Spotlight on Award Winning Film Editor Shayar Bhansali!

Even at the start of his career as an editor back home in India, Shayar Bhansali was making innovative contributions to the entertainment industry with his work. The now multi-award winning film editor began his career as the visual media editor for The Big Indian Picture, India’s premiere online cinema magazine. Whereas most of India’s prior entertainment outlets focused on Bollywood fluff,  The Big Indian Picture offered audiences a serious look at the world of Indian film; and the videos Bhansali edited for the outlet earned the magazine national attention.

Bhansali recalls, “I worked with the producers to edit interview segments, and these interviews turned out to be so genre-defining that they became the first ever web-produced content to air on national television on NDTV Prime.”

After getting his feet wet as an editor in India, Bhansali moved to Los Angeles to complete his master’s at the world renowned American Film Institute. Once in the states, he dove in with full force creating a reputation for himself as an exponentially talented editor in the narrative film world. Some of his recent work includes Cusi Cram’s award-winning dramatic comedy “Wild & Precious,” which earned the Best Narrative Award from the NYLA International Film Festival, Mattson Tomlin’s family drama “Persuasion” and Stefan Kubicki’s “Against Night.”

Shayar Bhansali
“Against Night” film crew and talent from left to right: Shayar Bhansali, Elena Caruso, Stefan Kubicki, Saba Zerehi, Konstantin Lavysh, Lucas Lechowski at AFI Fest presented by Audi. (Photo courtesy of AFI)

In addition to winning awards at the USA Film Festival, Woodstock Film Festival, Ojai Film Festival, as well as being nominated for several more from the American Society of Cinematographers and Guam International Film Festival, Kubicki’s drama “Against Night” also earned Bhansali international recognition for his work. Delicately weaving together the story of a cosmonaut who struggles to deal with the haunting memory of the loss of his wife and young daughter, Bhansali’s work on the film earned the Festival Prize for Best Editing at the Kolkata International Film Festival in India and the June Award for Best Editing from the Los Angeles Independent Film Festival Awards in the US.

For Bhansali, the art of editing is all about striking a balance between the director’s vision and what his creative voice believes is best for the story.

“I find editing to be humbling and empowering at the same time – you’re constantly making decisions about the way in which a story unfolds, but you do this within the context of the director’s vision,” he explains. “This balance of finding my own expression and balancing it with the larger creative arc is what drew me into the world of filmmaking, and editing became a way of life before I knew it.”

One of the many unique aspects of Bhansali’s gift as an editor is his ability to adapt to the needs of a project and use his creativity to solve potential problems in a way that allows the production to flow seamlessly. His work as the editor on Tomlin’s 2014 film “Persuasion” speaks leagues to why these traits are such a vital asset to any production. “Persuasion” focuses on a father’s process of coming to grips with his son’s unnatural gift for controlling people’s behavior with David Kopelev (“The Escort,” “Heritage”) starring as the son and Gregory Linington (“Indigo,” “Dune”) as the father. Early in the developing story there is a scene where Kopelev’s character has a face off with a bear, an event that instills in the father the startling awareness of how truly powerful his son is.

Bhansali recalls, “Mattson was convinced that the only way to portray this scene in a realistic sense would be to shoot it with a real bear. Given that the child actor was only 7 years old, we had to come up with a way to use a motion controlled camera rig to shoot separate plates with the bear and child, and combine them in post production with the help of visual effects supervisor Mike Pappa.”

To ensure that the production captured the two separate shots in a way that would make it possible for Bhansali to seamlessly combine them in post, the visionary editor actually spent quite a bit of time on set during those shoot days providing quick mock-ups to show the team what the scenes would like. When most of us think of a film editor we imagine them tied to their desk spending hours upon hours cutting and sewing footage together; and while that’s mostly true, having an editor like Shayar Bhansali on set can mean the difference between saving time and money or having to go back and do those dreaded reshoots.

“This level of involvement is becoming more common for an editor and when done efficiently, I find it can be an irreplaceable tool for the director and production crew,” admits Bhansali.

Much of what drives Bhansali’s work as an editor is the inherent power that comes with job to change and shape the story; he enjoys the laborious and highly creative process of sifting through hours of fragmented pieces of footage, fusing the perfect shots into fluid scenes and purposefully forming a coherent whole that will impact viewers.

He explains, “I like the process through which we rewrite the story with editing, the power to manipulate and curate the emotions of our audience with every decision we make. I’ve always been drawn to the inner workings of a film, understanding how structure and scene construction influences the way we relate to characters and story – and editing for me gives me the opportunity to do this every day with every project I work on.”  

From his work as the editor of the interview series “Tete-a-Tete” broadcast on NDTV to the powerful stories he crafted as the editor of the films “Loveland,” “La Bella,” “Persuasion,” “Against Night,” “Zoya” and “Wild & Precious,” Bhansali has amassed an impressive repertoire of work that spans several mediums and practically every genres.

Up next for Shayar Bhansali is the film  “Rene” starring multi-award winning actor Xander Berkeley (“Taken,” “Airforce One,” “Justified”), and the film “Shinje,” which is in preproduction and will be directed by Stefan Kubicki.

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