Mehroze’s case; he is also a student of Architecture. “My mother did not want me to pursue anything related to media. So, I took admission in University of Management and Technology. But, filmmaking was my passion since childhood and side by side, I started working on that; Vintage Photo and Film Studio was formed in this way.”

The next submission was very popular amongst those seated in the audience. Lyrics by Syed Zahid Abbas clicked because we all are guilty of listening to songs whose lyrics make no sense, songs that really should be trashed but are praised. The founder of Ziboy Productions, Zahid was lucky he had his studio to create the music he wanted. But, like all group projects turn out, only three or four members worked with dedication.

His advice to aspiring filmmakers: “Everybody wants to work at the top; chotay level pe koi kaam nahi karna chahta. Based on my experience, my suggestion is to start at the bottom and then take each role and responsibility step by step.”

The star of the evening

A fan of Terminator 2: Judgment Day and Iron Man, Mohsin Ali had worked alone on 88 Men. It won the BUSFF. “I’m happy that the results were selected on merit. It was my own idea and I visited several schools and universities before finding the one that fit the bill. It took me a total of six hours to shoot my film. I used a normal phone camera and Windows Movie Maker to film and edit.”

Mohsin suggested, “It’s essential that you work on the script. If you do that, you would know exactly what you have to work on. Otherwise, there will be loopholes always. You may also want to look for inspiration in places other than our society, or instead of entertaining pieces, you’ll be stuck dealing with depressing ones in some way or the other.”

BUSFF called for entries in the following categories: Place, Food, People, and Documentary. All short films were 2-5 minutes long. The winners are:

First Prize (PKR 25,000): 88 Men by Mohsin Ali

First Runner Up (PKR 15,000): One Shot by Rabi Khan

Second Runner Up (PKR 5,000): Tu Koi Aur Hai by Abid Rizvi