On the second day of the Woodpecker International Film Festival 2018, National award-winning filmmaker Akanksha Sood Singh discussed key elements of wildlife filmmaking in her masterclass.
Unless you can make a frog look sexy, nobody is interested: Akanksha Sood Singh
25 Nov 2018 22:19 IST
In an interesting masterclass, National award-winning filmmaker Akanksha Sood Singh engaged with the process of making wildlife films in India, taking her audience through a fascinating journey into some of the processes and challenges involved in the adventure.
Sood Singh's film Mrityubhoj: The Death Feast was screened at the Woodpecker International Film Festival (WIFF) in 2017. The film won a prize for Best Indian Documentary at the 23rd Kolkata International Film Festival last year.
Her other award-winning films include Urmi’s Cat, Manas: Return Of The Giants, The Pad Piper, India’s Wandering Lions and Tigress Blood.
The masterclass offered comprehensive insights into wildlife filmmaking, broadening the highly specialized area by delving into details of filmmaking methods as well as distribution and marketing, offering interesting anecdotes from Sood Singh's experience.
Expressing her passion for the natural world, Akanksha Sood Singh pointed out some key aspects about being a wildlife filmmaker, emphasizing foremost the need to understand animal behaviour. “Tigers are among the easiest animals to film if you understand them," she said. "They have a slow process and a strategy that plays out right in front of you in the hunt.”
Marking a distinction between wildlife films and documentaries in general, she pointed to some of the difficulties in getting footage, saying, "You are dealing with animals over whom you have no control. You have no control over your subject and how nature plays out and there is no scope for a retake. One is lucky if one gets to film a tiger stalking or hunting.” Naturally, the task of a wildlife filmmaker involves a lot of time and requires a lot of patience.
While the tiger is the pride and joy of India, Sood Singh revealed that there is not much interest in the other creatures that abound in the country. "The only thing that sells in the international market from India is the tiger,” she said. Most of the other animals are filmed in Africa instead of in India.
Indicating the way the market for wildlife films functions today, she spoke of how series are the flavour of the season, with episodes focusing on fast-paced drama and action as broadcasters want to grab audience attention in the first 10 minutes of an episode. “Wildlife filmmaking [today] is all about great storytelling,” she said. And “unless you can make a frog look sexy, nobody is interested in it”.
When one thinks of wild animals, ethics and conservation are central concerns, and these were highlighted in the masterclass as well. Akanksha Sood Singh said, “There are ways and means of telling a story, you just have to have a clear conscience”, emphasizing the need for filmmakers to respect the fragile environment the creatures inhabit.
Offering some advice to young filmmakers contemplating a career in wildlife filmmaking, she recommended methods of applying for funding and ways of getting one’s foot in the door, along with suggesting avenues for distribution.
She also urged young filmmakers to be aware of the realities. “The channels [broadcast television] ask for the moon, for the cost of a broom,” she remarked, and encouraged them to be realistic about what can be achieved in the field.