Tag Archives: AFI

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.

Advertisements

Molding Magical Soundscapes: Movie Music Supervisor Anna San Juan

Music supervisor Anna San Juan
Music supervisor Anna San Juan shot by Reymark Palcon

 

In the glamorous world of movie making, one aspect of the film production process is often overlooked and vastly underrated. This refers to the musical soundscapes that help mold the film into the magical art form that we have all come to know and love. Without the extensive efforts of a film’s music supervisor, in this case the talented Anna San Juan, all of the relevant audio featured in the film, including any and all music would be nothing but an illusion.

Born and raised in Manila, Anna San Juan has proven herself to be very talented when it comes to recognizing what sound best compliments a project she is working on. Many people don’t realize that being a music supervisor is much more difficult than just picking songs for a film. The job often entails not just the creative aspect of music but the business end as well including such tasks as dealing with numerous legal aspects of clearing song licenses’, extensive research to find the right’s holders, and most importantly reaching out to labels and artists about using their music in the first place.

San Juan realized early on in life that she had a deep passion for music and film so she figured why not try to involve both in her ideal career.

“It all started when a group of incredibly talented American Film Institute fellows took a chance on me bringing me on-board their films as the music supervisor. After two years of also learning alongside them, the opportunity for a feature film [Actors Anonymous] unexpectedly came along, ” recalls San Juan.

Actors Anonymous, the film in question, was a difficult project to take on, but San Juan’s music supervision endowed the upcoming feature with captivating soundscapes that take on a life of their own. It involved the collaboration of 12 directors and featured the esteemed actor, writer and director James Franco (127 hours, The Interview) in a starring role, who also happened to be the author of the adapted novel.

At times the role of music supervisor is a grueling job with little to no recognition for doing something that truly adds an inordinate amount of substance to the finished project. Nevertheless, San Juan certainly understands the importance of what she does for everyone involved with the production.

“My all-time favorite moments are always the unexpected. Something clicks in between song and picture, and suddenly the lines are blurred.  At least this is how unique ideas blow me away. A great, innovative pick in my experience can transform and elevate the scene into more than it is.  I wouldn’t say better, just different in an amazing creative way, ” adds San Juan.

Prior to her work on Franco’s  Actors Anonymous, San Juan proved the diversity of her skill as the music supervisor on a variety of other films including Starman (2014), This Way Up (2014), Slut (2014), Young Americans (2014) and Martian American (2014). The latter two films went on to be featured at dozens of film festivals worldwide, won numerous awards, and both were presented with a prestigious Student Emmy Award in their respective categories.

Currently San Juan is working on a number of projects most notably The Chase and Pursuit, a comedy about a couple out on the run over a parking ticket, and the more serious City Limits, a crime drama that focuses on a man’s obsession with his father’s untimely death and the risk he and his friends take to uncover the dangerous truth about what really happened.

Ingenious Production Designer Yihong Ding Wraps Production on “Mira”

Yihong Ding
Production Designer Yihong Ding

The striking talent of Yihong Ding as a production designer and art director is literally visible in every project she has touched. She moves seamlessly through the worlds of film, television and advertising; not an easy feat when one considers that the approach a person must take when designing the ambiance of a feature film to match a director’s vision is vastly different from their approach to creating the backdrop of a commercial meant to persuade an audience of consumers.

Originally from Shanghai, Ding studied in London and eventually got her master’s in production design at the world-renowned American Film Institute in Los Angeles. Since then, she has been hard at work on an ever-growing list of projects. To ensure each film, show or commercial conveys the right mood and feeling, she works closely with the director of the production to capture and physically recreate their vision. From color schemes to lighting, props to set design, she is responsible for turning the conceptual into the living, breathing worlds we see on film.

Ding has worked on projects ranging from The Birthday Boys starring Bob Odenkirk (Breaking Bad, Better Call Saul, Mr. Show) to Mandala, the winner of the 2015 Los Angeles International Film Festival award for Best Foreign Film. She’s done several commercials for Diomany high-end lingerie and served as art director of an advertisement for the Microsoft Outlook app. It’s her work on films like Mira however that really showcases her incredible talent for production design and her awe-inspiring ability to create a self-contained world on the screen.

Working on director Amanda Tasse’s Mira, currently in post-production, Ding was given a dual-challenge. First was creating a marine biology research laboratory complete with the appropriate scientific equipment and actual jellyfish tanks. Second, she had to design an intricate “memory wall” which the title character uses to keep a log of her life.

“I had a lot of fun doing the research for this project,” said Ding, who studies every project’s background meticulously to ensure the environment seen on camera is authentic and accurate. “We ended up filming at an empty lab on Catalina Island, and dressing the lab into the jellyfish lab for the story.”

Vanessa Patel as Mira in the lab created by Yihong Ding in "Mira"
Vanessa Patel as Mira in the lab created by Yihong Ding in “Mira”

Filming on an island presented its own challenges. Ding had to personally pack all of the glass tubes and prop equipment by hand, and shipping all of the fragile items to Catalina was expensive and required her to closely observe weight restrictions and eliminate any waste in the budget while maintaining the realistic integrity of the set.

“Finding the jellyfish tank was another challenge. They were all costume-made and very expensive,” she said. “I almost had to build them myself, but luckily we found a person that was willing to rent three to us for a really great deal.”

The experience tested and proved Ding’s invaluable ability to balance the creative and financial sides of production design with aplomb. The laboratory she created is so authentic and convincing it’s absolutely indistinguishable from a research facility one might see at a university. While the lab provides the backdrop, the “memory wall” Ding created gives the viewer a personal connection to Mira’s title character.

The character of Mira suffers from a form of epilepsy that causes intense seizures and short-term memory loss of the hours preceding each attack. Mira dedicates herself to studying a species of jellyfish which may hold a cure for her disease, but her condition poses a huge challenge and she has to find a way to overcome the amnesia. So Ding helped design a “memory wall,” which becomes Mira’s method of constantly reminding herself of what’s happened before each seizure.

“She would take a picture right before she knew she was going to have a seizure… and then she would map out all the pictures on her bedroom wall,” Ding described. “It was a very complicated visual graphic to create, and I wanted to make sure that it looked real… and for the very first time I sat down and considered myself as Mira… I started to think like Mira, which was really amazing, because I found myself digging deeper into the design than I normally do.”

Yihong Ding has what many specialists lack: a multifaceted skillset combined with extensive experience in every level of design and the ability to work within any range of budget without ever compromising the quality of the project. From envisioning the conceptual to building the practical, from dressing sets to arranging the details and minutia for the perfect shot, she is a one-woman creative army.