I made my first film LENS (2015) out of desperation. After lot of failed attempts at getting a break as an actor I forced myself into learning the craft of filmmaking. There is no one particular film that has inspired me throughout my filmmaking journey. All the films that I have watched have affected me in some way or the other. What I write and film are instinctive responses to all that I have seen and read. I cannot truthfully quote or state any one film as my inspiration. I am very forgetful that way.
Filmmaking is an art fueled by imagination, grit and perseverance. The one and only person who inspired me to pursue the life of an artist is my acting teacher from Seattle, Mr. JD. Coburn. He used to say, “acting is living truthfully under imaginary circumstances.” I try and apply this to my screenplays. Writing truthfully through imaginary characters and circumstances. He would say, “90 percent of art lies in our own humanity; only the remaining 10 percent can be learnt.”
So, to further my imagination, I started reading literature and philosophy. The writings of Oscar Wilde have been a real inspiration; I also liked One Hundred Days in Solitude and Midnight’s Children.
On the technical side, I learned the structure of screenwriting from The Story by Robert Mckee. The Anatomy of Story: 22 Steps to Becoming a Master Storyteller by John Truby gave me an insight about converting an idea into a story and how the theme, characters and everything else originates from the central idea itself.
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On Directing Film by David Mamet taught me the nuances of breaking down my story into visual shots. This book gave me an understanding of editing and shot divisions.
Cinema is a blend of content and form. For me, content is of primary importance. The form organically evolves from content. Feeling and Form: A Theory of Art by Susanne K. Langer gives us an in-depth analysis of how various art forms evoke feelings through forms.
With all these theories in my head, I went on to write the screenplay of LENS, it took me three years and 72 pages to finish it. I shot 95 percent of what I wrote, thanks to David Mamet.
During the background score of my film I learnt that music can control our perception of time. Under the influence of the right music, a minute on screen may feel like an hour and vice versa.
I will be making films as long as ideas keep inspiring me.
By Jayaprakash Radhakrishnan
Director, LENS (Tamil)