With the deadline to enter the Picture This competition just over one month away, we catch up with 2018 winners Monika Sharma and Vinamra Pancharia, who together make up Blacksalt Films. The pair won the title for their film Tubelight, which looks at the story of a homeless orphaned boy who wants to gain an education. We chat to them to discover what they’ve been up to since their win, the benefits of working in a duo, plus their top tips on entering this year’s competition.
It’s been four years since you both received the accolade. How has winning Picture This in 2018 impacted your careers?
By winning Picture This we added a big star onto our resume, it opened some doors and got one of us a huge opportunity to be part of a residency program in the US for filmmakers creating films with social messaging and responsibility. But by far the biggest impact has been the confidence that it instilled in us as filmmakers. The appreciation we got and how moved everyone was by the film gave us the energy to move on to our next project, which was bigger in scale and vision.
You’ve been a team for some time, what are the benefits of working with another creative rather than purely pursuing solo projects?
For us filmmaking is a team sport so by working with another creative we’re never alone. In our experience, one of us will come up with an idea, story or vision and the other person will help to make it better. In filmmaking, the big idea is made more powerful by the little details and when two (or more) heads come together, both can happen. The most enjoyable and best part of collaborating for us is the scriptwriting and screenplay stages - it’s the discussions, those eureka moments and even though times when we need to go back to the drawingboard and rethink some of the scenes.
How did the concept for your film Tubelight come about?
It’s a great story! We were on a deadline for the idea, so we decided to brainstorm our way through it. We were in different cities at the time because of other work. Vinamra, as a creator and storyteller, is a very visual person and his creative process is to come up with a complete story – almost shot by shot. As a successful child actor in India, he’s grown up on film and tv sets. He continued with some acting work and during one particular shoot, when he was on his lunchbreak, he went to the park across the road. In the next 15 minutes or so he came up with the entire storyboard, shot by shot, for Tubelight. The premise of the film comes from our experiences of traveling in cities and witnessing young homeless kids at the traffic lights selling books, when they should be reading in a classroom.
What advice would you give to video-makers thinking about entering this year’s Picture This?
Have a lot of fun making your video, but before that, during pre-production, do all the hard work. Make sure you get what you are trying to say, and why it’s important, right. If you have the why and how right, everything usually falls in place.
What is about the video medium that interests both of you?
Filmmaking is an audio-visual medium, so people see and hear it, and if the film is done right the audience are invested. The duration of film can range from 30 seconds to over three hours and the potential impact it has is fantastic and far reaching. We also just loving the entire process and getting people to ponder, mostly without preaching, and nudge them to go a little deeper.
Who or what are your influences?
They are so many such wonderful artists, films, directors, actors, editors, cinematographers, makeup artists, animation artists and visual effect artists that the list is too long! To name a few however, we love Taika Waititi, Christopher Nolan, Martin Scorsese, Spike Lee, Anurag Kashyap, Rajkumar Hirani and a zillion more.
Can you tell us about the projects you’re currently working on together?
We are in the scripting stages for a feature-length film and two web series. The feature-length film is a coming-of-age story, showing the courage of a teenage girl in a rural town of India. The web series are quite different: one is within the superhero realm and the second is rooted in the horror genre - we did say we’re diverse!
Interested in entering Picture This?
The global competition is open to all filmmakers, video content creators and changemakers who want to raise awareness about our environmental challenges and inspire action for people and the planet through the power of film.