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It’s just a different kind of brush: Dan Wolman on filmmaking with cell phones

The veteran Israeli filmmaker is optimistic that with the improvement in technology the younger generation will come up with good films shot even on cell phones.

Photo: Shutterbugs Images

Blessy Chettiar

Israeli filmmaker Dan Wolman has said that with better cell phones, the next generation could come up with good films shot on mobile phones.

Wolman was of the opinion that the language of cinema is changing, becoming more democratic. Talking about making his own first film in the late 1960s and the struggles to make it, he gave the example of his seven-year-old granddaughter who, he said, sings to, shoots and edits on her cell phone. 

“She has already started the experience of making films," Wolman said. "Now the language of cinema is changing because of production on the cell phone. The amount of people having the enjoyment of making films, it is now more democratic, everybody can now do it and it’s fantastic. Some people complain and say they make much more rubbish these days. But I think it doesn’t matter. I think people with talent will come through.”

Wolman was speaking at the Open Forum on ‘Are cellphones turning everyone into filmmakers?’ along with official Oscars jury member Ujwal Nirgudkar, professor and filmmaker Ashok Rane, and wildlife documentary filmmaker Gautam Pandey. They discussed how cellphones are changing the way stories are told.

The Open Forum was held as part of the 49th International Film Festival of India (IFFI) in Goa. 

Nirgudkar agreed that the digital revolution had made it easy for people to try their hand at filmmaking. “Definitely cell phones have made it a democratic right for everybody to make a film," he said. "In a small village where they don’t have much exposure to the film industry, but they have some creative ideas, they can try making films with a cell phone. 

“With distribution channels like YouTube and Facebook, they can also showcase it to the world. This is helping youngsters to showcase their talent. I think it has opened a new window for youngsters to make something and also get funding.”

Rane, however, sought to define filmmaking, saying that for a set of visuals to be called a film they need to fulfil certain criteria. Students must know the philosophy of filmmaking and the equipment used is just a medium to tell a story. He rued that films these days are being made with technology but not with the mind.

Moderator Dheep Joy Mampilly with panellists Ashok Rane, Dan Wolman, Ujwal Nirgudkar and Gautam Pandey at IFFI 2018

Wolman was optimistic that the next generation would come up with very good films shot on cell phones. He also said filmmaking should be made part of the education system so the best would be able to make films. 

“Phones are going to improve more and more. It all depends on the story. I’m making a film about a voyeur who goes with a camera and shoots people having sex, because that’s the only way he gets satisfaction,” the Israeli veteran said, adding that using cell phone footage worked better than shooting on a high-end camera.

Giving the example of art, Wolman insisted that he did not feel quality was affected when shooting on a cellphone. “There’s watercolour and oil painting. I think it’s just a different kind of brush, not a question of quality.” 

The filmmaker was presented with the Lifetime Achievement award at IFFI this year.

Filmmaker Mike Pandey, who was present in the audience, said framing is a craft and science which comes after a certain amount of training. 

“A new genre of visual communicators is emerging due to cell phones," Mike Pandey said. "Capturing visuals, images is interesting for everyone. Films are structured, programmed to tell a story, and that comes with a certain amount of training. Taking a video is documenting something. And there is a difference between films and documentation. These are short-attention-span holders.”

Pandey added that cell phones allow everyone to make a dash at filmmaking and the genre is still in its infancy.

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