After a series of experiments with her digital camera, Assamese filmmaker Rima Das ended up making her feature film Village Rockstars that has been making news since its debut at the Toronto Film Festival earlier this year. What sets this film apart is how Rima, quite literally, made this film single-handedly. She's learnt her filmmaking through YouTube tutorials and keenly observing others at work. We caught up with her at the 6th Dharamshala International Film Festival before her film was being screened and asked her for tips that may come in handy for young filmmakers.
When I'd watch films on the big screen, I wondered how they looked so good. I assumed only the best of equipment can achieve that. But you should also have the resources for that. Now I see people are making movies on mobiles also. I just had a simple Canon 5D with which I made my first two films, Man With The Binoculars (Antardrishti) And Village Rockstars.
I was worried about how it would look on the big screen because I wanted to send them to film festivals across the world. But surprisingly no one has asked me once about how I shot these films or what equipment I used. So my message to new filmmakers is don't worry about how big your camera is. What matters is your story and your treatment.
Sound is something I'm still struggling with. It's very important. If a few shots of your film are out of focus, it doesn't matter. But sound is critical. I'm not from a technical background. I use basic things like Zoom H4n recorder. Somehow I managed my film but it won't work every time. So I'd say it's better to discuss with someone who knows.
When I used to make short films, I thought buying a camera will be helpful. I could have hired equipment too but that would be expensive and then you also have to get an attendant, etc which I cannot afford. I don't know what I was thinking at the time but I remember my cinematographer friends telling me 'Rima, why are you buying a camera? What will you do with it!' I just felt it would help.
Then I started looking at YouTube tutorials to learn how to use it. Till my first feature, I didn't even know I'd be doing cinematography myself. No one can teach you composition, but lighting is very important so I tried picking that up by observing others. They said it was looking good and that gave me the confidence to do it myself.
If you want to make a film, just do it! Shoot as much as possible. We are blessed that with digital cameras, all you need is a card and a camera. It's not expensive. So go shoot and you'll come to know what you can do. When I did a film in 2009, I went to a village, shot it, and sent to festivals.
And don't be self obsessed. If people are criticising your work, take it in the right spirit and try to find out what is wrong. I made a lot of mistakes on my first film and told myself not to do it again. Remember that you're not making a film to keep it in a box, it's for the people.