I was always on the edge
Mark Nutkins, Cinematographer of soon to be releasing Welcome to Karachi, shares his experiences of working with Indian film crew for the very first time and his visual design and techniques for the film.
Mark Nutkins, Cinematographer of the upcoming comedy Welcome to Karachi throws light on the visual design and techniques adopted for this film and shares the experience of working with an Indian film crew for the very first time.
How did your association with Welcome to Karachi happen?
I got a call from a UK Line Producer saying that Director Ashish R Mohan had seen my showreel and some other work, and quite liked it. Ashish found my style to be appropriate for Welcome to Karachi. I was extremely busy during that time so couldn’t give it much thought. And the next thing I know is that they are here at a local pub in London to meet me and I understood that they meant business. I met Ashish and we hit it off instantly. I remember how I had exclaimed on meeting him – “You can’t be the director. You’re too young”. Then I saw the hard work he had put in. He had entire script and excitedly narrated it to me. I knew I had to work in this project as I couldn’t miss the exhilarating ride this Director and his film will take me on.
How was it working with an all Indian film cast and crew?
This is my first Indian association and what a delightful experience it was! It wasn’t Indian filmmaking, rather it was international in all aspects. The Director knew the film inside out and what he is looking for so well that it made my work so much easier. Though he had a strong view on the film and how to go about it, he was still open to all the ideas I shared. He listened to them and amalgamated them whenever worthy. Once we were on top of a large quarry in Wales, driving a jeep in horrendous rain. The whole cast and crew was back at the base dry and unaffected. This was the time that Ashish and I had a heartfelt talk and we knew we had formed this beautiful friendship that will go on for years. Ashish had faith in me and vice versa. He has this amazing talent of putting people first, understanding and standing by them. And he does all this while making the work seem all fun. Filmmaking is a way of life, rather than a job and thus should be made a joyful experience.
The actors, Ashard Warsi and Jackky Bhagnani were a pleasure to work with. They always went that extra step to ensure we had performances that match the story, feel and journey of the two characters of the film. I knew I had to prove myself to everyone, this being my first Indian feature film. So when in week two Ashard Warsi came to me and said he that he was extremely happy with the rushes and that I had caught the soul of the film perfectly, I was relieved. It gave me the confidence that I have earned the trust of all and have been accepted. Arshad is a true professional, his ideas, performance and his nature were consistently good. I loved Jackky’s enthusiasm and professionalism on the set, he brought his character to life in a way I had not envisioned when reading the script. I think it was around week three when I started to really feel the bond between both the characters. I saw them supporting each other and putting the film first. After all, a lot of the success of the film depends on the two characters’ relationship with each other on screen.
What were the shooting techniques and design you adopted for the film?
Ashish used certain lenses repeatedly to bring a strong sense of structure throughout the film. We used the 10MM lens in most POV shots. I soon fell in love with this technique as it added a grandness to the overall film and helped us look into our characters’ souls. We used a lot of Handheld to bring in energy and suspense to the characters’ situations and journey. I was always on the edge, and thought quickly during these scenes. If I saw something that inspired me during a rehearsal or take I would just go for it. I applaud the wonderful focus pullers from both UK and India who were able to adapt to the environment and my style and give me freedom while shooting.
Could you tell us about the lighting techniques and spaces you explored while filming?
I used lighting as a tool to separate countries from each other. And though the story is based in Pakistan & India, we shot mainly in UK, so that had its own set of unique challenges, weather being the main culprit. For the CIA I went with a blue look and feel, for Pakistan ISI interrogation we went for a green look and a slightly sodium tone for the general look. I wanted to keep the look and feel of the film in a real space and wanted to support the characters by putting them in real environments. I felt this approach would support the story, bringing it in a more interesting light.
How difficult and different was it shooting for a Hindi film as compared to your previous works?
I realized quickly that the differences were mainly down to structure and dialogue. I tried my best to pick up words here and there, to make instructions clear and quick as languages are not my strong point.
Tell us about your camera team.
Welcome to Karachi was shot in UK and India. It was the first time that I worked with English and Indian teams together. My usual UK team headed by Guillermo Alvarez (1st AC, Focus Puller) and Yan Murawski (UK Gaffer) who worked closely with Navin Gadkari (2nd Operator and Jimmy Jib/Steady-cam Operator), and Javed Khan( Camera Attendant, Prime Focus) and his team from India. The shoot was relentless with long hours and travel. I could absolutely count on both the teams to pull together all the work and support me. The Director kept giving us interesting pointers to keep the cinematography engaging and support the story.
During the Indian part of the shoot I came to India alone. I wanted to embrace the Indian film work ethic. Having made friends here and seen the talent first hand, I was confident I would be supported all throughout. And yes, I had a blast shooting. Three men who became my three musketeers, without whom I couldn’t have pulled off the shoot so well were Vinod Perumal (2nd Unit DOP/Cam Operator), Shamim Mohammed (Indian Gaffer) and Mukesh M. Waghela(Key Grip). They embraced my working style, quickly, efficiently and came up with ideas that collaborated with my own wonderfully.
Do you see yourself being part of more Indian films?
Since principal photography finished in April I have been back in the UK shooting music videos, commercials and art projects, putting the final touches to a wonderful British Indie film Hi Lo Joe which I shot last year. I am in talks about shooting another Bollywood film and would love to work with South Indian directors too. And yes, I am really looking forward to making another film with Ashish. We have to definitely take this working relationship forward.
What kind of cinema you want to be part of?
I love cinema. For me it is about sharing experiences with friends, children, loved ones and strangers on the big screen. Storytelling gives me a high. Stories based on challenging ideas and interesting relationships are wonderful to work on. Being a big action film fan, I love a good explosion, and would love to shoot one. But I would certainly like a balance of different genres of films in my kitty. I wish to be part of meaningful stories and a film that has an inspiring message.
You have been associated with different film industries throughout the world. How has your experience been?
I have been lucky to work with directors and crews from around the world, from India, South America, Morocco, to France, Italy and more. There is nothing more exciting than opening yourself up to world views, landscapes and stories. World cinema brings us all closer and makes us realise that we are not all that different from each other. My way of experiencing the world is through the camera using composition and lighting to create moods and feelings that pass the barriers of languages and communicate using visuals. I feel this is a universal language and I learn more about it everyday while I am behind the camera.