Interview with Filmmaker Anu Bhatt (AUTOCORRECT)

AUTOCORRECT was the winner of BEST FILM at the February 2022 WILDsound Film Festival.

1. What motivated you to make this film?

I experience microaggressions regarding my name on a daily basis, but I pulled from one particular incident with a theatre director who “just couldn’t hear the difference” after I did all of the emotional labor to help her understand. I am sure that many people watching the film will feel a kinship with the main character in terms of the struggle between “presenting a professional persona” and wanting to scream in frustration. Coincidentally – and perhaps perfectly – the scriptwriting class in which I wrote this film created the environment for the same feelings of frustration and invisibility, so you could say that art imitates life.

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

It took a couple months from start to finish. I conceived of the idea within an 8-week class, and the filming process was completed a week or two after class ended.

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

Relevant and impactful

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

I ambitiously created a second version of this film for a local festival at the same time – and I played both parts – so I was actually dealing with two films. My biggest logistical obstacle was learning to edit on Final Cut Pro within a matter of days. I have to thank Ryan March, whom I met through the BGB Studio, who edited my solo film for me. I watched (virtually) over his shoulder and then learned to do what he did by watching the edited solo film and making the same edits on this version. However, logistics were not as daunting as finally speaking my mind. Although cathartic, it was scary to put my work out there, especially since it was pulling from real-life experiences with real people.

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

I literally put my hand over my mouth. It was surreal to see strangers affected so powerfully by my writing, my experiences and my storytelling. I am deeply touched that this specific experience resonates with people of different backgrounds. It is a testament to finding universality in specificity.

Watch the Audience Feedback Video:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UOfXPpcDtaw

6. When did you realize that you wanted to make films?

The idea of making films is still very new to me, but it grew out of creating one-woman theatre shows in Chicago. I wrote two solo shows because I felt I was trying to fit myself into someone else’s box and it didn’t work. I wanted to tell my story and to create multidimensional characters that are funny and poignant at the same time, and who deal with things like depression and trauma while dancing and eating cookies. Many South Asian artists – primarily women – are creating their own work these days. As to wanting to be in films, I have been fascinated by the idea since childhood. I grew up glued to the TV, watching Hollywood and Bollywood movies. I consider myself primarily an actor and dancer, then a writer, and finally, a brand-new filmmaker. But as I see how my stories resonate with others, it encourages me to keep writing and creating stories to share.

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

It’s a Wonderful Life. That movie is profoundly moving and beautiful in its message. I also have one for Bollywood: Ek Phool Char Kante (1960, “One Flower, Four Thorns”), a comedy about a woman with four uncles who have four disparate hobbies. A man falls in love with her, but needs to convince her uncles that he is worthy, and so becomes four different characters.

8. What other elements of the festival experience can we and other festivals implement to satisfy you and help you further your filmmaking career?

It’s hard when things are virtual, but I am so inspired by meeting other filmmakers in various stages of their career. It would be great to meet more people who are doing what I do.

9. You submitted to the festival via FilmFreeway. How has your experiences been working on the festival platform site?

It is fairly easy to navigate, and wonderful as a first-time filmmaker to have access to festivals around the world. I only wish it were easier on my bank account.

10. What is your favorite meal?

That’s a hard one. I love anything with noodles.

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

I just finished my Teaching English as a Foreign Language certificate (TEFL) and am building a language and ESL-based Instagram channel (@thedramaticlinguist) that combines my linguistic side with my love for acting, and where I aim to answer questions about why English is so confusing.

By matthewtoffolo

Filmmaker and sports fan. CEO of the WILDsound Film and Writing Festival www.wildsound.ca

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