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“You have to be a little crazy to be a director”

Screenwriter and director Andy Tenant, who is the Jury President of the International Competition section of the 14th Mumbai Film Festival (MFF) talks about his expectations from the event

One of the things you’re doing at the MFF is conducting a Master Class in direction. Can one really teach film direction?

No, you can’t. But what you can do is inspire someone who wants to be a director to risk everything and to basically try. When I used to go to these kinds of Master Classes, whenever I listened to directors that I admire, part of the joy and lessons I learnt was that most directors, while filming, didn’t know what they were doing… whether they were scared, confused or made mistakes. That allowed me to think, ‘Oh, you don’t have to be perfect to start your career. You just have to be interested in striving to be perfect.’I am hoping that the Master Classis not really about technical aspects although I think it will be, to an extent.But after that, I think it’s more about the emotional journey of a director,the commitment that it takes and the insanity involved in filmmaking. You have to be a little crazy to be a director.At the end of the day, some people will say that’s just too much work or that doesn’t sound like fun. I would have provided a service to those people.(Laughs).

You are the jury president for International Competition for the First Feature Films of Directors. What is that  are quality that a first-time director brings to his work which one mayor may not find in a more experience director?

Passion and an absolute certainty of vision and quality of narrative that is unique! When I look back at my first short film, I marvel at it. If I had known then what I know now, I never would have made it. So I think it’s important to have that feeling of ‘damn the torpedoes!’ You just have to do it. What I am really looking forward to is fresh,innovative ideas. Maybe they don’t have much money, may be they don’t have the right lighting or the right actor. It doesn’t matter. Tell me a story.

Do you watch Indian cinema?

It’s not that I don’t. I have never watched a Bollywood film but I am hoping I will soon.

What is the last Indian film you watched?

Well, I can’t say Slumdog Millionaire.That was a Danny Boyle movie. I think by Sunday, I will be able to tell you the last Indian film I watched because maybe I will go and see one.Besides being a screenwriter and a director, you have also been a dancer.You were a chorus member in Grease and Grease 2, dancing alongside John Travolta.

Have you watched any Indian song-and-dance sequences?

I have seen your song-and-dance routines and they are absolutely stunning!Now, I am itching to do a musical myself.Dancing was something I could do.I just had the ability and I wanted to be Gene Kelly. As I was growing up, I went from dancing to directing. Even when I was dancing, I was writing a script and it helped my directing because it’s all about special awareness, body positioning and walking. You know, a lot of comedy is physical. If something’s funny, there is way to fall. I learnt about acting from dancing.

What’s easier to teach – screenwriting or direction?

I would like to take a class as a writer director. Writing is really hard, not that direction is easy. But if you have that passion, you can teach a fledgling writer who really wants to learn the craft. You can teach someone who has talent but it needs to grow. It needs to be nurtured. Directing is like being a fire-fighter. It’snot easy. Not that writing is easy but when you are writing, you are at least your own person. As a director, you have to have an opinion about everything but you don’t have to be an expert on anything. The dynamics of being a director are so much fun that it’s not just about the movie. It ends up being about your relationship with the crew, your relationship with the actors, your relationship with the studio, your relationship with the money, your relationship with the town you’re shooting in. That’s what nurtures me most… the ability to meet and engage with so many creative people all at the same time.

What are your expectations from the MFF?

I expect to be really tired, I expect to see some really interesting movies, and I expect to be inspired if not by some of movies, then by the effort and passion that’s put into them.

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