So after the disappointment of getting my dink from Austin, I needed some upliftment. Luckily Mira Nair provided it in spades at the IFP's Independent Film Conference in New York last week. She described needing elephantine skin to survive the ups and downs of Hollywood. That and amazing self-belief.
With every "No thanks. Not for us," she told herself, "You're wrong. I'll show you." And it's turned out pretty well for Mira. That's the spirit I find myself trying to tap into for the much needed rocket fuel to keep the momentum on crazy Bollywood movie musical going. If making a film is like going to war, it's a mighty long campaign.
Mira's keynote also had two pieces of great advice for Third Worlders...stuff I've felt but not been able to articulate.
1) Make what you make excellently. Do not apologize for its quality by saying explicitly or not, hey this is from the Third World so cut us some slack. For her first feature "Salaam Bombay" she told the story of blowing the entire movie's budget in production, leaving nothing for post. She put all the money in the film ($800,000) and then went looking for finishing funds. She just knew it had to look great.
2) Don't "anthropoligize" or explain too much culturally. If you watch Monsoon Wedding you'll see how much you're thrust into the action. There's no expositional dialogue about why we dress this way or wear this henna, or sing this song. There's no outsider leading you through the action and the work is all the richer and more authentic for it.
There was only one thing that bugged me about the keynote. The moderator kept trying to bring the focus back to Mira as a woman director/filmmaker and she seemed determined to steer clear of that pigeonhole. "It's not like I consciously decided that I wanted to make movies about women and walk around wearing orange pants," she said sitting up on stage at an F.I.T. auditorium, wearing a rather fetching pair of said shimmery orange pants. And then she quoted from what another interviewer said of her work, "I don't make political films. I make films politically."
Perhaps making films politically speaks to her commitment to the collective collaboration involved in filmmaking. (She told a charming tale of how she and her crew would perform a ritual at the start of each day's shooting of The Namesake, breaking a coconut and blessing all the equipment, down to the dolly tracks...since every item is important. "The carpenter has to show up to build the throne for the actor to sit on," as she put it.) Or maybe it's a nod to her ultra-realistic, documentarian roots on display in "Monsoon Wedding."
Whichever it was, it didn't stop her from plugging "Amelia", her first big studio movie, starring Hilary Swank, which opens October 23rd.