Filmmakers are image-oriented people (and we don’t just mean in terms of fashion, prestige or reputation, though there’s certainly that as well.) For a filmmaker—whatever their background—experiences are captured and cataloged as discrete moments of light, shape and movement. These captured images can, of course, simply be abstract memories, imprinted on the hippocampus of an individual’s brain. But when we’re talking about moviemakers, these images are usually much more tangible, captured with an artistic eye by cameras.
And in 2022, no camera is quite so ubiquitous as the smartphone, even though we don’t always think of them exclusively as such. But consider this—today, the average non-filmmaker civilian is going about their routine with more advanced cinema tech jangling around in their pocket than Orson Welles had to make all of Citizen Kane. And when you put that kind of firepower in the hands of creators as talented as 2022 Global Media Makers Fellows Archana Borhade, Anup Poudel and Sriram Raja, remarkable things tend to happen.
Since 2016, Film Independent has provided Global Media Makers (GMM) as an innovative mentoring and cultural exchange program fostering relationships between filmmakers and industry professionals in the US and abroad.
Today, we’re thrilled to share three short films—each shot on an Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max—produced by Archana Borhade, Anup Poudel and Sriram Raja during GMM’s Spring 2022 LA Residency, in collaboration with five Film Independent Fellows: Martina Silcock, Naiem Bouier, Gem Little, Winter Dunn and Katherine Fairfax Wright.
With a prompt to create a short impressionistic film encompassing their personal view of the City of Los Angeles, the results were as follows…
From Anup Poudel (Nepal) comes Birds in LA.
Logline: While exploring Los Angeles, a paper swan meets others of different colors and sizes, embracing the friendship and freedom the city has to offer.
From Archana Borhade (India) comes Inner Camera.
Logline: As Archana, a cinematographer, self-reflects on visiting one of the beauty capitals of the world, she turns the camera towards herself and finds self-acceptance.
From Sriram Raja (India) comes To LA with Love.
Logline: “Sriram travels to locations where La La Land was filmed and reflects on how nostalgic the city feels in his still 35mm photographs, yet modern when captured on his iPhone.”
“Providing our GMM Fellows a space and time to explore our city of Los Angeles, guided by a local filmmaker, is central to the mission of the program: building bridges and fostering a dialogue amongst creative minds around the world,” says María Raquel Bozzi, Film Independent’s Senior Director of Education & International Initiatives, “We realized an iPhone is the perfect tool for them to freely explore the visual richness of our dynamic Angeleno community.”
To celebrate the release of their shorts, we reached out to Borhade and Raja (Poudel unfortunately being unavailable) to talk about their Collaborative Workshop experience—including their Korean barbeque recommendations…
What preconceptions did you have about Los Angeles prior to coming to the city?
Archana Borhade, 2022 Global Media Makers Fellow: I had always thought of LA as a posh, upscale, rich, glamorous Hollywood town. But exploring its various neighborhoods gave me a better understanding of LA’s subcultures and made me appreciate its multiethnic personality—influenced by people from diverse races, social classes, economic backgrounds and lifestyles. I also found the city to be an open, free space where everyone could express themselves as an individual without any fear of criticism or condemnation.
Sriram Raja, 2022 Global Media Makers Fellow: I first visited LA in 2015. My wife and I were visiting my sister’s family in Santa Clarita, but we hardly came to the city then. We drove through Hollywood and a few other spots, but were mostly away from LA. So the 2022 trip was the first time I got a real sense of Los Angeles. I definitely had a picture of LA in my mind through film. La La Land was definitely one of them. In most cases, the actual experience turns out to be underwhelming. But LA was as beautiful as what I had pictured it to be. Not just the city, but also its people.
Describe your initial reaction to Collaborative Workshop. How did this lead to your eventual proposal?
Borhade: I was eager to participate but was worried how it’d pan out since it was a short period of time to get acquainted with my collaborators and create the film. The first one to meet us was our creative advisor, Shari Page. In her session, we were introduced to five Film Independent Fellows, to be paired with each of us as producers. They shared deeply intimate stories of their personal and professional struggles and made us comfortable enough to talk about our own lives and its challenges. Shari suggested we present Los Angeles through our own perspectives and make it as personal as possible. This emboldened me to talk about my struggles with societal judgments of my body and life choices. Thus, the idea for Inner Camera was born.
Raja: Before we arrived, we were sent a document about the previous GMM edition. In them, I’d seen the images of filmmakers shooting on iPhone. I wasn’t sure if GMM would have [the iPhone workshop] this year, as well, but I was secretly wishing for it to be there. It was exciting to know that the producers would be making the iPhone shorts this year, and that I was one of them! The idea came the next day when I was doing street photography in LA.”
How did your collaborators contribute to the film in terms of ideas
Borhade: I wrote a rough version of my film’s voiceover and spoke about it to [producer] Winter Dunn. She was very supportive and encouraged me to finalize my voiceover. I presented my proposal to Shari and the rest of the Fi and they gave me helpful suggestions on where to shoot and who to capture for my film. Once my shoot was done, I handed the footage to [my editor] along with the voiceover and from there we went back-and-forth on different versions of the edit. He trimmed down my voiceover appropriately and was prompt with his editorial versions. At the final stage, I got my composer friend from India, Sarang Kulkarni, to do the soundtrack and Bo Pang delivered a lovely sound mix just in time for the screening to our GMM Fellows.
What do you hope people learn about both you and LA after watching your short?
Raja: As a filmmaker, you carry the memory of the films you’ve watched. And as a photographer, you’re looking for interesting frames and subjects. As a tourist, you’re waiting to be surprised. I think when all of them happen together, there’s an overwhelming feeling and I’ve tried to express that in this film. As an artist, I love both analog and digital formats. They both have unique characters, and I try to blend them in my work. I hope this one-minute short gives a glimpse of that.
What was your favorite moment during the shoot?
Borhade: My favorite moment was filming a group of young adults, high on life, dancing merrily to the sound of a jazzy soundtrack on Venice Beach. They were so relaxed, happy and carefree, it really let me enjoy the whole filming experience with them.
Raja: There were two moments. I was shooting inside the Griffith Observatory and I had on my phone screenshots from the famous Griffith Observatory scene in La La Land. I was looking to recreate the same frame. A young couple was observing me. One of them said, “I see what you’re doing, that’s so cool!” They said they both loved La La Land. We had a small chat. Another moment was along the Hollywood Walk of Fame. A photographer noticed me clicking pictures. He was also using a film SLR camera. We both sat near the pedestrian walk and spoke about cameras. I was happy connecting with total strangers making this film.
What was your favorite thing to do in Los Angeles?
Borhade: My absolute favorite was going to Film Independent’s headquarters every weekday, where I could spend time with GMM Fellows, mentors and Film Independent staff. It was fun talking to everyone and listening to their filmmaking adventures and advice. All of us ate food together, chatted endlessly, teased and joked with each other and swapped tales of struggle. A lot of us have definitely become friends for life. It felt like I was a part of a big, chatty, warm, creatively prolific family. Five weeks of the workshop just flew by and I was heartbroken when it was time to say goodbye. This GMM program will always be one of the most rewarding, beautiful experiences of my life.
Raja: My favorite thing was to walk. I believe the best way to explore a city is by walking. This time the weather was perfect for long walks. The multicultural nature of the city made me experience different kinds of food. I loved them all, but if I have to pick one, it must be Korean barbecue and a boba drink to carry while walking.
To hear from our Film Independent Fellows hosts we were likewise able to find Martina Silcock, Winter Dunn and Katherine Fairfax Wright to share their thoughts on participating in this unique exchange…
What was your initial reaction when asked to participate in the Collaborative Workshop?
Martina Silcock (Producer, Global Media Makers mentor): Really excited! I hadn’t heard about the scheme before. I’ve mentored younger students in the past, so I was intrigued to be part of a more peer-to-peer mentoring program, particularly one where I could learn from international peers.
Winter Dunn (Producer, 2021 Project Involve Fellow, 2022 Episodic Directing Intensive Fellow): I was honored to be invited to participate. Having the opportunity to collaborate with other filmmakers from around the world was, for me, a one-of-a-kind experience. I really wanted to make my GMM filmmaker feel welcomed and safe to be their full creative selves.”
Katherine Fairfax Wright (Producer, 2011 Documentary Lab Fellow, 2012 Producing Lab Fellow, 2022 Episodic Directing Lab Intensive Fellow): I was keen to participate. I’ve spent many months of my life seeing new cities through the lens of a camera—I think when you task yourself with looking for interesting things in that way you see a whole lot more than you might if you were just walking around. I also know how much of an impact welcoming people have had on me during my filmmaking travels abroad, so I welcome the chance to extend similar helpfulness to visitors to my own hometown.”
What was your first impression of your GMM collaborator’s proposal? What notes did you give?
Silcock: Both proposals seemed different on the outset but were essentially about identity and finding your place in the world. Particularly with Anup, I tried to encourage him to embrace making the project personal and to think big.
Dunn: I thought Archana had a very clear idea of what she wanted to say. Most of my work was affirming her creative impulses. Archana is an accomplished filmmaker in her own right, so our collaboration was really centered on sharing our experiences as women in film and some of the insecurities that come with that. It was refreshing to see Archana exploring themes that many women in our industry will relate to.
Fairfax Wright: I suggested Sriram check out the website Atlas Obscura to find interesting locations. I suggested that if he wanted to go to a jazz club, he might try the Baked Potato. I suggested that perhaps he play with texture and more unusual ways of conveying film within a film. These are the sorts of things I brought up with him.”
What was your favorite moment during the shoot?
Silcock: Getting to know Anup and Gem, one of the other mentors. On the main day of the shoot we had a great time getting to know each other and exploring ideas.
Dunn: I took Archana to my neighborhood of Echo Park, and it was beautiful sharing a part of my life and seeing it through her eyes. Archana wanted to capture the freedom of the people in LA, and it was fun capturing that on the iPhone. I’m really happy with the shots we captured that day.
Fairfax Wright: One thing that was fun about this was that Sriram was seeing things that cinema had already made him familiar with. He already knew all the spots [we went to] through La La Land. But watching him see for the first time just outside Damien Chezelle’s frame was really interesting—seeing the art deco building on the same block as the mural that’s in the movie, hearing the opera music blasting from the 7-Eleven sidewalk speakers across the street from the mural, etc.
What did you gain from this experience? What do you hope people learn about both you and the city after watching the short?
Silcock: I gained friends and future collaborators. I really loved hearing about Anup’s and Archana’s lives and experiences back home. I hope they both enjoyed and embraced the city and what they discovered about themselves here.
Dunn: It was beautiful talking to Archana about the unique pressures of being a woman filmmaker in India. While our backgrounds are very different, we still shared a common ground being women in a male-dominated industry. This short felt like the perfect place to discuss those pressures and how we can overcome them by embracing our full identities. Archana was inspired by the freedom she felt being in LA, and her film is a beautiful piece about embracing your full self and shutting off the inner critique.
Fairfax Wright: Sriram and I had a really lovely exchange. I’m really pleased to have gotten to know him and to consider him a friend. In some sense it was tutelage, but it was also just two film fanatics driving around Los Angeles talking shop. We also brought my dog along for the shoot day—so that was another fun, homey element!”
How did you feel when you finally screened your short for the rest of the GMM Fellows?
Silcock: A little nervous. But most of all very proud of what Anup and Archana achieved.
To learn more about Global Media Makers, click here. Global Media Makers is supported through a partnership between Film Independent and the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.
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