Rohit Gupta, a US based filmmaker has made his dream of making a feature film with little or no resources; just a burning desire. He has been successful in turning his dream into reality with his first film Another Day Another Life, a 4 min American suspense thriller film that received high critical acclaim worldwide including at the prestigious Cannes film festival.
The film attracted enough attention to encourage Gupta to seriously attempt a career as a filmmaker. His next venture, a 90 minutes feature film Life! Camera and Action… was shot with a two member crew in three languages English, Hindi and Punjabi as a part of the story.
Since its release ‘Life! Camera! Action…’ has received wide critical acclaim, earning over seventy international accolades in various categories including the prestigious “Top Nine Most Popular” and Board of Directors’ Special Awards, 28th Goldie Film Awards (USA), “Orson Welles Award”-California International Film Awards, “Royal Reel Award”- Canada International Film Festival, “Grand Jury Award”-Oregon Film Awards (USA), “Best Feature Film”-World Peace Film Festival and many others around the world. Renowned news producer Silicon India listed the film as one of the 10 Outstanding Movies by Indian American Filmmakers.
Rohit’s ‘Life! Camera Action…’ was mainly an experiment to firsthand experience the creative and business aspect of feature filmmaking.
In a tête-à-tête with Shveata Chandel Singh, Rohit Gupta speaks about his journey as a filmmaker and also divulges his future plans
Tell us something about yourself?
Rohit Gupta: Born and raised in a business family in Mumbai, I moved to the US to pursue my MBA a decade ago.
I later joined NYFA for a four-week filmmaking program to explore my interest in behind-the-scenes world of movie –making.
Later NYFA offered me scholarship to extend my stay into the one year program. My first film Another Day Another Life, a four minute suspense thriller film was chosen as an official selection at the Short Film Corner – Cannes Film Festival in 2009. This is how my journey as a filmmaker started.
How you got interested in films and what promoted you to take a course in filmmaking?
Rohit Gupta: I love to wear sunglasses all the time. I found that film world is the only world one can wear sunglasses at any time of the day or night and not be out casted. To my advantage, I have been a fan of movies and to explore behind the scenes world of movie making I briefly enrolled in to a filmmaking course at the New York Film Academy. Fortunately it worked and now I wear them any time of the day or night. (Laughs)
How has been the journey so far? What you have to say about your filmmaking journey so far?
Rohit Gupta: Filmmaking, creativity is over-hyped. My journey has been superb. I love every moment of it!
What are the challenges of this field?
Rohit Gupta: To keep sanity and follow your heart amongst insecure and de-motivating stories and situations especially from the one’s who have never done anything worthwhile qualitatively or quantitatively.
What you like the most about film-making?
Rohit Gupta: It’s evolving nature. It’s Magic.
In general, what kind of stories draws your attention?
Rohit Gupta: Positive and fun stories.
What subjects you generally like to work on?
Rohit Gupta: Anything that excites me.
Who is your inspiration?
Rohit Gupta: Our system in general. I mainly attribute the film Clerks and its director Kevin Smith as my main inspiration to becoming a movie director. I had never seen anything like that before and it got me off. I was like, I can do this too.
How many films you have made so far?
Rohit Gupta: Four
What is your success mantra? Is there a formula?
Rohit Gupta: Belief is where it all begins. I let my heart and instincts guide me.
What is the key challenge in making short films?
Rohit Gupta: A movie is a movie. So depending on what one’s goals is the length is subjective. The process of making a short or a feature is the same.
Therefore spending little extra time to make a feature proves worthwhile in the long run. In the end, one needs to be happy about what they do, be it short, feature, or any other thing.
Your movies generally are very small budget films, but still quite impressive and successful? So, would you like you share the secret of your success?
Rohit Gupta: I think the reason for success is their universal themes based on reality.
You have won so many awards and accolades in a short journey of your film career. Would you be disappointed if the trend did not continue?
Rohit Gupta: Overall my main goal remains to make a movie, sell it and go home. Well, awards are not a big deal. Anyone can win awards. When I started off, without any guidance these awards came in handy as the only form of encouragement and reassurance but in the bigger picture, it is only one of the elements in product’s packaging and its success as it changes perception (strange).
I have experienced various brilliant products, amazing movies alike without any accolades attached to them. My aim remains to create a universal product and if everyone associated with it are able to take one step forward towards their desired goals is my ultimate success and award. I believe in win-win situation, so being ahead of anyone doesn’t feel exciting therefore awards did not provide any personal gratification.
Do you think the uniqueness of the storyline contribute to the success of movies?
Rohit Gupta: There is no such thing as unique, good or a bad story or stories worth telling or not. Every story is worth telling and has the potential. It can take different shape and structure by the time it comes out. All stories relate to some one who has experienced them in some form directly or indirectly so every story has an audience. Period! Therefore success is relative.
One of your films, ‘Another Day Another life’ was a very short movie of just 4 minutes, so how you manage to convey the full message through such a short film?
Rohit Gupta: Primarily it’s all script driven. I executed what was on paper. The original edit was for around 7 minutes. During background scoring Peter Roessler (music composer) came up with this 4 mins mixed track and for personal reasons couldn’t work any further. So now I had a 7 minutes movie with 4 minutes track to go with it.
But then something magical happened. I scrapped 7 mins film that I had spent working for over a month and recut the film again from scratch based on the track. I am sucker for music therefore enjoyed this process thoroughly. Overall the credit goes to the writer Giri Mohan for coming up with this amazing concept.
You’re Life! Camera Action has entered the Limca book of records, so tell us something about that movie? What challenges you confronted in making that movie?
Rohit Gupta: LCA is a family-drama movie. It is an inspiring story of a girl, who sets off to pursue a career in filmmaking without the consent of her parents. She is threatened to be disowned if she insists on her choice instead of doing what usually is the norm — become a doctor, engineer or an architect. At the center of this family drama, Reina is faced with a hard decision: She must give up her dreams in order to keep her parents happy or go against their wishes and follow her own path.
Many people told me that this project is not plausible and I am going for the impossible. It started as a ten / fifteen minute’s short film assignment at the film school that was converted to a full-length feature film. It was shot in ten days and roughly edited on my Mac Book Pro. There was no bound script for the film. I was lucky to meet the cast, crew and many others who believed in the vision and collaborated to see this through.
What you have to say about Bollywood industry?
Rohit Gupta: No Idea.
What do you think is Bollywood’s biggest contribution to our generation?
Rohit Gupta: Emotions, dreams, inspirations that connect us all.
Do you have any plan to move to the Bollywood film industry and work there?
Rohit Gupta: I would love to get an opportunity to create something there.
Do you think that Indian filmmakers have a scope in Hollywood industry?
Rohit Gupta: Absolutely and Undoubtedly.
What differentiates Bollywood from Hollywood? Though Bollywood is very famous with so much fan following throughout the world, but what do you think the India filmmakers should do to reach Hollywood standards?
Rohit Gupta: Make movies for the American audience with their sensibilities and humour.
What films you are working on presently?
Rohit Gupta: Currently in post-production of a comedy feature titled Midnight Delight.
Any message for aspiring filmmakers?
Rohit Gupta: There are no short cuts. This doesn’t mean things are difficult. I mean you have to explore and find your own voice. Its then that audience will connect. You want to make a film? Just pick up a camera, write up your story, make your movie and have lots of fun along the way. Unless you do this, you won’t know what you like about what you do and why.
Remember no one needs any permission from anyone to be whoever one wants to be. Asking for advice from those who never made a feature film is a great way of finding reasons for not doing it. Learn from and collaborate with those who’ve objectively achieved a level of success that you can relate to. There is nothing like being original. If you try to make everybody happy, you will lose yourself. Just remind yourself. NO ONE REALLY KNOWS ANYTHING. There is no mantra or formula to it.
The fun is to create something with what resources we have on-hand than worrying about what we don’t or could. With technology at our fingertips nothing is impossible. Don’t forget: When I (Rohit) can do it anyone can! So go for it and amaze yourself. One life to live!
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