This article is the second article as part of our new feature here on Filmmaking Lifestyle called “How They Did It.” We look at successful filmmakers and videographers, ask them questions, and find out how they started & grew their careers in film production or video. Today, we interview Souvik Chakraborty, a freelance writer and director. 1. Your Background As a kid born in rural India, I made 10s of features, and about 1000s of short commercial films, the problem was, all of it was in my head I’d spent long hours staring at blank walls, skies, or anything that would detract me from homework at school. I loved this and honestly miss this exercise a lot. Recently, I found out David Lynch talking about a similar exercise while talking about art collectives and it re-affirms the faith in that process. My father had been a self-taught photographer and had a dark room of his own, and used to do all the ‘photoshop’ jobs, in his analog days with actual processes of chemicals and techniques mentioned on imported photography books. Me and my brother used to re-think TV commercials and cartoons in their whackiest remixes and would often pretend to enact some of them while my dad would photograph us. It was quite a different initiation to the world of storytelling. I enjoyed every bit of the process, except when I grew up, I understood that it was actually the film director who was the auteur of these things. This is the person responsible for creating the imagined world, that I’m so obsessed with. Much later, it dawned that this was a profession and students used to “study” films to make one. Thanks to the broadband connection(though mostly dead) at home, I discovered Youtube channels like Filmmaker Iq, Film Riot, and some Arri or Kodak camera workshop videos in 144p or with loopy buffering. This was a very different diet than the films I could go watch in an Indian theatre. I looked up on Wikipedia and IMDb to discover more works of Indian filmmakers like Ritwik Ghatak, Satyajit Ray, and Mrinal Sen. At this time I understood their inspiration and voices came from varied sources of art and culture around the world. That was a take-off point for finding out more about Jean Luc Godard, Andrei Tarkovsky, Jim Jarmusch, or Lars Von Trier. Later when my friend got me the DVDs of some of these films, I truly understood the vastness of the possibilities in this medium. I read “How to Read a Film”, “In The Blink Of An Eye” and other books that I could lay my hands on like the “Five C’s” and “Essays in Film Theory”.(I got the book names from downloading the syllabus of film institutes). However, the references to art or crafts, especially expressionism, surrealism, or Dadaism did not make much sense to me with my limited exposure to the art forms. So, even though it was very exciting, to know about such radically interesting ideas, it was tough to appreciate it. Over the years, I have followed Salvador Dali, Andy Warhol, and Ganesh Pyne’s works to understand more about how an artist seeks to transgress their time to deliver their finest expressions. And, I think I try to derive some of it in my work too, at least just the essence of it. After I got out of school, I got into literature studies and then a professional but short, Film and TV production post-grad and got out to work in reality TV shows. I learned the same things that I had already known so far, but now in a more structurally sound format and in a more focused way. During this time, I started working for various digital startups and ad spaces, sometimes as a copywriter, scriptwriter, and consultant. So, when I picked up my video-making skills, I added videography and editing as a service too and that got me more clients and I got to work on my passion projects like Dialog. 2. About The Company From a very early stage in my career, I have been collaborating with other professionals and houses to deliver the projects that I pick up through my client contacts. We are a group of independent creators coming from different skill sets with the common objective of delivering the best outputs within the budgets and the timeframes of a project. I work with motion graphic editors, photographers, actors, digital artists, and writers. The projects include both fiction, nonfiction, and commercial branding projects. The bare-bone structure of our operations is ensured only through a host of reliable clients. So we need to make sure to deliver each time on time. And, also to make sure that we develop a kind of relationship that gets us more referrals and projects in the subsequent months. The projects that we work on; need varied levels of skills and understanding, but the vision is very important and in most cases, I try to onboard clients, understand the brief, and then get the concept through to the development and production. It is very important for filmmakers to understand the business side of things, especially the accounting and all the non-creative (but essential) sides of running the machinery. For this, we take the help of professionals separately and get them on hire or on a per-project consultation basis as required. Collaboration is important, but so are pay and personal bonding. One key takeaway is that food and refreshments at work account for the highest level of approval among all team members. A well-made heavy dinner really helps after a tough evening. Hope you get the idea! 3. Coming Up With The Idea This industry is all about problem-solving and getting a kickback out of it as more projects an more problem-solving. Step 01 Don’t look for ideas. I have stopped looking for inspiration and an active way of thinking, the clinical trial film that I shot during the pandemic, happened because it was my reality. I was reading about the clinical trials and all the things associated with the study of viruses. So, I imagined and brought context through it, when my clinical researcher friend, Soham De helped me out with substantial research on the material. The idea is to not have an idea, but organically create a subject, as if you had this idea pop up in your head one day like an epiphany. this kind of process has worked with me, as it keeps my brain subconsciously active and perhaps, less stressed all along the way. Step 02 All ideas are bad. As much as all ideas are Award winners. the world is replete with tools and resources for us to imagine our wildest realities. Superpowers like Polycam, Wonder Studio, or just your daydreaming capacities can create the next blockbuster. I think it’s quite important to finish off projects and show them to the world. I think more than validation, it helps in understanding the style and the nature of work that suits us best. As a filmmaker, it is imperative to experiment and show it to the world. Step 03 I think ideas work best when you are not constantly thinking about them all the time. Many writers or thinking personalities carry a notebook with them, for jotting their ideas. I have Evernote, but I think it’s more of a burden than anything to constantly remind yourself about being creative. I’d start typing the moment, something hits me on my face. Usually, it’s much less of a pompous affair. This year I had a scripted non-fiction project to write and I had to read a lot about human physiology. I got too many other ideas coming for fiction projects, while I was reading about the human body as a whole. Instead of pasting all the scientific jargon and facts on a notepad. I have simply put the ideas down as a log line into my mega folder of ideas. This really helps me when I come back later from this research phase into something that requires structured thinking. Yes, I mean the index card writing phase. Step 99 (I don’t know why these are steps, it made sense to me when I had the first one, so this is a random but important one). Create something. Even when there are zero work commitments. I occasionally download stock clips and edit them into short spec video trailers, ads, etc, this is a good stress killer and helps me loosen my nerves a bit when the season is dry. If you have all the necessary means to help somebody, then film or create content, and do a barter with them. A simple edit for a video could help someone go online with their business, or crowdfund for their medical bills. 4. How Did You Grow The Business? Most of my projects have come through referrals or by sharing my portfolio of work. Since I have not stuck to one particular line of skillsets, it has been quite smooth juggling between the various roles, sometimes as a consultant, writer, shooter, or director. Over the years, I have worked with people who have recalled me back for my performances. I believe most clients who buy services are looking at people who would over-deliver. It is about balancing time and quality and sometimes the price tag is out of the equation. Because a happy client is the fattest resume you can possibly have. Maintaining health, ethics, and peace is what should be sought for sustaining a long-term business, I believe if one is good at networking, the other things do fall into place. Like eventually a bad technician improves their skills through multiple gigs and opportunities coming their way. But, no gabs are all gaps. Lastly, another important lesson is that you have to be ready to learn and upskill in the domains you are trying to be a boss. This has to be a constant churn of trial and error as some tech and tools would be useless to you and some might make you super quick and efficient. 5. Lessons Learned Along The Way It’s easy to get sucked up in the social media vortex on the pretext of learning from influencers about the latest transitions, gears, and much more, but the real game of filmmaking lies elsewhere. I believe people management is a key skill that is clearly underrated, most of the direction job on a set is possible through your interpersonal skills. Most of the client communication happens because you are able to communicate well within your team and translate your vision up or down the chain. t’s of paramount importance that you keep your on-ground human chain of command to its best. If you are looking for good content to invest your time and also to learn the tropes of classic content format narratives watch Adaptation, Modern Family, or Mr. Robot. For those who want to take up writing opportunities, I’d definitely suggest you observe more and experience the varied communities and fast-changing eco-scape of the world. The movie Parasite was so relatable around the world because it’s rooted to its core. Watch Tumbaad, it’s an Indian horror flick. You would be fascinated by how amazing, simple stories could be. Most times when I feel lazy or can’t move a muscle to write, I am just myself; staring blankly waiting for my muse to take an Uber, and arrive; but, then I finally manage to get lost in some odd distractions. And, honestly, it has helped me a lot. I mean being idle most of the time and then being highly active and functioning has been quite a remarkably successful cycle for me (at least when coming up with raw concepts). I have noticed that I had plenty of work done in a shorter period of time when my head was relaxed. Read more about the Pareto principle it might make sense to you. I think the most dynamic modern careers are that of a designer or editor, almost every quarter there are tons of upgrades in every aspect of the craft. Check out Adobe Firefly, for example, and see the number of things it can pull off, in seconds! This profession certainly needs a hard reboot every year. A designer is now also expected to be a colorist on a mid-grade project, so the space is getting extremely competitive. I would also suggest keeping all your resources segregated and labeled in proper drives and sheets. References and re-purposing are integral in the new-age marketing jingoism. From Assets templates and project files to software files, the game is all about pulling a book from the library and making notes of it, every now and then. If you understand programming, pick up the subject of After Effects expressions, as one of your core specializations and it will set you apart in the field for sure. 6. Recommended Tools The Adobe Premiere Pro, After Effects, and Photoshop trio, is a go-to for everything. If you are looking for a powerful all-in-one solution along with color grading then go for Da Vinci Resolve. Use Filmic Pro for shooting on your phone or use the new Blackmagic camera app for iPhone. If you are using the Adsterra lights, you should be familiar with its handy app, it’s a powerhouse, really, and super efficient. The same goes for Aputure lights as well. Learn Canva, MS Designer, Keynote, and the Office suite, this helps in creating non-narrative content for corporate or socials. Tiptoe into Polycam, Wonder Studio, Blender, and Unreal Engine. For those who are into gears, I’d suggest that go for the basic lens kits and the bare minimum to work your way up. Doing more with less is a real game changer, and you will be remembered or recalled for a long time through your battles. Save on the next big cine camera and come fund my film Arc Studio Pro, Trelby, and Celtx are great tools for writers, try out Milanote and Shotdeck if you are looking for constant inspiration or better project management and presentations. Check out the resources page of this website, that’s super handy really. Most importantly, make friends, share gigs in your community, and find stories that would really make a difference. 7. Recommended Books & Resources I have compiled together a host of books that contain different skills essential for setting up a production business, a filmmaking career, or any entrepreneurial journey in the creative domain. How to Read a Film Atomic Habits The Mahabharata Film Theory: An Introduction Through the Senses Five C’s of Cinematography: Motion Picture Filming Techniques In the Blink of An Eye Screenplay Mughal and Rajput Painting Art 101 Color Theory for the Make-Up Artist: Understanding Color and Light for Beauty and Special Effects If you are in a place to shoot or edit stuff to put out there, keep on repeating the process until you get the right amount of eyeballs on your other projects or wizardry. I think the greatest resources lie in our failures. 8. Advice For Those Starting Out In Filmmaking or Video Production? As a filmmaker you either have the option to choose and become a technical filmmaker, an aesthetically sound artist, or a complete filmmaker who is more of an auteur, who does it all, because s/he had prepared for all bumps on the road. But, A production business might bring you a diverse band of clients, try getting a professional for the areas that are not your key strength. Ask as many questions as possible on your set dates (shooting days). Bring yourself up on every occasion, however, basically try to help smoothen a shoot. The “team effort” spiel is not so hollow after all. It’s really an important aspect of working your way up the ranks and getting to be at important positions at important times doing the key things that matter in a shoot. A filmmaking business, is a curious mix of all things from finance, to operations and hardcore creativity, so burnout is obvious, no matter what your strategy is, you will feel decimated because it’s quite tough to hold the nerves of steel at all times. Read more about filmmakers like Robert Rodriguez, and see how they overcame their hurdles and stormed their way through roadblocks. It’s not a hustle, it’s the usual nature of the work we do. It needs a high degree of tenacity and acceptance. Try to be a good salesperson, but avoid the YouTuber syndrome of shopping around for validation on every little achievement. After a point in time, I gave up worrying about my pathetic social media growth and focussed more on onboarding newer clients through word-of-mouth referrals and the virtues of my portfolio. I am not suggesting you be as terribly unsuccessful as me, but try focusing on the things that can convert into potential opportunities for you. Every story is different at the end of the day! Dialog is one of my most successful projects which I self-distributed and licensed to multiple platforms like Amazon Prime and others. You can learn more about the film and rate it if you want. The film has been part of various art gallery shows and over 50 festivals it has secured me awards, friendships, and fresh projects for clients. Check out my process of making this project and the soundtrack. During the pandemic, I studied a lot about germs and pandemics, I also attended a few-hour webinar by Jason Blum, which all materialized this social justice film on unethical clinical trials, called A knowing. It would remind one of the Holocaust and a lot more. The concept short film is out for you to watch here and you can read more and rate it here. If you choose to support the crowdfunding initiative of the feature film on this concept. Over the years I have consulted for TV series, directed tens of brand content series, and developed plenty of content for optioning. My creative photography and artwork have been part of exhibitions in the US, Budapest, Germany, and India. I do occasionally update my works here in case you are interested in watching my branded content and other works. Thank you for your time and I hope my journey will help you in some way in your career or business goals too. In case you are interested in taking part in my short course on writing, especially thriller and suspense genre, do enroll. It’s Free (within the offer period), a giveaway from me to all here. Cheers! Editor’s Note: If you’d like to be featured in our “How I Made It” section on the site, drop us an email. The post How I Found My Filmmaking Mojo: Souvik Chakraborty appeared first on Filmmaking Lifestyle.