Archive: Nov 2012

Shripriya in the Mumbai Mirror

Last Sunday, the Mumbai Mirror published an interview with Shripriya by Aseem Chhabra.

The link to the Mumbai Mirror here (but behind a paywall), so it’s reproduced below.

A Magical Experience

The class was called Directing Poetry and it was a once in a lifetime opportunity for 12 graduate film students at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts.

“Poetry is so personal and visual, and it seemed like a great class to take on how to adapt a poem,” said Shripriya Mahesh, one of the two Indian Americans who managed to get into the class. Her classmate Shruti Ganguly also attended the course offered last year, while the two were in the third year of the program.

What made the class fascinating was that it was taught by the Oscar-nominated actor James Franco, who has also been collecting a series of degrees himself.

Franco’s plan was to make the class read Tar, a collection of poems written by Pulitzer Prize winning poet C.K. Williams. Each student was then to write a script and direct a short film based on the poem. Franco, who also played the role of the producer then planned to edit all the films into one full length feature.

This Friday, Tar – the film written and directed by Mahesh and her 11 classmates had its world premiere at the Rome Film Festival.

Mahesh picked two poems that spoke to her – Color of Time, where Williams remembers his childhood and Waking Jed, where the author observes his son who is about to wake up. “I thought it would be wonderful to connect the two ideas,” Mahesh said to me on Skype. A former executive at eBay, Mahesh finished her NYU program in May, and moved in the summer to Singapore with her husband and twin boys.

Franco invited Williams to the class and he read out all the poems selected for the film. “Just listening to him read was amazing and moving,” Mahesh said.

Then a few fortuitous things happened. As the students started to think about casting for their films, Franco offered to act as adult Williams.

And since Franco at that time was acting in Detroit in Oz: The Great and the Powerful, the shooting of the Tar segments also moved to that city. One more thing – Franco brought some of his Hollywood friends to act in the film. So Jessica Chastain drove down for a few days from a film shoot in Canada to act as young Williams’ mother. And Mila Kunis agreed to act as Williams’ wife.

All of this meant that Mahesh along with a few other classmates got to direct both Franco and Chastain. “It was very generous of the actors,” Mahesh said. “They didn’t have to do the films.”

“Directing James and Jessica was a joy,” Mahesh said. “They were very professional and collaborative. It was a very mutually respectful environment where I never felt they were stars.”

“He (Franco) switched roles very easily, “ she added. “When I was directing him, he took directions, even though he knew the script very well. But he would ask me ‘Do you want me to do it this way or another way?’ When I would call cut, he would ask how was that?”

She added that Franco nailed the performance of Williams in just a couple of takes, especially a tender moment towards the end of the film where he observes his son’s finger and ear. And while Mahesh was directing Chastain, Franco watched her and even gave helpful advice.

A lot of Mahesh’s beautifully made ten and a half minute long film has the free flowing style reminiscent of Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life. “When you are talking about memory and this was a year ago, that was a very relevant film. James suggested it to us as a visual reference.”

The visual style also matched through the shorts, since the films were shot by two cinematographers and the project had one production designer.

Last week Mahesh was heading to Rome for Tar’s premiere. “It was a very unique opportunity and the great thing is we went into it without expecting any of this,” she said. “I thought adapting poetry will be interesting. And then it became a magical experience when all these things fell into place.”

Photo credit: Anna Kooris

 

 

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TAR – red carpet and review

Very short two-day trip to Rome for the red carpet and the premiere.

While there were eight of the twelve directors in attendance, suffice it to say that the team that made TAR happen was a lot larger. The DPs, production designers, costumers, G&E team, line producers, sound, location managers and our amazing ADs and their teams, were all incredible. And the magicians who worked on the film in post, pulling 12 different shorts together – the editors, sound designers, composers. So much talent and dedication. My intense gratitude to each of them.

In terms of nerves, all of mine were reserved for the screening itself.

The Hollywood Reporter review can be read here.

Photo Credit/Source: Ernesto Ruscio, Venturelli/Getty Images Europe

The art of going on

A big part of life as a writer/director is handling rejection. Rejections from festivals, prizes, grants, producers, actors… I mean, anyone who can reject you will do so. Perhaps several times. And even someone who appears successful externally is getting crushed with some form of rejection.

Some rejections you can brush off and move on. Others linger. The depth of the wound and the recovery time is directly proportional to the sum of how much you deluded yourself and how much you wanted it.

This is a topic near and dear to my heart. So when Peter Bradshaw linked to this article by Rose Tremain, I read it immediately. If you are a filmmaker, you should read the whole article.

The most significant hurdle of all is finding the resources to defeat the almost inevitable 48-hour blues that follow the non-win, and the energy to return to the work in hand, unaffected by what’s just happened to a different book. Every writer I know feels more or less contented or discontented with day-to-day life according to how his or her writing is going. Many, many things will affect this, but I know that the non-win of a prize can seem to infect the ongoing work with a badness-virus and lay the author low. What’s on the page or screen – in which there had been stubborn belief, perhaps even garlanded a bit with excitement – can suddenly appear less than first-rate. Sentences crease and bend. Dialogue sounds wan. Even the ideas which inform the book can buckle at the knees.

The art of surviving this is simply the art of keeping on. Time and hard work will heal the poor ravaged thing. In the work lies the future. In the future may lie other shortlists and other wins or non-wins. And so the whole darn desperate process begins again …

By the time I reached the end, I was tearing up with empathy1. But, taking her advice, I shall get back to work instead.


  1. My rejections, to be clear, are on a much smaller, less relevant scale.