Tag Archives: Writing

Challenging perspectives with esteemed screenwriter Varunn Pandya

The House_Headshot
Varunn Pandya, photo by Chaaritha Dheerasinghe

Christopher Reeves once said, “so many of our dreams at first seem impossible, then they seem improbable, and then, when we summon the will, they soon become inevitable.” For esteemed writer and screenwriter, Varunn Pandya, this mentality is all of the inspiration he needs to remind himself that with the right amount of hard work and dedication, he is able to achieve everything he sets his heart to. Growing up, the talented creative found himself inspired by Reeves’ interpretation of one of society’s token superheroes and credits his ability to play Superman as being one of the characters that initially sparked his interest in film. From there, he immersed himself into every avenue that the industry has to offer and found a love for the profession he now calls his own. As for his desire to create, it is stronger than ever before, and he has a knack for finding unique ways to showcase that will to the world.

“As a writer and screenwriter, I develop stories that I aim to show or display to the world in a way they’ve not necessarily experienced before. As I also like to direct, I try to write stories that I can bring a unique perspective to. Because I was born in India, I like to think that I bring some unique ideas to the United States and that I help to break some of the stereotypes associated with living on the Eastern side of the world,” told Pandya.

As he continues to navigate his way through the arts and entertainment industry, Pandya often finds himself taken aback by the breadth of opportunities and the amount of creative freedom he is allowed to use in order to imagine without limits and tell truly compelling stories. He has a reputation for finding areas of film that touch his audiences and he manages to do so in a way that keeps content fresh and engaging. In addition, he takes great pride in knowing that through his words and the stories that he brings to life, he has a grand platform to challenge the minds of his viewers and allow them to open their eyes to societal issues that they may or may not even be aware of. For instance, in his script XYZ where Pandya, alongside Badar AlShuaib, cast an important light on the unconscious, and sometimes conscious, bias that human beings exhibit toward their own race. In another of his scripts, The House, Pandya attempted to step outside of himself and allow his audiences to see the world from a perspective other than their own.

The House tells the story of Carl, a homeless man living in Los Angeles struggling to find a human connection amidst the repercussions of a rough upbringing. The storyline follows Carl’s daily routine as he collects metal scraps from the areas surrounding him and food from the trash in order to sustain himself. One fateful day, however, Carl comes across a family in his neighborhood and he grows a fascination for them. As the story progresses, viewers are taken on a journey through Carl and the family’s interactions. The story reminds us that regardless of our life circumstances, our skin color, our nationality, or whatever other features we use to distinguish ourselves from others, we are not all that different on the inside. We share similar emotions and at the end of the day, we are all human. Sometimes it just takes a little reminding from people like Pandya.

For The House, Pandya managed to develop a script in just four days. Writing it felt natural and he did everything in his power to keep the content as raw and powerful as possible. Wherever he could make the script seem realistic, he did just that and attempted to ensure that the script demanded empathy from its audience. He also made a particular effort to cast Carl in a different light than most homeless individuals are seen in. He wanted to show the world that not all homeless individuals intend to be, nor does their living situation make them any less human than the rest of us.

Up until The House, Pandya had only really ever worked with thrillers. What he loved most, therefore, about this project was the fact that it allowed him to step into unchartered territory and to explore an area of society he hadn’t otherwise given much thought into. He takes great pride in knowing that his script has the power to change the minds of many as they engage with the script and consider their actions from there forward. In the end, Pandya was not the only one who found a love for the script. In fact, The House went on to win a number of prestigious awards, such as Best Short Screenplay at the Five Continents International Cult Film Festival in June 2018 and at the Calcutta International Film Festival in September 2018.

“It feels great to know that the script has been widely appreciated by people all over the world. This script will always remain one of the most memorableprojects I’ve written as I think it’s the most personal story I have written despite it being based on a character that is very different from me,” he concluded.

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Writer and Director Claire Leona Apps takes showcases the Great North Run in acclaimed film

Writing has always come naturally to Claire Leona Apps. She loves telling stories and loves how they serve society; they can teach us and warn us, they can entertain while serving a greater purpose. A good story can create conversation and express ideas that help us relate to new points of view. It’s a powerful tool, and Apps understands that. Her passion for storytelling translates directly into her work as both a screenwriter and a director, from the words she puts down on a page to the way she puts it together in front of a camera, and she captivates worldwide audiences with films.

Apps is an in-demand writer and director, with a series of decorated projects highlighting her esteemed resume. These include her acclaimed films Gweipo, Aceh Recovers, Ruminate, and And Then I Was French. She is known for her ability to showcase the lives of underrepresented characters and bring a dark sense of humour to a story.

“I try not to get so caught up on the real world with my work. I have to deal with that every day anyway. I like a little surrealism, a little irony, and films that are a little self-aware,” she said.

That is exactly the message Apps puts out with her film Girl Blue Running Shoe. The film follows the daughter of a runner participating in the Bupa Great North Run as she makes a film as he trains and runs the race. The film begins calmly with a serene domestic set-up, building pace as the race begins, cutting between the training day and the marathon. At points which demonstrate the intensity of running, a special zoetrope effect is used, breaking down the movement of running into paused actions, reflecting the rhythm of the action – the steady thumping of shoes on gravel, a beating heart, breathing. The piece is shot solely on Super 8, edited to emulate both the excitement of the daughter as an observer and the adrenaline of the participator. With a soundtrack of enhanced natural noises, Girl Blue Running Shoeis an evocative celebration of the human body whilst also telling the simple story of a father-daughter relationship.

“It’s a story about loving and sharing in the experiences of the people you love. It also dissects the movements of running,” said Apps. “Usually I do pretty dark things. It was nice to do something that ended up in a children’s film festival line up. It’s nice to just show love, simple straight forward love between a father and daughter,” she said.

Apps wrote the story and pitched it to the British Arts Council to commission the film. When she got the commission, she immediately began directing, coming up with a new camera technique for the film. The story has two components. One is a daughter watching her father run the race. He is doing his hobby, running, and she is doing hers, filmmaking. She films him running on a Super 8 camera. Therefore, as the director, Apps decided to shoot the whole film on Super 8 cameras. This truly allowed audiences to immerse themselves in the girl’s point of view. Apps also had the idea to use the sprocket holes of the physical film and the division between the different pictures to create a zoetrope like film effect. She did this all by hand: slowing the footage down and cranking it through a projector to be re-filmed.

Shooting took place at the Great North Run in Newcastle, England, one of the biggest half marathons in the world. This presented a unique challenge for Apps, who had to shoot a fictional story around a live marathon. Therefore, the actual shoot was extremely fast. She had to make quick decisions to deal with whatever came their way. There were roads shut off, spectators everywhere, and of course the runners themselves, and they had to move all around them with a child actress.

“The hardest thing about this project was finding the right kid to play the lead. It is a large ask to have a child give you full energy for a few hours of extreme intensity, but Adrianna Bertola, who played the lead, was a dream,” said Apps.

The film premiered on BBC during the Great North Run the following year. It went on to be at the Great North Museum for an exhibition. It was also an Official Selection at the Cork International Film Festival. The success was wonderful for Apps, as the shoot was a chaotic and fun experience.

Now, Apps is currently working on another feature film. She is a truly exceptional filmmaker, engaging viewers of all ages, which is evident with her work on Girl Blue Running Shoe. She knows the key to her success is working hard, and she encourages all those looking to follow in her footsteps to do the same.

“Prepare yourself for a lot of hard work and don’t expect anyone to discover you. We live in a world at the moment where you can generate a lot of attention by yourself and you can make films on your phone. Make something and keep going,” she advised.

Copywriter Aahana Pereira teams up with celebrity DJs for Motul Rhythm campaign

Despite always having a love for writing, Aahana Pereira never expected in her youth that her passion would translate into advertising. In junior college, she was studying science and math, but she hated it. She quickly switched to Mass Media, not because of an interest in communications, but simply because it would mean she no longer had to take math. However, those three years changed her life. The more she learned about advertising, the more she knew she would be happy in the field. She would watch old advertisements from all over the world, read long copy print ads and learned a great deal about famous copywriters. She wanted to be like them. Combining her interests in writing and advertising, Pereira decided to pursue a career in copywriting, and has never looked back.

“On most days as a copywriter I follow a brief and write copy with as many options I have time for. It is not every day that we get an exciting brief or a project, so day to day is, so to say, average. That being said, I still push to make average better. Most days we work on small budget campaigns, and I aim to make each and every campaign, whatever the size, achieve greatness and make something I am proud of. Then, once in a while, we do get a brief where we get to showcase our creativity at the highest level, and that is just plain fun,” said Pereira.

Throughout her esteemed career, Pereira has worked on many projects for prolific corporations known worldwide. She has travelled the world doing what she loves, and consistently finds unique approaches to promote a product. This is exemplified with her work on commercials for Palmolive, Colgate, IBN 7, and many more. The highlight of her career came when she was given the opportunity to work on the Drink Up campaign, an initiative by First Lady, Michelle Obama in partnership for a Healthier America that encourages people to drink more water. Most recently, she worked with Falcon Agency in Malaysia on several successful campaigns, impressing all she collaborated with.

“Aahana and I have worked on several projects since we first met in 2017 – Motul Rhythm, Meet the Sydneyporeans, just to name a few. I really enjoy working with Aahana as her ideas are strong and always on brief. I love the passion she has for her work,” said Liz Leow, Regional Account Director, Falcon Agency Malaysia.

Working on Motul Rhythm was a project that excited Pereira. It was one of the first projects she worked on at Falcon Agency as a solo copywriter. Motul, a company that produces high-performance motor oils and lubricants, is not typically associated with music, making the campaign extremely original. The idea was to hold an online contest across the Asia-Pacific area where anybody could submit their original music, made completely from the sounds of their motorcycles. They asked fans to create sounds and upload it to the Motul Rhythm website. The prize for the winners was a chance to co-produce their own music track with Asia’s most well-known DJs, such as Terence c, Idham and Flickswitch. The selected winners were also sent to the MOTO GP event held in Malaysia in 2017, and the music track mixed by the DJs was then launched at an event in Kuala Lumpur.

“I thought the idea was good. A brand like Motul, which is such a low involvement category, was getting its fans excited. The idea was true to the brand values that stands by performance. In this campaign, performance has dual application – performance of the lubricant and oils meets performance in music. It was a synergy,” said Pereira.

Although the idea of Motul Rhythm already existed before, Pereira and her team adapted it. The idea was to get audiences to participate in a competition, where they had to submit sounds from their bike and reputable DJs would take the best sounds and mix it into a music track especially for Motul. However, the challenge was to entice them in a way that would encourage motorbike fans. As a team, they concluded that the hook would be that participants would get a chance to co-produce the music track by submitting their audio clip. This was discussed over a period of discussions. However, Pereira had never worked on Motul before or even the oil and lubricant category, so this meant she had to do a lot of research to figure out just the right way to target consumers. She had a sense of the Asian market but wanted to find just the right way to reach bike enthusiasts. It was more than just making them aware of the competition, it was getting them to participate in it. With the help from the team in Singapore and support from the team in Malaysia, they managed to launch this campaign, and those lucky few consumers managed to have their dream come true by working with DJs to create a track.

Other than launching the Motul Rhythm microsite, Pereira’s team created Facebook advertisements and digital banners to get the word across. This was the first point of communication and a way to generate awareness. It was very important to write copy that would make people stop and click, not to mention character limits in digital ads. Pereira met the task with determination and commitment.

“This project was fun. It incorporated bikes and music. I loved working on it and it was amazing to hear what people could create with the sounds of their bikes,” she said.

The Motul Rhythm campaign is just one example of Pereira’s creativity and determination. She took a unique idea and targeted just the right audience. Such talent is required to be a success in her industry, and for those looking to follow in her footsteps, she offers some important advice.

“One, be persistent. Keep aiming for good work even if they are not the big budget briefs.

Two, watch films, shows, read books that will expose you to different stories and styles of writing. You never know what will inspire you. Three, have a voice in your team. No matter what your title is, say something,” she advised.

 

Photo by Biel Calderon

Filmmaker Shaan Memon celebrates the holidays in commercials for Dickens Fair

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Shaan Memon

As far back as Shaan Memon can remember, his family had a VCR player at their home in Ahmedabad, a city in Gujarat state in India. Every Sunday, he would watch all of his favorite cartoon shows, and his father used to help him record the shows on video cassettes. When his father would travel to Bombay for work, he would return with movies for Shaan and his elder sister. It was then, in his living room in his childhood home, that his love of film was born.

Now, Shaan is an in-demand Screenwriter, Director, and Editor. He first impressed international critics with his work on the horror The Unreal and continued to do so with his films Fitting In and Bullied, as well as the documentary Purpose Driven Study for Dharoi Canal Command Area. He is extremely knowledgeable in every aspect of filmmaking, from pre-production to post-production, and using this knowledge to expand his skillset. At the end of last year, his work on a commercial for the Dickens Christmas Fair showed that in addition to Director and Editor, this versatile filmmaker can even take on the role of Videographer and achieve tremendous results.

“I found Shaan to be reliable, assiduous, hard-working, and intuitively creative – as well as being extremely patient in performing multiple re-cuts of the material. Shaan impressed me so much that I recommended him for other work and hope to engage his services next year on a separate video for the Dickens Fair,” said David Hakim, Producer/Director who worked alongside Shaan on the commercial.

The Great Dickens Christmas Fair is a one-of-a-kind holiday adventure into Victorian London and is an elaborate party with around 800 of costumed players performing and interacting with patrons in over 120,000 square feet of theatrically-lit music halls, pubs, dance floors, and Christmas shops. It’s a twilight evening in Charles Dickens’ London Town – a city of winding lanes filled with colorful characters from both literature and history. Enticing aromas of roasted chestnuts and hearty foods fill the air. Cries of street vendors hawking their wares ring out above the bustling crowd. Dozens of lamplight shops are filled to overflowing with Christmas gifts. The Dickens Christmas Fair is a treasured Bay Area tradition since 1970 and a splendid way to celebrate the holidays. Thousands of people attend this event every year.

“I had never visited the fair before, so the first time when I visited it, I was spellbound. They have created a different world in itself. One can never imagine what would it be inside until they visit it, and that is exactly I wanted to capture. I therefore insisted on not visiting the fair before shooting, as I wanted to feel like a traveler who is experiencing it for the first time and I captured those moments,” said Shaan.

Shaan is a multi-talented filmmaker with an outstanding about of expertise in writing, directing, editing, videography and sound design. Because he has so much experience in such a variety of roles, he is a one-man army who can execute a project as clearly and as nearly to how it was conceived during the consultation. Having thorough knowledge of different fields makes him a force to be reckoned with and proved vital while shooting this commercial.

“Every filmmaker works hard with his/her sweat and blood to make a project the best it can possibly be and make their name in the industry. I had huge responsibility as Diane Baker put trust in me and suggested me to work on this project. I’m happy that I could reach her and David’s expectations,” said Shaan.

When Diane Baker and David Hakim were trying to find someone who could make a captivating commercial for Dicken’s Christmas Fair, they immediately thought of Shaan and approached him to take the lead on the project. Initially, Hakim had planned on creating a competition to decide who would create the commercial, but after seeing Shaan’s work, he knew he no longer needed to find someone to take over.

Working closely together for the entire shoot, Shaan consulted Hakim regarding what kind of shots, pace and feel would be required. After brainstorming, they decided on getting more front faced shots of the visitors, showing how happy they were and enjoying their time. Getting the best shots of artists performing, vendors selling beautiful products, the decorations, the grandness of the fair and much more. Shaan then attended the fair with his assistant to get as many shots as possible. During the editing process, he consulted with Kevin Patterson, Executive Director of Dicken’s Fair. He edited the best possible 30-second commercial. He is now working on the 90-second advertisement after the success of its predecessor.

“This is what I love about filmmaking. I never get bored of being a filmmaker. I enjoy working every time I have to go through this process of starting a new project, working on it and at the end looking at its result. Every project takes me on a whole new journey. In this one I met around hundreds of artists working together at same place. Watching Dickens’s characters alive and performing in front of you was a treat! This project was great to work on and entertaining also. David was very supportive throughout and I’m happy that he trusted my creativity and I could deliver up to his expectations,” Shaan concluded.

Check out Shaan’s work on the commercial on the Dicken’s Fair website.

Victor Osorio On Living to Write

Victor Osorio is part of the 0.1 per cent of the general population that suffers from a rare neurological disease characterized by recurrent, severe headaches. The disease is called Cluster Headaches, but sufferers often refer to their condition as “Suicide Headaches” due to the often insurmountable pain that it causes. Osorio, on the other hand, sees his Cluster Headaches as the driving force behind his unwavering passion to write. Despite the massive amounts of pain and suffering that he has endured over time, he has only grown stronger and more determined to enlighten the world with his ideas. For the Spanish-native, writing is his reason to wake up in the morning, and although it isn’t the simplest profession to master, he has done so with ease. He doesn’t write because he wants to share something, he writes because he has something to share, and he has crafted a remarkable career around it.

When Osorio was a child, his parents deterred him from spending too much time in front of the television. As a result, he became an avid reader. He was fascinated by each author’s ability to awaken his imagination in ways they might not have ever intended. He loved learning the various styles and techniques that his favorite writers would use and he was inspired to develop his own unique methods. Today, the renowned writer can be credited as being the successful mastermind behind works like his children’s book, Cosas Que Nadie Sabe (translated in English to: Things Nobody Knows). He also worked for the longest running child and teen magazine, Dibus! Magazine, as a children’s comic writer for their hit feature, Alienados. Osorio’s talents, however, are not limited to writing for children’s publications. When he expanded his reach into the television and film industry, he lent his expertise to the award-winning web series, Hollywood and later earned himself a position working for Origo Media.

 For Osorio, working with Origo Media is unlike anything he had ever worked on in the past. The job requires him to write short commercials and corporate videos for Origo Media’s clients. In addition, he is expected to deliver material on a weekly basis, according to very strict deadlines. Fortunately, he thrives under pressure and can produce high quality content in a very short period of time. The videos that he writes, which appear mainly online and on television in Central and South America, would not be the success that they are today without Osorio’s unprecedented ability to turn a minor concept into a piece of artwork. In his time spent working with Origo Media, Osorio has written over 200 commercials and corporate videos, as well as a spec pilot.

When asked about his position at Origo Media, Osorio would tell you that he felt lucky to expand his skill set and learn to succeed under a different kind of pressure. “Working at Origo Media was a big deal for me because it allowed me to work on a series of projects with the same people for a year. By now, I consider myself to be very skilled at being concise and to the point, without sacrificing flavor, entertainment, and quality writing. Working on commercials really brings those skills to light and being able to put them to use within the context of this job has been extremely satisfying,” said Osorio.

Those who have worked with Osorio, however, would tell you luck has little to do with it. Luiz Santiago, who is the CEO at Origo Media, considers Osorio to be an invaluable asset to his company. “Victor is a very good writer with a big imagination and his command of creative writing techniques highlight his prowess as a writer. He also takes any potential set and post-production complications into account when developing his scripts to make everyone else’s work easier. Beyond that, he writes interesting, dynamic characters for our actors to explore,” told Santiago. Given the fact that Origo Media creates commercials and corporate videos in Central and South America, it is also important to bridge the gap between American and Hispanic culture in their work. Osorio’s life experiences allow him to do so flawlessly, in a way that resonates well with his audiences. For this reason, Santiago went on to say that, “Victor’s Spanish heritage and culture give him a unique perspective into American culture that infuses his work.”

Working at Origo Media has added a new and interesting dynamic to Osorio’s career. His eagerness to write and his passion for spreading his ideas across the world make him particularly open to expanding his horizons into new mediums and genres wherever possible. He enjoys stepping out of his comfort zone and striving for excellence in each new territory that he embarks on. A quick glance into the future of Osorio’s career looks bright. Recently, his children’s book was translated into English and eventually, he hopes to see it on as many bookshelves as possible. He is also working on a second children’s book, as well as a feature film script. He has no shortage of ideas in his brain, and will continue to craft them for success. From the outside looking in, Osorio writes for a living but if you ask him, Osorio simply lives to write.