- Vishaal Desai
Musing My Muses or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and be Creative.
Years ago, I was approached by Carol Andrade, then the editor of a newspaper called 'The Afternoon,' to write an article illustrating my point of view on filmmaking as a career prospect. When I look back today at the thoughts that I had penned down then, I am struck by how relevant they are to me even now. At the time, having been given a word limit, I had to present a largely edited version. Below is the unedited entirety of my thought process on the subject.
Musing My Muses or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and be Creative.
People often asked me as I completed my Bcom degree at H.R. College, “Why go into a creative field? Why not take up Chartered Accountancy or Law? You can get a lucrative job and make a lot of money.”
My answer to that is simple – I do what I love, but more importantly I love what I do and that is what enables me to go the extra mile, give a 150 percent. In any field of work, the one thing more important than ability is attitude, and anyone who undertakes a profession that fails to spark an attitude of intense passion within them is unlikely to reach their pinnacle in that world.
What is it about being creative that gets my pulse racing…my heart pounding? What is it that drives my passion? In one word – Stories. I have always been captivated by the capacity of the human mind – to imagine, to innovate, to evolve. And what better way to inspire those qualities than stories? Every nook and cranny of our universe, every element, living or otherwise has a story to tell. Throughout the history of mankind, we have looked towards tales of heroism, struggle and sacrifice but most importantly we have looked towards stories that inspire us to better ourselves as individuals and as a collective. From Palaeolithic Cave Paintings to vast and diverse Mythologies - be they Greek, Norse, Hindu, Islamic or Christian; from the tales of Homer, Shakespeare and Tolkien to the endearing Fairy Tales that have captivated fledgling imaginations from time unknown; and finally to the great age of visual story telling in which we today reside; our stories have evolved with us and we have evolved through them. Though fictitious may be the tales of Middle Earth or the characters of Hamlet, they carry within them an innate truth that is evocative of their respective times; a truth that resonates subconsciously and does so far more effectively than the disillusioning facts of reality that people are faced with on a daily basis. These stories are the filters through which we effectively learn what it means to be human.
Joseph Campbell in his book ‘The Hero With A Thousand Faces,’ talks about the Hero’s Journey – an archetypal pathway that exists in every story for every protagonist; and every person is the protagonist of his or her own story. My journey like any other has been riddled with interesting twists and turns, which has led me to where I am right now.
As a child, in addition to being an avid reader of mystery novels, I was a movie buff, though at this point it was just a medium through which I could feed my imagination rather than a perceived career choice. Films like ‘Flash Gordon,’ and ‘Who Framed Roger Rabbit,’ were a staple. But, the earliest memory I have from a film, where the complexities of the story and the characters really affected me, was the climax scene from ‘The Empire Strikes Back.’ This influence was subsequently reflected when in 1999, I watched the latest Star Wars movie. Herein, with the birth of high-octane visual effects, came a tangent to my journey. Being an ardent gamer, towards the latter half of my teens I had a vague notion of wanting to do something in the field of gaming, so I had taken courses in animation, learning the art of 3D modelling and so on. With the visual innovations of the new Star Wars and other films like The Matrix, my interests shifted ever so slightly towards visual effects and CGI – tools that would provide the ability to create and inhabit the wondrous worlds and characters that until now existed solely within my imagination.
Following my graduation from H.R. College in 2004, I moved to a little town in England called Maidstone, where I enrolled in ‘The University of the Creative Arts’ to study a Bachelor’s Degree in Animation. Three years on, I had learned various visual techniques using 2D and 3D animation. However it was also during this period that I, for the first time, picked up a video camera, and though this may sound overly clichéd, it was when I used that camera to make my first live-action short film that I realized where my real talents and aspirations lay. The skills that I picked up in those three years helped visualize my imaginations, but it was the words on paper that I fell in love with and the surge of excitement as I watched those inanimate words transform into action through the lens of my camera. That was when I truly discovered the wonders of storytelling through the perspective of the storyteller.
I subsequently completed a Masters in Screenwriting at the highly reputed London Film School, where I honed my writing skills and discovered the finer points of creating plot and character. My time here was spent mingling with and learning from like-minded peers and professors, guest lecturers from the British film industry and upcoming filmmakers like Duncan Jones (‘Source Code’). It was here that I was introduced to the subtleties of storytelling by studying the films of such visionaries as Fellini, Fritz Lang, John Ford and Bergman. The process of analyzing these films pushed me to experiment and to innovate in ways that I would not have done before; I learned to think out of the box, to explore thoroughly my own perceptions and opinions and then cross the limits of my own imagination and find new avenues through which I may express myself.
And now here I am, back in my hometown. Six years of theoretical and practical experience at my back and a whole new world of opportunities ahead of me. Having started my production company - ‘A Thousand Faces Productions’ (named after Joseph Campbell’s book), I now intend to pursue my goals with fervour. Through the gruelling process of independent filmmaking, with or without the moral support of the film fraternity, I aim to implement the biggest lesson that I have learned in my year at the London Film School, i.e. to find that elusive balance between telling a story that inspires me and telling a story that inspires others. In film terms, that would be the difference between making a commercial film for a wide audience and a pure art film that explored ideas and concepts beyond the comfort zone of that same audience.
Coming back to my first point, people often said, “Filmmaking is a volatile profession, the risks are far greater than the rewards.” That statement is true enough from a certain point of view. Being a creative professional of any sort is not easy on the wallet. This is not a world of 9-to-5 jobs and the payoff can take it’s own sweet time to grace us. Why then should one waste their time on something that doesn’t bring about practical, tangible results? To put it very simply, if money is the only reward one seeks then a creative profession would be a waste of time and effort.
Today, centuries after their time, Maestros such as Mozart and Bach still have the ability to move us with their masterpieces. Poets and authors like Poe and Shakespeare can still shake us to our very souls with their words. Millions of people are still driven and influenced by various mythological tales. Creativity thus has the ability to rejuvenate and influence us in a great many ways. And that is the real reward of this profession, the ability to entertain and at the same time to put forth ones views in ways that cannot be expressed through any other means; The ability to change the world around you by bringing forth that, which is within you. I count my blessings everyday for the ability and the will to partake in a profession that incorporates my greatest passion.