Interview with director Rahul Menon

SHORT BIO OF THE DIRECTOR: Born and raised in New Delhi, India, and currently residing in Illinois, USA (2018), Rahul Menon is an Director, Screenwriter, and an occasional actor. He is a Computer Science Engineer, who prior to entering film industry worked as a Software Analyst for Accenture, and then ventured into the world of advertising and marketing, where he worked as a Copy Supervisor, before making his official foray into films as a writer and assistant director with ‘Evening News’ in 2018. He’s currently working, and doing his graduate studies in Film-making and Media Management from Southern Illinois University Edwardsville.

  • Was there a particular event or time that you recognized that filmmaking is your way of telling stories?

I would have to say, 2nd year of my engineering undergrad is when I truly fell in love with movies. Even when I was slogging through those computer science textbooks, it was the love for movies that kept me going. Another event that triggered the filmmaker in me or should I say, increased my love for filmmaking exponentially, was watching Christopher Nolan film ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ in India. Being a true fanboy, my buddy and me, we stood and watched him work for 14 glorious hours continuously, and that truly was an unbelievable experience.

  • Do you think it is essential to go to a film institute in order to become a successful filmmaker?

Not really, but I do feel that a film school or institute helps you get that network that is really required in this field. More importantly, it gets you access to all kinds of equipment and actors. But the most important part of filmmaking is having a vision and telling a story, which to be honest, no school or professor can teach you.

  • Is it harder to get started or to keep going? What was the particular thing that you had to conquer to do either?

It most definitely is harder to get started. Everyone has their own struggles and problems to overcome, mine was quitting a well-paying job and career, convincing my parents that I want to do something totally different, and then trying to figure out, how to break into this weird and wide industry.

  • What was the most important lesson you had to learn that has had a positive effect on your film? How did that lesson happen?

Never give up. Get that scene that you really want. Have a crew that you have faith in, and has faith in you, and your vision. And if you are a filmmaker like me who’s also a writer, director and an editor, then ALWAYS REMEMBER, you are going to have 3 very different films by the end of these 3 stages. I love to edit, so I’ll keep editing the project till the very end, trying to hit that sweet spot of perfection, but you have to realize, there comes a time when you have to understand what’s achievable and let go off your project.

  • What were the production realities from casting through editing that you had to accommodate? How did you navigate those compromises or surprises and still end up with a cohesive film?

Having wrote and shot this film in 2 hours, we honestly didn’t have a script, what we had were pointers. Almost like boxes we knew we had to check-off. There were few things that I wanted, but also knew I wouldn’t be able to pull off because of time constraints. So you have to make do with what you got. Finally, the entire thing came about once I sat in for the editing. That’s when I could truly see the project come alive.

  • What was the hardest artistic choice you made in the making of a film, at any stage in production?

The best choice were the actors, the hardest was solving some of the audio gaffes we had done while filming. I’m not a big fan of ADR, but due to the audio issue I mentioned, we had to re-do some parts of the audio.

  • You are a collaborator. How have you discovered members of your team and how do you keep the relationship with them strong?

Not just on this project, but in general, there definitely are some collaborators I’ve stumbled upon with whom I would love to work for a long time. At times we do have our issues, which we get through, because at the end of the day, we love doing what we are doing. We love movies, and making movies.

  • What do audiences want? And is it the filmmaker’s role to worry about that?

Oh my! This just triggered back the entire Scorsese – Marvel issue for me. Seems like everyday somebody is chiming in on it, guess it’s my turn now. How do we figure out what the audience wants? Because if we start looking at the financial aspects of things, then that means the world just wants lots and lots of Superhero movies. So as a filmmaker, if that’s what you think the audience wants, then go ahead and make those amazing superhero movies. But then, if you are a filmmaker who’s not worried about awards or quarterly returns, then just go ahead, make the movie that you want to see.

  • What role have film festivals played in your life so far? Why are they necessary? How do you get the most out of them?

I feel Film Festivals play a very important role, because like I said, it acts as a perfect avenue for you, the filmmaker, and pretty much other crew members to network with other up and coming filmmakers, and most importantly, see what others are making from different parts of the world. Also, an executive from A24 might just stumble upon your project, and end up hiring you.

  • Do you believe that a filmmaker should be original and fresh or he/she should stick to classic but safe cinema style?

I strongly believe a filmmaker should try to be as original and fresh with their content. No matter how many homages he or she intends to make through their movies, what pre/well-defined genre they are going into, there are always way to turn something around and make something fresh.