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“I’m Liberated from How the Industry ‘Used to Be'”: Tricha Kumar on Tough Filmmaking Lessons

In April, as we began to put together the Summer, 2020 issue of Filmmaker, we asked directors, cinematographers, editors and other film workers to send us their thoughts on the quarantine and their own creative lives. The responses printed here were collected from April through mid-June — personal statements that speak variously to individual filmmaking practices, films halted mid-production, politics, art and life. Read all the responses here. — Editor

In late 2017, I left the corporate world, sold my belongings and moved to India to pursue “The Bollywood Dream”—a glamorous life of dancing, music and movie stars. 

Cut to two years later, I’m heavily in the midst of producing a film that is unlike Bollywood in every way: my very independent first short film. It originally started out as a tiny passion project but quickly exploded into an international collaboration of nearly 60 people, with a provoking concept, original music and a completely South Asian cast and crew. On March 20th, I woke up to an advisory from the State Department urging U.S. citizens to come home, and I hopped on a flight in less than 18 hours.

For the last several months, post-production has been slower than usual: In addition to navigating a 10.5-hour time difference, my teammates in India can’t reach recording studios or hire editing space. I’m dealing with the overwhelming processes of readjusting back to my home country, moving twice and navigating the U.S.’s notoriously tricky health care, insurance and employment industries. A common herald is that it’s a great time for pre-production, and I imagine that’s true. However, it’s an interesting time for post-production. Although few of our issues are endemic to the pandemic, COVID has certainly exacerbated them, slowing our progress to nearly a halt. With the film festival scene also undergoing a dynamic restructuring, it’s a fascinating time to be a filmmaker. 

Before COVID, my lack of experience felt like a hurdle, but now I find that I’m liberated from the burden of how the industry “used to be.” Filmmaking is complex enough under normal circumstances, but film in the summer of 2020 is turning out to be a tough lesson in my personal film school—it’ll make for a great script one day.

Tricha Kumar is an international choreographer and filmmaker telling stories of representation, equality, and intersectionality.

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