Shilpa Shukla is breaking stereotypes and this is how she’s doing it!
Shilpa Krishnan Shukla (Shilpa Shukla) is an award-winning filmmaker who focuses on independent, zero budget films that she writes, directs and produces while pursuing her full-time career as a marketing director with a global healthcare company. Shilpa’s passion in film-making took off when her first two films, both a minute long, were shortlisted in the Top 25 films of an online film festival in 2008. She has since been pursuing film-making as a passionate hobby.
Her previous feature film, a Malayalam-English bilingual feature film titled, ‘Pularum Iniyum Naalekal’ (There’s Always Tomorrow) was screened in 33 film festivals around the world and picked up 17 awards including those for Best Film, Best Director, Best Story, Best Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Original Score
Shilpa Shukla is breaking stereotypes and this is how she’s doing it!
Best Editing and Best Actress.
‘Tashi’ is Shilpa’s third feature film which was screened in Singapore recently. Tashi is a completely independent, self funded, small budget bilingual feature in English and Hindi, shot entirely in Singapore.
It limits the scale and range of what you can do – in terms of both production and distribution.
We wish Shilpa Shukla all the best for her future endeavours. Yoga, Film-making or what she pleases. we feel it’s her passion that drives her. And you can’t go wrong with passion!
2. How do you convince actors and crew to work with you on Zero Budget films?
Yes, except for my last two features (the Malayalam-English bilingual Pularum Iniyum Naalekal and the Hindi-English bilingual Tashi), all other films, including my first feature Mausams, was Zero Budget – which basically means nobody who worked on it was paid for their services. And they didn’t need much convincing because I didn’t use the services of anyone who did this for a living. Nobody was a professional. I made those films with my friends, colleagues and my husband, all of who were in it for the fun!
With PIN and Tashi, we did pay for some of the post-production work, because we had to use the services of professionals for certain effects. Even then, what we spent was minimal and they can be termed “micro-budget” films. I was able to manage mainly because pretty much most of the work is done “in house” – I do the writing, directing and even the dubbing myself, and my co-producer Mathew Jenif Joseph does the editing and cinematography. So we cover the bulk of the technical aspects between the two of us. What remains is the cast mainly. I make it a point to work with only non-professional actors. They are usually very enthusiastic, very committed and talented too! I find it more satisfying to work with actors who have had little or no experience before, whom I can groom for my film. So far, I haven’t had a reason to invest in professional or well-known actors who have to be paid.
3. How do you make a one-minute long film and what is the viewership for such short films?
I made the two 1-minute films only for that online film festival. It did get a lot of views then because the website had a huge following. I do see some spectacular 1-minute films on YouTube sometimes. I think there is a group of people who love to watch such films, but I am not sure if there is consistent viewership.
You read, which explains why you like to write.
5. Shilpa Shukla is a trained Indian classical dancer, a talented sketching artist and a yoga enthusiast. Why didn’t you pursue these hobbies as a full time career or a passion on the side over film making?
I could, I suppose. I didn’t really plan to be so active with film making. It happened, and I went with the flow. Before I became so active with film making, I have had periods where I was very focused on one thing or the other. for about 10-12 years Dance had taken the front seat, then for about 3-4 years Art was the absolute priority and for another 4-5 years it was theatre – I have written, directed and produced two productions; one a musical, and have acted in several plays. So while film-making is a big part of my life now, it may or may not be in the future. For all you know, it could be Yoga next!
6. When, why and how did you discover that you love film making and are fantastic as it?
You are very kind! I don’t know about the fantastic part, but I made my first couple of films for an online film festival. There was a website called PassionForCinema that was focused on independent film-making and they held an online film festival for 1 minute films. I thought that was a good opportunity to give it a shot and I made two 1-minute films for it. Both were selected in the Top 25 and that was good encouragement. But I think the real love was discovered later, when I made my first feature Mausams. It took me 1.5 years to produce and while it was incredibly tough, it is one of my most cherished experiences. I think I truly fell in love with film-making with that film.
8. If it wasn’t film making, what else would it have been?
I don’t know, maybe I would have learned to cook better!
9. What inspires you to make a film? Is it a personal experience or just anything that triggers your imagination?
I can only write about things I have experienced myself or have had an opportunity to observe at close quarters. That’s the only way for the writing to be authentic. So yes, a lot of inspiration comes from what I see happening around me. Sometimes inspiration comes from the cast as well. I don’t usually write a script and then cast for it. Instead, I decide that these are the people I want to work with and I write a story around them. That way there is no stress of finding the “right” cast.
It is not something I aspire to, to be very honest. I think the joy of what I do is that it is small, I have full control over what I am doing, and I enjoy it thoroughly. Of course, this limits me in the type and scale of films I can make, but that’s alright. So far, this is working for me.
11. Which other producers and directors would you like to work with?
I don’t have anyone particular in mind. I already have a co-producer with whom I work pretty well and I don’t think co-directing would be my cup of tea. What I would like to explore is writing more scripts for other producers / directors to make. A script that I wrote recently is currently under production – directed and produced by others. I would like to do more of that, because I can’t possibly make everything I write myself.
12. Would you make films based on other writers’ stories or would you rather be a “one woman show”?
It’s not that I want to be a “one woman show”. It’s just that I know my limitations as a director and producer, so I realize that I am the best person to write custom scripts for myself. When I was toying with the idea of Kathaah@8 (the anthology of short films in 8 Indian regional languages), my first thought was to adapt from short stories from various Indian states. I bought a bunch of books and read all of them too. But it was difficult to get a story that I could actually make into a film – something that can be set in contemporary Singapore or within the budget I can afford. So I dropped that idea. Instead I did an open call for folks who are interested in acting and can speak one regional language. Once I got a list of potential actors and the languages they speak, I wrote customized scripts for them. That was so much easier to execute!
13. Where do you see yourself in the next 5 years?
I don’t know. I would be quite happy and grateful to be exactly where I am today. This is a good place to be.
Other work of Shilpa Shukla includes:
– English zero-budget feature ‘Mausams’ (2011) which went to film festivals in India, Bangladesh and USA and won a Silver Screen Award at the 2011 Nevada Film Festival.
– Short films ‘Aravindum Aarumughamum’ (2014) and ‘Inganeyum Oru Katha’ (2012) that went to festivals, and the latter was a viral hit on YouTube garnering close to 400,000 views.
– Online sitcom ‘Athazham’ (2015)
Shilpa Shukla is also an avid reader, a trained Indian classical dancer, a talented sketching artist and a yoga enthusiast. She lives in Singapore with her husband and her daughter.