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Chillibreeze Interview with Dinesh Shenoy
Dinesh is a diploma holder in Cinematography. He started his career in 1997 in the Cinematography department for a movie as a light boy and then became an assistant cameraman. After assisting a few senior cinematographers, he moved on to be an independent cinematographer. He had been working with cameras for about 5 years when he decided to shift to the management side of film making i.e. production coordination. He enjoyed it so much that he has stuck with it till now!
From selling insurance (and air conditioners) to film making, I’ve travelled a lot, both geographically and mentally! After coming out of college, I sold insurance, reluctantly, that too on my father’s insistence. I was so bad at it that I grabbed an opportunity to set up a shop selling air conditioners in my hometown, Mangalore. And I was bad at that too! Still ran that business, again reluctantly, for more than 7 years. I finally decided that running a business is not my cup of tea, so I shut it and came to Delhi in search of a new career. I was already doing lots of still photography – films and documentaries always fascinated me – so I decided to become a cinematographer. The first thing I did after coming to Delhi was to get into a film school which offered me a short term course in Cinematography (I couldn’t afford to do a long term course at the age of 28). After coming out of the institute, I started working as a light boy and then graduated to become an assistant cameraman. I assisted a couple of senior cinematographers for a couple of years. Even though assignments were not coming my way frequently, I somehow managed to get by, by taking still photographs at functions (political meets etc.).
After working on some good projects I became an independent cinematographer working on corporate films/food related shows/event coverage and documentaries. In the year 2002 I got an opportunity to produce a corporate film for an industrial product. It turned out to be successful. That project got me some more films where I would produce as well as do camera work. One thing led to another and here I was, shifted to the management side of film making, seamlessly!
About the second part of your question, it’s as easy or as difficult as any career. It entirely depends on how passionate you are about your work. Yes, being the thankless profession it is, sometimes it becomes a very challenging job! But there lies the best part, no two productions are alike and each project throws a fresh set of challenges! Rarely do you have a template to work with. Because every creative guy wants to do something which is unheard of every time he gets into a new project. So the production guy too has to understand the film maker’s brief and provide him with new locations every time.
2. If you were looking for someone to do the job that you do, what skills would you want to see in him/her?
I would like the person to be extremely focussed and as passionate as I am. Also someone who is good at multitasking, which is one of the most important skills one should possess in film making.
3. You climbed your own ladder from the bottom rung armed only with your own talent… how true is it that getting a break in this industry requires more of influence in high places than talent?
I do not entirely agree with this. Yes, one can get into a system easily with recommendations. But to be able to stick for long, one has to outdo himself/herself in every project one has been assigned with, without caring about the title/designation.
Even though you’ll find many people who learnt the craft hands on, I would recommend newcomers to do at least a crash course, which will be very helpful. No course can make you a complete cinematographer/editor/director etc but it definitely polishes your existing talent.
A tip for someone who has done a course: Please do not show off your certificate, be very low key about it because most of the people learnt on job and hate institute pass outs!
5. Can you tell us about some of the major projects you have worked on? In what capacity did you participate?
The first major movie project I was associated with was Ashutosh Gowariker’s Swades in 2004. Even though it was only for a 4 days shoot, it had various locations, that too with Shahrukh Khan in it! There was lot of pressure, but I feel I did a good job, since that project got me many more projects afterwards. I was the Chief Production Coordinator of the Delhi schedule.
The other major project I worked on was a film by one of the big names in world cinema- Mohsen Makhmalbaf, the Iranian filmmaker, who shot his film Screaming of the Ants entirely in the North of India. The locations were Bikaner, Jaisalmer and Varanasi. I was the project coordinator (which I came to know when I saw the credits in the film at a film festival two years later!). I experienced a different level of multitasking while working for this film. There were just 13 people with the Iranian crew and collectively they would accomplish the work of about 30 people! We were just 4 of us from the Indian crew and we slogged like hell, but at the end of the day, it was a great experience working with the legend. I remember shedding over 10 kilos in just a couple of months!
There are too many projects to mention here but one project that is close to my heart is The Road Home (2008), a short film by Rahul Gandotra, who was then a student of the London Film School. I came on board as the Line Producer, India. It was entirely shot in Mussoorie, with a crew consisting of different nationalities. The film got awards all around the globe, the biggest of them being a nomination for the Student Oscar in the year 2010. It was also short listed for the Oscars in 2011.
6. You must be interacting with a lot of people at work. What do you think is the one quality that is a must for people who have such jobs?
Production is all about helping creative minds to realise their dreams, so one should have in them a helping nature. Even though it is said that working in the production department is one thankless job to have, it can also be a rewarding one if one works hard, with lots of patience and passion.
7. Anything else you would like to tell our readers? Something that would surprise them?
Filmmaking is a great place to be in. Still I’d like to say, I may sound clichéd, that however glamorous film making may look from the outside, it is the most demanding job and most heart breaking at times! But you forget all that at the end of the day when your hard work appears on screen and the director thanks and hugs you for all the help you rendered!
Question for readers:
What are the kinds of movies that you would like to see more of?
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