Start small, but start somewhere and keep doing things
Drishyam Sundance Screenwriters Lab participant Raj Rishi More talks about his experience at the lab, progress on the script and the experience he garnered by being an assistant to the director.
Please tell us about your background. How did you get into film writing?
Working as a photographer in Bangalore before shifting to Mumbai in 2011, I aspired to be a film director. I used to shoot videos and make montages of them, trying to tell a story to myself as I was the only audience of my video work. I have been writing shorts for couple of years and last year directed one of them named Baba, a Marathi language short set in Mumbai. Baba was an enriching experience which pushed me towards writing my first feature Pirates.
What does it mean to be one of the chosen scripts in the Drishyam – Sundance Institute Screenwriters’ Lab 2015?
You mean apart from good hospitality in Goa? (laughs) Well, it means a lot of things. The most important being the fact that I got to discuss my script with various advisors and understand my own script better. Secondly, Sundance Lab also supports individual projects post lab, we can seek advise and feedback at different stages of making the film, which I think has a range of benefits.
The panel had eminent filmmakers from all over the world. What kind of feedback did you expect and how did it eventually go?
I didn’t know what to expect as it was my first time but I was mostly nervous. Advisors discussed more than just giving feedback, which I think was more helpful. Scope of dialogue, constructive conversations, always benefit in learning.
There were other participants from varied backgrounds and experiences. What kind of interactions did you have with fellow participants?
All the fellow writers were extremely approachable and welcoming. We hardly talked about each others scripts as we hadn’t read them. We talked on various other things and the sharing lead to cultivating friendship. In a very short span of time we became friends. I am still in touch with most of them.
The synopsis says that the film is based on a cartoonist. Can you further elaborate about the theme? And why it is named ‘Pirates’?
Yes, the story is about an aspiring illustrator who is trying to find his own space, trying to chase his dream in the odyssey of life and ‘Pirates’ is the fantasy he creates. That is all I can reveal now as the script is still in progress. I am writing another draft of it, so it’s still in the ‘developing’ stage.
Who were your mentors from the panel? And how has the experience benefited your story?
Each of us had four mentors including Indians and Non-Indians, which I felt was the best as we received different perspectives from all over the world. They helped me in adapting something very local, giving it a global appeal while keeping it’s essence intact. End of the day a film has to work on paper so that it transforms effortlessly onscreen, these advisers help you do that.
Drishyam Films plans to produce 2-3 scripts from the lab. Your thoughts on this?
It’s good if they do. Independent filmmakers like us could use as many hands as we can get.
Will you also direct your script? Have you got your team in place?
Yes I will direct Pirates, and there’s no team yet. I am still writing the film.
You have consistently worked with Ritesh Batra in all his film projects. Tell us about your collaboration and also is he a part of your project?
Yes, Ritesh is part of the film. I met him in 2012 when he was starting the prep for The Lunchbox and joined him as Director’s Assistant and researcher for the film. We have been working together since. I worked very closely with Ritesh on The Lunchbox and learnt a lot. It was like going to film school. As his assistant I always tried to understand the ‘Why’ of things – Why we need this location, why we need this color of shirt; the ‘why’ of every minute detail. All this helped when I sat down to write Pirates.
Please share your experience from being an Assistant Director to Director.
What I can say from my experience as an Assistant Director is that while assisting I learnt mechanics of filmmaking, understood how a film set works, which will help me while directing. But I also learnt that a Director works intimately with actors to make a film and that’s something one can only learn with experience of directing, not assisting. If one wants to be a Director then one must direct stuff even if it’s a home video or a short. Start small, but start somewhere and keep doing things to learn – unlearn.