Our 2017 Travel Film Scholarship winner hones his filmmaking skills and learns about a new, sustainable approach to tourism in Kerala.
Isolated from electricity, and engulfed by the omnipresence of Mother Nature in the deep Amazon rainforest, I received an email from World Nomads telling me that my film Kiwi: The Untold Story had been shortlisted for the 2017 Travel Film Scholarship. I found out how many applications I was up against – 1,200 total applications from around the world – and 20 short-listed films!
It wasn’t until a few days later when I reached Iquitos, the world’s largest city, inaccessible by road, that I had sufficient internet connection for the next stage of the selection process, a Skype interview.
I was swinging in my hammock, beside the Rio Amazonas, humbled by the metamorphic river landscape. I began visualizing who I wanted to be as a filmmaker, and how my life would change if I won the mentorship opportunity. World Nomads called me and, after asking a few questions, I was told there was one more question one last thing to ask. My adrenaline spiked.
“Jigar - we have one last question for you.”
“Yes... sure thing?” I said.
“Would you like to go on a two-week, all-expenses-paid film scholarship to India?”
“YYYEEEEESSSSS! Hahahaha!” I jumped in
My ride from the airport was filled with sights of coastal coconut trees and mustachioed men in their
When I met my mentor Brian on the first day, I knew I was in for a serious crash course in professional travel filmmaking. As Brian began flattening the color profiles on my
During the trip, not only did I become an intrepid filmmaker, through Brian, but I also learned a lot about sustainable development from Sumesh.
Sumesh Mangalasseri, an intellectual villager and founder of Kabani Tour, is a man of no ego. Dressed in a typical Keralan
I did not expect to connect on such a deep level with the gorgeous people of Kerala. Mary, one of our homestay providers, welcomed us with her angelic smile and mouth-watering food. One morning at
I learned a great deal just being around Brian; not just the technical and theoretical stuff, but also practical things that I would never have learned otherwise. The biggest lesson he taught me was to elicit an enthusiastic response from the subject I was interviewing in an uncontrived way. This skill has helped me off camera too – to become more empathetic to the people I talk to. In many ways, filmmaking is a spiritual process. Alchemy involves a personal transformation through breaking limits and expanding my creativity.
The scholarship didn’t end after two weeks. Coming back home, there were over 25 edits going back and forth between Brian and me, before the final product. There were many days I tore my hair out finding ways to make the story more concise, and feeling that I was a terrible filmmaker. However, in the end, my tenacity in Brian’s feedback, and persistence in trying to make this the best scholarship film, paid off.
I was forced to detach myself from my own perspective and see my work through a stranger's eyes. This was the most important skill I learned during the editing process, and I believe it’s what’s needed to be a good filmmaker. These invaluable lessons would have otherwise taken me years to learn, even if I had chosen to go to film school. So if you’re reading this, thanks a tonne Brian, World Nomads, Kabani Tour, and all the sponsors of the film, for jump-starting my career and equipping me with what I need in the next steps of my journey.
I write this in a guest house 7,500ft (2,300m) up in the Himalayas, embarking on my next filmmaking journey to a Buddhist monastery in Northern India.