In conversation with Meghalaya-born Jobin Joseph who bagged laurels for Best Short Film
By Andre Kongri | SHILLONG | AUG 17, 2020:
Born and brought up in the Northeast Indian state of Meghalaya, Jobin Joseph made waves on social media after his thriller short film Other Side won the award for the Best Short Film (Fiction) last month at the UVAA Virtual Film Festival 2020 (UVFF) – India's first online film festival for independent filmmakers.
The 13-minute thriller, which focuses on immoral human testing, was shot in Thrissur, Kerala and was greeted with strong critical praise.
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences defines a short film as an original motion picture that has a running time of 40 minutes or less.
These types of films are often screened at local, national or international film festivals and made by independent filmmakers with either a low budget or no budget at all.
Short films are generally used for industry experience and as a platform to showcase talent.
Jobin, who also served as an assistant editor for Anvar Sadik's 2019 movie Manoharam, said that his next goal would be to direct a feature film.
In an interview with TNT-The Northeast Today, the 27-year-old director has this to say:
TNT: Your movie has been a great success. Can you elaborate more on this?
Jobin: I wouldn't say it has been a great success but yeah it has won a few awards both internationally and nationally. We weren't expecting any though, to be frank, so it was a pleasant surprise for us.
The story of Other Side isn't a usual one you see in short films. It's got a lot of layers all put into a short, 13-minute film which makes it slightly confusing to a passive audience. I never liked spoon-feeding a concept or story.
I think it's a lot more exciting to have the film be a few steps ahead of the audience.
TNT: What was the budget of the movie?
Jobin: The film cost us around Rs. 30,000 to make.
TNT: What was the inspiration behind the storyline?
Jobin: While doing my Master's, I had a paper on epigenetics. Beautiful subject. The potential applications of that field of study amazed me. So I kind of mixed it up with a little fiction and came up with the idea for Other Side.
Although the short film doesn't show any of this, we intend to continue this story. I have incorporated a slight hint at the universe the characters live in at the end credits sequence.
Our very own Leo Boys from Shillong composed the end credits song.
I loved the tune of the song the first time they sent it over for review and knew right away that it was the perfect tune to end the film with. However, many people missed out on the post-credits scenes which kind of needed to complete, if not the whole, story.
TNT: Who is your mentor in direction?
Jobin: Ooooh! There are a lot. But I think the most influential person has got to be Steven Spielberg.
Jurassic Park was what got me interested in filmmaking. While people were talking about the movie, it blew me away by how they got dinosaurs to act in a film.
I was only 8 or 10 when I first saw Jurassic Park and it was just too magical. Edgar Wright, Guy Ritchie, Ryan Connolly and Andrew Kramer also played a huge role in my life.
TNT: To what aspects do you attribute the success of the movie?
Jobin: I think technically; our film has somewhat worked out all the shortcomings of our previous films. We've been getting a lot of messages on Facebook and Instagram regarding the technical aspects of the film, particularly the cinematography and colour grade.
My brother, Rithin Joseph, was the DoP and I think he did a swell job. What we wanted to do with Other Side was to have the camera mimic our lead character. Our lead character is slow, boring, insecure and so the camera movements reflect that. If you go back and watch it again, you'll notice how we limit camera movements.
The movements are slow and unexciting – just like the character. And I think that's where Rithin shines the most – he's able to tell a story using just the visuals. If you haven't noticed it yet, everyone in this film talks – except our lead role.
However, there is not a single scene in which he is not the central character. So the cinematography and performances had to be spot on. That brings me to the cast. Krishnadas Murali played our lead character. He's a brilliant actor!
This was the first time that I was 100 percent satisfied by my cast. He was also very supportive from the very start. He understood that we were on a tiny budget and agreed to work on our film for free.
Everyone in our film worked for free! Haha! He liked the idea, said he found it 'fresh' and that was that. He's a very jolly guy but the moment I call for a take – he switches into character and works his magic.
The filming process never felt professional to me because we were all very chill. It was more like a group of friends sharing a common dream and working together to make it a reality. I loved working with this crew! Also, the budget was so low, one could hardly call it professional.
Another thing that we put a lot of effort into was the colour grade. We used a colour palette – a technique I learnt from my experience of working on a feature film as an assistant editor back in 2019. We only used colours like Red, Orange, Yellow and Brown. We avoided all other colours. So typically, we had what we would call an analogous colour scheme.
However, we added Blue to it as well. Now, this is outside the analogous scheme but because it stands out from the rest of the colours, we made sure that only the lead character wore Blue in the film. We even changed the greens to a more orange-gold colour in post.
This is probably the reason why the frames look pleasing. But I think a film is an integration of several things – the script, the cinematography, the production design, the music, sound design, editing and pacing, costumes, acting, the locations, etc. If any of these departments are sub-par, well, then we have a problem.
TNT: What is your next project?
Jobin: Well, we are in the pre-production of two other Sci-Fi/Horror shorts. I'll also be editing a comedy film directed by Krishnadas Murali later this year.
TNT: Anything in mind for Shillong?
Jobin: Oh yes definitely! I'm looking forward to making a film in Shillong again. The locations in Shillong are so exotic, it's perfect for something I have in mind.
TNT: How did you discover your love for filmmaking?
Jobin: Well, as I mentioned earlier, it all started with that one iconic shot of a Brachiosaurus chewing off a branch of a tall tree in Jurassic Park. That was it. That was the moment. I wanted to make stuff like that!
In the years that followed, I had my Dad buy me a camera with which I would film my brother and friends. That's how I learnt cinematography – no formal education. Just a kid with a camera and two friends.
My friends weren't really into filmmaking and stuff but they were always around to help me out. And since there was no one around to edit my films, I had to learn how to do that myself too.
And that led me to Adobe After Effects which opened an entirely new world of VFX possibilities. It was tough at first because back then, YouTube wasn't like what it is today.
There weren't any tutorials and such – just long boring articles. So I read them and tried those things out, failed, failed again and so on. I think filmmaking is about failing and failing until you eventually get it right.
It took me 12 years to get to where I am today. It's a long journey. But a really exciting one!
(The writer of this article can be reached at email@example.com)