July 2022 Edition
Thank you Shihan Shoukath for this stunning short. How did the plot idea form in your mind?
The plot idea for my film ‘DEADLINE’ came to mind as a result of extensive research on trauma and watching films surrounding characters handling loss in numerous coping mechanisms. The way a person may deal with trauma can be quite complex and varied, so as a storyteller it is important to make the decision whether to draw out and connect the emotions of the character with the audience, or to elevate the story into a world of fantasy, where the audience sympathizes with the character.
Pier Paolo Pasolini once said "To be dead or to be alive is the same thing." How does this resonate with you, in the context of your film? And what does it bring to mind in terms of what the cinema "can" do?
Pasolini, with this profound quote, resonates with me and the plot of our film. He insinuates that a person’s life acquires meaning only when they die; before that moment, it is incomprehensible, ambiguous, or suspended. This clearly reverberates with all the ‘characters’ in the film, as they realize the significance of their lifetimes and the importance of our time on Earth before it’s lost in an instant.
A question for Ishan Shoukath — Ishan, what technique did you use to build your character? How did you relate to his experience?
Ishan Shoukath: I think there are some particularly valuable skills for an actor such as myself, to perform in a role such as this - the ability to observe, enact behaviors, expressions, and tones. It is also useful to have good intrapersonal skills to go through the varying emotions that this character goes through. The Meisner technique in particular comes to mind – to live truthfully under given imaginary circumstances. Considering that this is a screenplay focusing on solely one character throughout the film, it is key to engross yourself in the script and to channel emotions as if you are the character yourself, however difficult that might sound.
A question for Shihan and Shoukath — The film was made in one night. Please share about the experience, from the P.o.V. of the Director and that of the Actor.
Shihan Shoukath: From a director’s point of view, you have to find the perfect balance between the quality of a production, the budget and the intended deadline. The name ‘Guerillaman Productions’ comes from the word ‘guerilla filmmaking’, which roughly translates to zero-budget productions - and I find myself to thrive in these kinds of productions. In this project, I scheduled the production to be shot in one night so that quality and consistency didn't falter. I also found that working with small sets and crews helps align everyone to your vision for the film more than it would otherwise.
Ishan Shoukath: From an actor’s point of view, it was my first role, and the fact that there was a perfect synergy between the script, the director and myself helped me channel all emotions to our satisfaction, and in turn helped in completing the shoot in one night. Don’t get me wrong – the pre-production and writing took the team months to navigate through. Thankfully, the team’s previous experience on corporate projects and working with budgets and deadlines helped me mitigate these situations.
Shihan, what do you think of the series Black Mirror? Would you create an episode for it?
TThis is a great question – I’m fascinated by the series Black Mirror. We’re in that period of finding out what’s in people’s heads. We get extremes being presented, but I think the world feels more polarized than it actually is. Technological progress is completely inevitable, and the show makes us think more about the human characters. I do not believe the show necessarily presents societal warnings, and I see it as a tongue-in-cheek depiction of a parallel universe where those concepts come to life. I would love to have the chance to pick the creators’ brain on how they execute these concepts on screen in the fashion that they do, and their depictions certainly inspire me to come up with such concepts myself.
How do you both feel about the impact of the Covid crisis on the general population's mental health? Is it a global issue?
It is important to acknowledge that our fears and concerns are a normal response to an abnormal situation such as this global pandemic. In a situation like the one we are facing now, you see different responses and coping mechanisms. Most, if not all of us, feel some degree of uncertainty and are concerned about our health and that of others. But we must accept that this is how humans react to threat and isolation, and limit our vulnerability to being alarmed or anxious by freeing up some of our ‘mental space’, if you will, for matters that we can control.
Shihan, where are you at with your thriller featuring Edward Norton? And in other news, what are your next film projects?
Although the chances of such an opportunity arising are quite minimal for young filmmakers such as myself, it remains a big aspiration of mine - one which I hope to fulfill someday. His role in the film Fight Club is by far my all-time favorite, and the way he lures in the audience to sympathize with his character all the way till the final act is exactly the kind of storytelling that inspires me.
Short statement describing your vision of the post-covid cinema, do you think there will be notable changes ?
The COVID pandemic has of course led to large-scale anxieties about the future of the arts. Many livelihoods rely upon the performing and visual arts. I believe that the hybrid format of viewing films today with the rise of OTT platforms, combined with large theatres showing high-concept or big budget films has helped tell a lot more stories than was possible before. The notable change I see is that the pandemic has exposed filmmakers to a life where the viewer has the luxury to decide where to watch any film at any given time. While this may have caused a shift in the financial dynamic for big studios, it also gives independent filmmakers and smaller studios a platform to showcase their work through various channels.
Shihan Shoukath is a filmmaker based in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
Shihan runs his independent production agency in Dubai, and partners on nearby independent film productions in Dubai. Shihan often gets ideas for characters in his movies, from his various experiences in Philadelphia, where he was for seven years, the melting pot immigrant city of Dubai, and his home country of India.
Shihan makes his full directorial debut with “DEADLINE.”
Shot in one night, the film is based on three years of intensive research on mental health and post-traumatic stress disorder. Shoukath directed micro-short student films such as 'Anybody There?' and 'TENSHI' in 2018, which was chosen by various film festivals and was nominated as a finalist at the Gagarin Doc International Student Film Festival.
His dream is to coordinate a thriller featuring Edward Norton one day, and is currently focused on building his body of work as a director. Shihan is passionate about showcasing new independent films, videos and screenplays of all genres.