Please tell us about yourself
He only graduated this year, but Anirudh Ganapathy is already writing and directing his first feature film. He owes it all to his time at film school.
This month Anirudh Ganapathy – one of Met Film School’s BA Practical Filmmaking graduates – was nice enough to not only pay Ealing Studios a visit, but also sit down to discuss his time at Met Film School, and how influential his degree has been since leaving to become a 1st AD (Assistant Director) in India. Over the last two years he has worked on the comedy film Bobby Jasoos, and most recently he wrapped up shooting on Tanu Weds Manu Return, an upcoming sequel to it’s successful predecessor.
Anirudh Ganapathy graduated from Met Film School with a BA (Hons) Practical Filmmaking in 2013. His film ‘Action’ was nominated for the International Short Film Festival of India and his first feature film – which he has written and will be directing – is currently in pre-production for release at the end this year. Here he talks about how he got into the film industry and offers advice for other students considering a career as a filmmaker.
How did you end up in such an offbeat, unconventional and cool career?
I was 19 and I wanted to be a filmmaker, but I didn’t know how to do it. I had no connections to the industry and I tried to speak to people but it was just not working out. So I thought it best I studied, because there’s nothing better then acquiring knowledge on something that you actually want to get into. So I started doing research – looking at film schools – but the course here interested me the most because it was so hands on and the word “practical” actually meant something. And Ealing Studios too, with the history of cinema and the culture, that was a bonus.
When I was growing up I read and watched all my favourite directors give interviews for papers and talk shows. Most of them talked about how they did not believe in the concept of film schools and how it is important to learn by gaining experience on set and not in a school. Back then I agreed to that and was inspired to follow their advice. But as I grew up I realized through experience and observation that it does not work that way anymore. Those were the 80s and we are now in 2013.
The industry we are in now demands qualifications, because they don’t have the time to teach you. If you wish to be considered you need to have had formal education. That’s when I decided to go to film school. But my favourite directors had a point – experience is important too. I therefore needed to find a place where I could get both simultaneously and after doing my research I decided that Met Film School was the ideal place for an aspiring director like me.
Do you remember your first day at Met Film School?
Yes, very clearly! I remember everything! I met my first tutor – Jessica Townsend – and she said “you are going to shoot a film today”. I was like [gives shocked expression]. I mean, I only know where the record button is on a camera, and she said “you are going to direct a film today!” I was really scared because I didn’t have a story in mind, I didn’t know what I was going to make. But we went ahead, we did it, I shot my first film on my first day of school, and that was a great experience.
The Two Year Practical Filmmaking is quite vast – it has all sorts of modules. Was there anything in particular that you really fell in love with?
It was everything really. I started out wanting to be an editor and I tried that for a while, and then I looked at the cinematography guys and thought, “they’re cool!” – so I’d jump there. I did some modules with that, had some great tutors and it was just so much fun. Of course I wanted to be a director eventually, but I felt that to be a good director I needed to know all the other aspects of filmmaking really well. So I got into sound for a bit too and then eventually some directing.
How influential has being a Met Film Graduate been for you in gaining work within the industry?
It has been really helpful because in India it’s such a big industry and as a newcomer you have to start at the bottom. You have to start as an intern, and then you go up the ladder – slowly! So really it takes 5 or 6 years to get to an Assistant Director level.
But I did my first feature film as a 1st AD, and I bet that’s because I walked into the industry with some knowledge, and understanding of a film set. If it hadn’t been for the school, I’d easily have lost about 7 years of my life. Without the school, what I learnt here, the confidence I gained from all my tutors, the knowledge I acquired, I wouldn’t have got to this level in a year and half.
How was the experience at Met Film School?
Before my course I had no knowledge, no experience and absolutely no idea how films were actually made. All I knew was every single line of dialogue from ‘The Godfather’ by heart. In spite of that, I made a film on the first day of school. Yes, on the very first day I found myself learning the basics of filmmaking by actually making a film. That is what I had hoped to get from the course – more practical hands on experience. And over the next two years I learnt more about films by making shorts, documentaries and experimental films and also learnt about television by making TV shows. The experience turned out to be beyond my expectations.
The best surprise was however, the tutors who were successful and talented professionals who were always so easily accessible. They treated me more like a colleague than a student which was intimidating at first but it is the sole reason why I am so confident at what I do today. My tutors then are my mentors and friends now whom I can discuss my projects with.
My goal has always been to tell stories. As a kid I memorized all my bedtime story books during the day and told them to my parents at night. It worked the other way in my house. And now that I have chosen a much larger medium I can get the whole world’s attention.
Your advice to students?
If your goal is to work in the film industry you need to first know that things here are done quick and there is no place for a laidback attitude. There is no shortcut to success and you have to pay your dues. But you can pay your dues at the right place and speed up the process. I did that and it was the best decision I ever made. My films have been to festivals, I have written feature length scripts and now I am in the process of developing my first feature film.
Networking plays a vital role when you are at university where you have the fortune to meet so many talented people from the industry. On a good course you should get the opportunity to work on a lot of films outside of school; take every opportunity you can. If you work for them today, they will work with you tomorrow.
My two years at Met Film School were intense. You are working on university projects all day through the week and your weekend slots start getting filled with outside projects. But it was all worth it. By the end of the first year you should have some valuable names in your phonebook and, if you play your cards right, by the end of the course your name could be considered valuable in theirs.
Do it! Go to film school – study, learn! A lot of directors have said, “film school is not the way to go, you should learn on set”, but that was the 80’s! People don’t have time to teach you on set anymore, and if you don’t know what you’re doing they’ll just ignore you completely. When you work on a film set you have to know why you are there, and you will only get that from studying and acquiring knowledge – going through the two years that this school gives you. Get the education, get the degree, and then move on.