The Creative Documentary Course at SACAC is like taking a long journey where you are made to look within yourself. To find a perspective with which you can look at the world outside.
The fact that the course has a lot of guest lecturers allows you to call for a cinematographer when you feel like that is what you need, or a sound designer when you need to hone that skill.
The class strength of the course is low which allows the mentors to individually mentor each student and that is what I think is very special about the course. CDC is about finding your own voice and I think it fulfils that purpose.
One of the most important things that the course taught me is to pay attention to how it is that my senses are perceiving the world- how is it that I’m seeing, how is it that I am hearing things. And how all of that goes into the process of making a film.
Another important thing that the course taught me is that in reality, in real life, things exist outside of the binaries. There are still many more things outside of ideologies and propaganda, which I think is extremely important in today’s times.
Our teachers here have been brilliant. They taught me to be okay with making mistakes- that it is okay to fail as long as I keep working hard, as long as I am committed to learning things.
I think that something that our teacher R.V. Ramani said, sums up the course for me- is that we have to keep recovering ourselves from ourselves. And I think that is what the course has taught me to do.
Debankon Singh Solanky
The course here at CDC was eighteen months and it was very intense in a way that we got into film and the amount we learned in eighteen months. It was nonstop and it was a lot of learning - it taught me much beyond cinema. It taught me more about life and how I look at myself, how I look at my surroundings. The diploma film was a great experience in terms of understanding from the beginning of the process- of what it is that I am actually interested in, to figuring that out, and then how do I say it. So what is my voice and how do I put it in a film? The understanding of what makes a film and what it is that brings you in to the film, and how do you start to express that through this medium of cinema.
This was something that CDC started for me as a journey- that realisation. And then it gave me all the tools to bring together and take this forward. Every day was thought about, every minute was thought about. About what we would be thinking, doing, responding. I think it was very well structured and it gave me an education for the first time.
Grace Mary Sukanya
CDC is a great course because it is quite rigorous and thorough. They make you think through every single decision that you make- both the technical decisions as well as the creative decisions. One of its greatest strengths is the mentoring process. So with each film project that you do, you get a lot of mentoring and handholding throughout it all. It helps you to also learn and really internalise this idea of being very thorough and being very clear about why you are doing certain things. You start thinking through your own decisions, thinking through your instincts, and unlearning a lot of stuff that you have imbibed from elsewhere. So I think that the mentoring process really teaches you a lot.
One of the things, which I used to personally be confused about earlier is this idea of form and what does it mean, and how you come up with a form for a film? I think what they have taught me is that the idea, that the form must come from the content. And so they don’t really restrict you in terms of what you can do or what you can’t do. They train you to think very deeply about why is it that you are doing certain things. And the fact that they focus so much on research- before the film, during the film, during the edit, I think that it is a pretty great course to learn all of these things about filmmaking.
SACAC has personally been a very enriching experience for me. I think not just in terms of filmmaking but also on a larger level. The course, CDC, makes you question a lot of things- the people around you, the world, politics and even yourself- as to where you stand. For me, the journey has also been very interesting because there was really rigorous mentoring at different stages. So it involved a lot of discussions, and not just of your work but the work of your peers as well. Because when you are at this stage, you learn from everybody’s mistakes. So I think that it was very useful. Even as an atmosphere, SACAC is quite peaceful and it is friendly including the administration.
Sameera and Ruchika, as mentors, especially in the diploma film stage have been wonderful. What I have learnt during the journey of 6 months of my diploma film, I think it is equivalent to a great amount of my lifetime. They gave me a lot of movies to watch, books to read, and I think they have just pushed me, throughout these six months, to hone myself and to hone my skills. And when you do that, it is not just about becoming better in your skills. I think you also become stronger with your intention behind each decision of yours. So if you have taken an image, you question why you have taken that image, why you have chosen a particular image size. I think these are the discussions that are quite rare. I have never experienced such discussions around filmmaking previously. So I think, all in all, CDC and SACAC have been a wonderful experience.
My time at CDC has been the most fulfilling experience of my life. Sameera Jain, our course director, has put immense thought into structuring this course and has held our hands and shown us a beautiful and meaningful way to engage with the reality that surrounds us. A big part of that has been the individual mentoring. We are a small class and each of us has been given careful and thorough attention through the entire course, which has been really important to discover our relationship with film. The film and the course has been a journey of us coming closer to ourselves, understanding our histories, understanding our conditioning, what has shaped us to be the people that we are, and questioning that. And also arriving at a more real place, which requires a lot of hard work. The thing is you want to work hard and get it right. And if you do, then that is a very gratifying feeling. Essentially the course, the film, has been this constant experience of building your relationship with your craft and how that brings meaning to your life.
I have always wanted to make films and I was looking for a good place to learn filmmaking. So I feel fortunate to come here at SACAC, especially because of the ideology that it carries. And I think it has only taken me forward, after being in an academic space for five years. I didn’t know much about documentaries before, to be honest. But here, they constantly emphasise the fact and make you realise that there is a thin line between fiction and nonfiction. And how documentary is also a good place to learn fiction.
I have also realised that the idea for why I want to make films, has evolved being here. Before, it was that film has a larger audience- if you want to reach out to people. But here, the course began with this idea of what is your voice or finding your own voice. I think it sounded funny then but actually you do sort of learn not just about filmmaking, but you learn about yourself. The way you look at things changes. It is not about the technicalities. Anyone can hold a camera. But now, I think this is probably true for all my peers, you would have to think a lot before taking a shot. And I think about the saying- about how you learn about someone by how they film something.
One of the main takeaways after these 18 months at CDC is a certain rigor that it inculcates in you, because of the way it's designed. It's an extremely intensive course and there are very few students. It’s the only course in India that can offer this experience I think…not only in its design, but also in terms of the external faculty that's coming in, and our own internal faculty.
Usually there's this divide between theory and practice - theory stays in the classroom and practice is out on location but in this course marrying the two really helps. When you're sitting in class and watching a film, what you've done is informing how you watch that film. Everything that has been taught to you in class is finding a way to express itself in your work.
The exercises we do are with a view to something beyond, something that you can learn from, something that you can carry forward. So it's not like we're just doing exercises for the sake of it, just for marks or whatever. The marks actually don't matter at all. It's more about what you're learning and what you can take forward into the next step.
When you enter the course you have a very conventional idea of what the documentary is. It is set in stone – “this is what a documentary is”, and that's broken on the first day itself. The entire experience of the course has completely changed the way I look at film, and even the way I look at life.
It’s been a great experience and I am very happy that I did the course. In hindsight I think - I may have not done it also, that would have been horrible!
I think this course introduces you to cinema in a way that you're not really used to seeing. You start looking at things in a very nuanced way. This is perhaps always there in your experience as a person but it's not there in your experience as an expression. The course doesn’t tell you what to do but allows you to translate what you feel instinctively or otherwise as a person, into what you can also create. So for me that was something interesting….not approaching something from the outside all the time. And not looking at cinema as something that is “within a box” but to create your own definitions of it.
It's very difficult to do this, to create your own definitions because it means going back to yourself all the time. So more than cinema, this course is actually about you and the sooner you come to terms or start understanding yourself, the sooner cinema happens to you. So that's what I liked about this course.
I came to the course with absolutely zero knowledge about films. The only thing that I got with me was my love for films. Almost every possible skill that I have acquired is through the course. The best part is how it has been structured because very subtly it just gets inside your skin.
First of all, the class size is small. The teachers, the internal faculty are intimately related to you and every piece of work that you're doing. The course is intensive. It is quite a lot of hard work but at the end of the day, after one and half years...I don't know...it just shapes you.
It's a great thing that you learn all the skillsets related to making a film. You can tackle a project independently, and this gives you a lot of confidence in terms of camera, editing, scripting, direction and sound work. The course is holistic not just in terms of skills, but conceptually as well, which is very important. It has really given me everything that I need to start with my journey of Image and Sound.
I know I can rest. I know I can take a pause whenever I want because now looking at certain things is not a waste of time. You are watching, you are observing, it's not even work but it is something that you are adding onto yourself. It's the value of that experience, and that's a beautiful thing.
When I joined the course, I was very new to all this. The idea of films that I had was limited to the mainstream. I didn't know I could do so much with cinema. So in that sense I learnt a lot, starting from the very basics to making one’s own film…I think that’s quite amazing.
The way the course was structured and the way we learnt one thing after another, all that has made me the person I am today. When I look at something or talk to someone, this learning influences everything. It is very nice and very important to have someone mentor you in this process. For instance, when we're editing, often we are so familiar with the material that we can't look at it anymore...we can't think after a point. So then when someone is telling you that maybe you can look at it like this or that…how about thinking of something completely different, I think that really helps in terms of making the final film.
The kind of cinema that I was exposed to was mainstream Bollywood or Hollywood films. Documentaries meant only propaganda films with the voice of god narratives, only to give you some information. I came to the course because I really enjoyed the process of making a film but I didn't think that I could use it as an expression. Now I realize that just the way you write something…whatever you feel like writing, making documentaries is also like that. It’s a kind of visual writing in that sense.
Arunima Tenzin Tara
I think one thing that was really nice for me in this course was that it was a really small class. You get to spend a lot of time with Sameera & Ruchika which was helpful especially in the diploma film process because a lot of the times when you don't know what you're doing or you want to say things but you can't really say them, because they've known you for so long, they can understand you, and I think that really helps. So by the time you're making your diploma film, the people who are helping you can pretty much read your mind.
It was also very useful to have a lot of people coming at different points to give their inputs. Especially for me, as I had zero knowledge of anything technical or theoretical at all about film-making. So there were a fair number of classes that dealt with film theory or the films studies aspect which involved watching and critiquing films, but also many others on how to use a camera, what is sound, how to edit and so on. Seeing that from different people's points of view helps you figure out what your point of view is. So it’s not just learning about technique from one person.
I think it was also useful that we had a lot of people coming in just to discuss things with us. Particularly before the diploma film, we spent months just thinking about the why of making a film, which made making the film a lot more than it just being a film. I think that is why a lot of us also feel that the film we made is close to us because it does become really personal, it's not something that's separate from us because the course forces you to spend a lot of time thinking about the consequences making it, what it will do for you, why are you representing people in a certain way, why are you representing a space in a certain way. And I think that helps you gain more confidence in your idea and belief yourself.
I think that's one of my biggest takeaways from the course that even though there is a lot of mentoring and there's a lot of outside support, there's still a lot of work that you have to do individually and that’s what gives you the confidence boost that you can actually believe in an idea that you had, work on it and produce a work that you can be proud of.
The Creative Documentary Course that I've been a part of for the past 18 months now has been quite a unique experience. It's one of the places where we have been pushed to think about what film is, how to think about fiction and nonfiction, and a lot of it is also about unlearning the way we think about film itself. The course teaches you to be critical…to think about what goes into making a film, what is the intent informing a particular film or a particular decision that is behind it. Without me knowing, a lot of the things I've done in class have actually become a part of me. It's become a part of the way I look at a film or the way I look at how to go about shooting something. I think it becomes an integral part of the way you start thinking or questioning things.
When you're starting out there's always that doubt about making a film, like, “Oh my god! I've never done this before!” But you have to make a film (in the course) and then slowly you get used to it, you get used to a workflow, you get used to a process that you've gone through or a way of researching. So I think that the good thing about each project is that there's so much you take away from it. Because it's an experience, you can retain it rather than it being something abstract.
What's interesting is that all of us help each other out on each other’s project. For instance, I did sound for a friend’s project and a friend did sound for me, so what happens is that you're working on multiple projects other than your own.
It's been very intense 18 months and also probably one of the most challenging times in life, but because you experience so much, you also grow all that much more, not just as a film-maker but also as a human being. Then you realise that maybe the two are not all that mutually exclusive.
So if you're lensing in a certain way, it's all about how you are trying to perceive a certain thing and even the process of research can sometimes be about spending a lot of time in a space and forming your own thoughts. All this does find a way into your visual language.
The entire faculty that's visited us, there's a certain sensitivity that everyone came with. The conversations were very spontaneous, not like, ki soch ke aaye, baat kara aur lesson deke chale gaye. This opens up a lot of things. The conversations carry on outside the classroom and into life.
With each space that you were exploring, you began to understand the extent of the potential inherent in it and how little you knew. When you see that, when you become aware of your own ignorance, somewhere that becomes exciting, as you then know that these are the new possibilities and these are the ways you can go in. For future projects also, you know that that’s the position you will start with, and that you will actually go that extra distance. Earlier, I don't think any of us would have kept pushing our thoughts to that extent.
The past one year has been a wonderful journey of self discovery.
The exercises and the structure planned have been highly intensive and enriching in all ways possible. During this process I never realized how much could just seep in until the final diploma film, where I actually realized all that I had been taught was right there. I stand here knowing much more about who I am along with all the technical knowledge that I have been taught. The question that was asked constantly, “Why”? Has now become an important medium for finding myself and being able to express that in cinematic language .
I came to this course with a very different understanding of the documentary form, and had very different objectives than now. But with each passing week, and month, I was faced with revelation after revelation, not just with regards to the form, but so much about the art of filmmaking itself, its intricacies, its nuances; technically and creatively. The fluidity and intensity of the course really does help one find one’s own voice, true to what the prospectus states. Because it inspires one to think about and question practically every aspect of oneself and one’s life, which in turn helps one know and understand oneself a lot better. As I have come to learn with CDC, and this is probably one of the most important lessons of my life this course has given me, that your film is a mirror; a reflection of one’s true self. And somewhere in the midst of it all, I have discovered, and rediscovered, myself, and facets of myself, in ways that I had never imagined.
The Creative Documentary Course at SACAC has been a very fruitful journey in the quest to understand cinema and learn the craft of filmmaking. The structure and progression of the course did not only just enrich my understanding of cinema, but of life through the lens. The faculty has contributed to a steep learning curve through which I acquired many useful skills to independently express myself through the medium of cinema. I take away from this course an attitude of mindfulness and attentiveness to the myriad possibilities of the world around me.
Manur Raj Katyal
Creative Documentary Course was a great learning experience. In the last one year we met many filmmakers who shared their experiences with us and watch so many documentary films of different kinds. It is an intensive course that really needs you to immerse yourself in it. I was very lucky to be part of the course as in now when it’s finished it has left me with confidence of the art which is based on true knowledge and skill.
For me the course was like a cleansing process. It gently made me look at the way I look at the world around me. It was also a journey where I came closer to myself and the external while picking up various skill sets along the way. I feel enriched and now I'm trying to find ways to take forward this learning.
The teaching philosophy of this course was very different, because it was about `finding your own voice’. It was about You, it was about your voice. On the one hand it’s a journey you have to have on your own, but at the same time you can never really undergo it if you’re not pushed in that direction, in knowing yourself better – because nobody wants to do it. And the way the course was structured, it was really as if we were becoming a part of each other….all of us, all the students. You try making sense of yourself by looking at others, which is very interesting and I think having people from different backgrounds really made the entire environment very rich. The learning environment was really very rich.
Radhika K. Fatania
It just gives you so much joy when you see your skills being put together and some form of art and meaning coming out through your films. Apart from learning the very intricate art of filmmaking from scratch, this course has given so much more freedom to myself, becoming more mature as a person, and more responsible as well.
Ansh Ranvir Vohra
What makes this course very different is that we are not following a very linear structure. So right when we began we were thrust into a project, and we were made to unlearn what we had already learnt. All of us come from different conditioning and a different idea of what a documentary is supposed to be. The time in the course has been dedicated to trying to break that definition and create our own definitions of what a documentary is and should be. The faculty has been really, really nice. They keep coming up with new challenges to put us through, but they’ve also been guiding us through those challenges, helping us whenever we got stuck. Apart from academicians, we have had a lot of practicing filmmakers come and give us workshops, very practical workshops. It’s almost like learning on a film…like learning on the job. It’s not just textbook knowledge… it’s never been that, right from the beginning.
This being a documentary course, I was unsure as I was more into fiction, but now after the course I am looking for jobs in documentary alone! Because I think it has more drama, more life to it and hasn’t been explored enough in India. I have developed this love towards documentary. This course has brought me closer to life actually. And made me comfortable in my own skin.
A documentary can also be a story of two friends. We never saw such films, so didn’t know this! We learnt during the course what all a documentary can be. It can be about life, relationships and many other things. It’s not just about going up with a mic to someone. It’s about how you can be closer to someone’s life, be friends with them…now I love fiction and documentary both and want to work in both fields.