Interview with Filmmaker Malhaar Gupte (PHANTOM SONG)

PHANTOM SONG played to rave reviews at the February 2021 FANTASY/SCI-FI Film Festival.

1. What motivated you to make this film?

Hailing from Hong Kong, I have been immersed in an environment where technology rapidly grows at an exponential rate. Hong Kong is never stagnant, there is something always going on, some new gadget being released right around the corner, some new spectacle of technological prowess, and I am immediately exposed to all of it. This in turn has a huge influence on the way I see the world, and how I see myself. In the context of film, I would say this atmosphere automatically puts my interest into science-fiction, a world where nothing is stagnant, there is always something novel or an interesting variant of an existing concept to introduce. Everyone has something new to put on the table, and this film is my contribution to the science-fiction genre.

2. From the idea to the finished product, how long did it take for you to make this short?

I shot the film in April of 2018 and had only started writing the script for my NYU Intermediate Narrative class 2-3 weeks prior, so from the idea to the finished product took about 2 years.

3. How would you describe your short film in two words?

Quite blue.

4. What was the biggest obstacle you faced in completing this film?

Time, finding a post-production team and underestimating the time required. Prior production, I had already assigned the responsibility of doing all the visual effects on myself. When it finally came down to it, after completing the picture lock and colour, I realised the extent of the VFX concepts I had envisioned was going to take a very long time if it were only me doing it. I had set out to find someone else to help me complete the VFX, and there were a few I reached out to, and one who confirmed and I brought on board.

Around the end of ’18, by which time I had got the picture lock and had just started colour (a lot of other things came in the way, like working on a couple of sets) I had to shift my focus towards my classes and my thesis script, so for about 9-10 months from December ’18, I had somewhat semi-shelved this film. During those months, I was going back and forth with the VFX artist I had brought on board, who in fact was a far more experienced VFX artist and unfortunately, it came down to that they simply didn’t have enough time to really commit to the project, so instead they sort of guided me and mentored me in how to achieve the optimum effects for what I was going for with the tools that I had.

So from around June ’19 – October ’19, I was wrapping up everything else that I had taken on in my senior year and by November ’19, I was able to continue and commit a majority of my time to working on the VFX (by this time, I only had done ever so little just to show my peers what the final product would look like), and I finally finished the film (plus sound and music) by April ’20.

5. What were your initial reactions when watching the audience talking about your film in the feedback video?

It was extremely thrilling to hear feedback from viewers outside of my own circle. I was quite nervous at whether or not the majority of viewers will understand the narrative and the world, and to hear praise of the visuals and the world building lifted a heavy load off of my shoulders.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

6. When did you first realize that you wanted to make movies?

When I was very little. When I was given the DVD of “King Kong” (2005) as a present, there was a special feature as part of the special released DVD that showcased the making of the film, and I watched it and was left in awe. I was mesmerized by the grandeur of it all, the effort, the collaboration…and at the helm, a director. I wanted to be a part of it all, and one day, be at the helm the very same way.

7. What film have you seen the most in your life?

There are quite a few I pretty much play on repeat, but I would say … The Jungle Book (1967).

8. You submitted to the festival via FilmFreeway, what are your feelings of the submission platform from a filmmaker’s perspective?

FilmFreeway is a wonderful platform to get access to a whole plethora of festivals that really cater to the respective filmmaker and their body of work, of course the filmmaker themselves will be looking out for what sort of distribution or festival circuit is most appropriate to them and their work than the platform itself, but it is the fact that one could do it with so much ease that makes it a very friendly submission platform.

9. What song have you listened to the most times in your life?

Definitely “Hey You” (Pink Floyd).

10. What is next for you? A new film?

Currently writing a short, in hopes of soon being able to produce it.

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