- Was there a particular event or time that you recognized that filmmaking is your way of telling stories?
There was a film called “Innocence of the Muslims” which motivated me to go into film making and showed me the power of filmmaking. It generated a lot of attention and there were calls to boycott YouTube for allowing it to be shown as it spread a hate filled narrative of Muslims and their faith. I felt that boycotting wasn’t the most effective way to really tackle these attacks. So this event triggered me to decide to get involved in filmmaking and to counter these hate messages in a format where millions would be able to watch and make up their own minds on what they agreed or disagreed with.
- Do you think it is essential to go to a film institute in order to become a successful filmmaker?
I studied English Language and linguistics at University. I never studied at a film institute. My route into filmmaking was really strange and odd. But I did however study a lot online, like Lynda.com and other resources like this. I think I studied and completed over 44 courses online. So in my own time, I spent a lot of studying into filmmaking. So for example, I don’t think to become a focus puller, you can’t really learn that at a Film institute, you got to learn it on the job, just getting down and doing it. Or a DIT, or in production…if you know what department in filmmaking you want to specialize in, then you can find those resources and learn those skill sets without having to go to a Film Institute and that’s what I have generally found in the film industry. People who have a true love and passion for what they are doing driving them to learn at work and out of work in their spare time how to become the best in that specialization. You don’t get that passion from being at a Film Institute, in my humble opinion.
- Is it harder to get started or to keep going? What was the particular thing that you had to conquer to do either?
For me spirituality and my faith in God are important. I started in this industry with no knowledge, in fact with absolute zero. I never even knew how to use a camera before I came into the industry. My journey and my struggle is faith driven, I believe in a higher power, God. I been turning to my creator as a source of guidance every step of the way. So I put the effort in and every single year I have progressed, met new challenges and got support on the new things and that struggle and in particular in developing cutting edge technology for the industry. I struggled in getting these stabilization systems working on the highest end cameras and much of the R&D involved was unpaid but I struggled away put the effort in and I came out the other end and I guess some of that stabilization of Panavision cameras which had never been done before are the fruits of that labor, all of the success I thank my Creator for allowing me get where I am today.
- What was the most important lesson you had to learn that has had a positive effect on your film? How did that lesson happen?
The important lesson I got from this film was the importance of storyboarding. I was put in touch by my DOP through the highly respected agency, WPA, who put me in touch with Sir Franz Pagot. I went to his house and I have never made a film like this with such a big crew, from tracking, stabilization and so on. So he stopped me and said lets first go through the script and storyboard this whole thing. Although there were things we changed on the day of filming, but I would say the most crucial and most critical lesson that I learnt and I never go into a production without doing that first. It’s like seeing a cut before you even started to film. It is absolutely critical.
- What were the production realities from casting through editing that you had to accommodate? How did you navigate those compromises or surprises and still end up with a cohesive film?
Two weeks before we had to make the film. We had to find the concept, develop it, do all the preproduction. It was a two week turnaround even though we had an idea before of what we wanted to do. But really it was two weeks to really refine everything and get everything in time for production. It was a short time, we also had a short period for casting. I think it went really well given the time we had. On the day of shooting, certain locations became impossible. So we had to change things around, also it was interesting that some of the actors couldn’t deliver the lines as they needed to, so we had to change a few things around to help them achieve that. We even had to film additional scenes on the day, to provide an alternative cut, but also felt the last scene where you see the character Muhammad going to pray in the mosque it wasn’t actually written. The way it was delivered and it was cut, a lot of that credit goes to Rachel. Who offered to make the first cut and see if we liked it and if it didn’t work we could work on it. But I really liked her first cut, she really captured and executed what she did on that first cut and I was really proud of what we had achieved.
- What was the hardest artistic choice you made in the making of a film, at any stage in production?
I often DOP and Direct on other shoots. I guess the hardest thing for me is to let someone else frame the shot and I often don’t give the camera to anyone even if I am directing. It happened that even on this shoot, on the second day, I had to take control of the camera and start taking the shots, so that it was executed in the way I felt it should be and in fact the way it came out in the end. So yeah, I guess that was the hardest thing to do, to take control of the camera from my operator and deal with the consequences of doing that and relationships at the time.
- You are a collaborator. How have you discovered members of your team and how do you keep the relationship with them strong?
I am really strict in getting involved the right people only. We work with individuals who have the right references, showreels, right work ethics. And the way we keep the relationship strong is by keep on working together on other projects. That’s what happens…some of the most successful filmmakers in the industry, often the crews are often the same, you grow together as a team and pull off magical things together.
- What do audiences want? And is it the filmmaker’s role to worry about that?
That’s a difficult one. Different people from different cultures want different things. It is a filmmakers job to develop stories which are relevant and engages them. I think perhaps if you focus on telling that story really well, it will engage the audience and make it compelling. You are partly doing this to entertain, socio-political reasons and so I guess you are doing this for an audience. But when you are actually making it, it’s all about the story and the craft and that you make or create something which is as beautiful as possible. I know what I want and I guess I know what my audience wants and I want to make things which are beautiful. But when I am making the project, I am not thinking about the audience, I am thinking about the story, thinking about the message, thinking about pulling this off visually, telling the story in the best way with the best technologies and making sure we use camera movement to ensure we tell the story in a language of its own, to define the tone and feeling of the film. I guess there is a balance between the audience and what they want and the story and the message you want to get out there.
- What role have film festivals played in your life so far? Why are they necessary? How do you get the most out of them?
These are the first film festivals I have ever taken part in. Hopefully they can lead us to bigger things. I haven’t been that focused on festivals, I am more focused on film production but I recognize that it is something I need to do more of and this is a great beginning!
- Do you believe that a filmmaker should be original and fresh or he/she should stick to classic but safe cinema style?
I believe that you need to find who you are and define who you are as a filmmaker and your style. And that will come over years of commitment to the arts. Through that dedication and having worked on films like Star Wars and recently The Favourite, which has won a number of BAFTAs and was nominated for many awards at the Oscars. And I helped to achieve the unique stabilized movement with their Panavision 35mm camera system, so I helped to create and define a certain style of filmmaking. So it really depends on the film and what you are trying to say, Cinematography is a language by itself. I believe ever filmmaker is dedicated and really committed to the art, then they will develop their own style that they love and they will be loved for. Just being unique and doing your thing is the main thing and just perfect that art of storytelling in that unique style.
Characters | United Kingdom | 2018 | 11’
Director: Sir Franz Pagot, Rizwan Wadan
Editor: Rachel Durance
Writers: Ashley Chin, Rizwan Wadan
Producers: Rizwan Wadan
Ket Cast: David Schaal, Aaron Taylor
Synopsis: Our first short film, shot in London, looks into the characters that make up this wonderful city and how importantly judging someone by their appearance defines us more than it defines them. It centres on how our true characters ultimately shine through and breakdown the prejudices and racial barriers that we often put up around us.