Assistant Director in Film Industry

From a very young age, I used to discuss films with my parents. My dad had worked in the film industry and often spoke about how certain scenes were made. This interest in filmmaking eventually turned into a career passion during my college days. I was already pursuing an engineering degree but decided to teach myself the technical aspects of filmmaking (such as editing, cinematography from online resources and YouTube channels) on the side. Along with my final year project, I also completed work on my first short film and graduated as a proud engineer as well as a novice filmmaker.

While I was applying to study Cinema abroad, I got a call to work on the subtitle translation for a national award-winning director. I eventually got the chance to work as an assistant in one of her projects. Assistant Directors (ADs) work almost 7 days a week during the whole project – starting from pre-production (casting, location scouting, screen testing), during the shoot and some parts of post-production work. (reviewing footage, VFX, editing) Different ADs take charge of specific functions like art direction, costumes and lighting. I worked on costumes, hair and makeup, but closely worked with other departments as well and got a wholesome view of filmmaking. I had already directed few short films by then but working in a big team on a full-length feature was an enriching and transformative experience.

Once you build experience and credibility as AD you can start meeting people who produce the projects or directly start narrating your own stories to actors. AD is the perfect stepping stone in Indian industry to be a director. However, I was very particular to complete a proper filmmaking degree in filmmaking – as it would provide a solid foundation and reduce the risk of failure in an industry where you are not given many chances to succeed. There are few good schools in India like Pune Film Institute and BOFTA, but I chose to apply and got accepted into University of Southern California (USC) as I wanted more international perspective and exposure. I believe there is no magic formula to becoming an “iconic” director. It is through sheer hard work, detailing, undying passion and always keeping an open mind to learn more. A good course will equip you with the filmmaking toolset, but you need practical exposure, just like in any other industry to be successful.

Based on conversation in February 2019
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