Avantika Meattle : Film-making, freelance camerawoman


Name: Avantika Meattle

Designation: Film-making, freelance camerawoman

Entry into the field of filmmaking:

Most of us are not very sure about what profession we should adopt post school. In school, I preferred to take science and later in college, took up economic honours. But, all along I wanted to be somebody and achieve something special in life.

I was always interested in photography. During my college days that I picked up my dad's Nikon camera and started shooting. Whenever the camera showed green light I would click, without planning or having knowledge of technical details. I coaxed my friends to model till they were quite sick and tired of my persuasion. Water and fire has always fascinated me, I used to make my friends splash their face with water repeatedly to get the effect that I had envisaged.

During third year of my college, I decided to work for an event management company to get first hand knowledge of media and its interaction. At that time my classmates were concentrating on CAT, whilst I used to loiter around; and of course, play badminton for my college.

After my BA, I applied to Sophia College in Mumbai for a Mass Communication course. We were taught different aspects of Mass Communication. I grew extremely fond of camera and used to take pleasure in being the official photographer of my class group.

Professional experience:

After graduating from Sophia, I was supposed to return to Delhi. However, I felt it would be a great idea if I had some practical experience. This experience changed my focus in life from ordinary "Click! Click!" girl to a professional.

I decided to call a few cinematographers since I knew literally no one in Mumbai. On a sunny Sunday morning, I decided to call Santosh Sivan - I had learnt a lot and seen several movies directed by him. I was surprised when he invited me to come immediately and meet him. Before I even realized, I was assisting him on the film Asoka -an experience of my life!

My most memorable experience:

The making of Asoka was definitely an intriguing and an extraordinary experience. I was working with a talented and a creative cameraman - and I couldn't have asked for more. On the first day of the shoot, I just stood with the clapboard. I had never experienced an actual film production before! I was very impressed to see the professionalism and dedication of the entire unit. It was a dream come true! Actually, I hadn't even dreamt of such a break.

Production houses versus films:

After Asoka was complete, I started working a lot on advertisement films. I was handling ad filmmaker Ravi Deshpande's Delhi office. Working for ads is a completely different scenario.

Here at the ad agency, delivery dates of the project are of prime importance. Ad projects are little more impersonal,

whereas in a feature film, you are deeply involved. Actually one is sleeping, eating and contemplating about the same theme until the film is complete.

For me, I could relate more with feature films than ads. In a feature film, one develops a passion, association and the whole scenario becomes personal. You imagine yourself as part of the happenings. Here, you can innovative and improvise on the creative aspects. However, in ad films you work on constraints such as the theme and the time frame.

Ad agencies and production houses relations:

Well! It really depends from agency to agency and the creative directors associated with it. Some agencies have brilliant ideas - they trust the director and give him independence/freedom to make the film. Some clients, however, have a habit to interfere. Sometimes, there is a predicament when the agency assumes that they have created an award-winning concept and expect the ad film maker to deliver the goods - meaning awards!!!

Most of the time, client servicing people are bothered about the theoretical aspect of the shoot and the

instructions. They do not acknowledge that during the practical shoot, there is so much of creativity and imagination that can be translated for the enhancement of the film.

My idol:

Well it is Santosh Sivan! He makes the most difficult shot simple. It is an experience to see him work. He is so creative and has a grasp of the scene - a quality which makes the complicated scene a child's play. For Santosh, camera is his favourite toy and he definitely loves to play around with it. You should see his face; it glows up upon seeing the camera. His movie Terrorist was really a delight. There are only a few cinematographers who can match his level, his energy and his sense of humour!

Recent experiences:

Now, I am freelance camerawoman, I made a few short documentaries and just finished shooting for MTV in Delhi.

The last advertisement I shot was for Ravi Deshpande Pictures. We were shooting with a 35 mm and a DV simultaneously for a "British Petroleum" ad. I was doing production and camera for the shoot. I was really tired, the heat was getting to me and was trying to hold the camera steady. Being squashed between all the equipment, my fingers automatically started quivering against the camera. I was trying to control but the shake just wouldn't stop. It was a nerve wrecking time. I knew the agency and Ravi were expecting a perfect shot. This thought made me feel worse. But thank God, everything went ok and everybody was happy.

On honing of my skills:

It is very important to stay abreast of new technical innovations in advertising and feature films. In advertising, I read international award magazines and watch T.V. contemplating how I can improve my skills. In features films, I love watching classic movies. I appreciate European cinema and can spend hours reading about it. With each film, it is an awesome learning experience. From Tarkovsky to Kieslowski to Indian filmmakers like Guru Dutt and Satyajit Ray. It is overwhelming to read the historical facts about Indian movies and learn how it progressed from Phalke to now.

There has also been a revolution in the movie equipment - accessories and hardware. Even the new techniques get obsolete very fast until one keeps track of what is happening around the world. Magazines like American Cinematography are of great assistance.

However modern techniques and hardware do not always make a great film. It is only with inner passion and versatility; with simple equipment, dedication and hard work that a great movie is created. New techniques do make different with three-dimensional effects but great movies are made with simple equipment. Movies like Potemkin, Pather Panchali amongst others are classic examples.

Five years from now:

I see myself in the same business and becoming better and better. In this field, passion is the most important thing. One can overcome anything hurled at you, if you are willing to work hard, love what you are doing and be true to your work and yourself. One can even achieve stars.

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