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24th April 2017

Manchester Lift-Off Film Festival 2017 Short Interview: Ascension

Rajnish Sharma on his post-apocalyptic short film

Rajnish Sharma’s Ascension was an abstract addition on by far the most outlandish day of films. Sharma’s short was set in a post-apocalyptic world and followed the story of a father who abandoned his family to give himself the best chance of survival. It was a very interesting short that is well worth a watch. Click here to read my review before progressing to the interview.

I began by asking about the inspiration behind his short. “I wouldn’t say there was a singular inspiration to the short film, but the main inspiration was to see if I could make a good film that looks good with an engaging narrative using the very little resources I have. It was pretty much the Robert Rodriguez philosophy of making the best with the very least.”

There was another inspiration to the short as he continues, “the other inspiration behind the short was to make a Post-Apocalyptic drama that centred around the impact of those left behind and abandoned rather than the monsters looming outside. The Survivor’s selfishness to preserve himself and abandon the family was something I wanted to explore. I find it’s more interesting when you explore the character rather than the flashiness of monsters or zombies.”

The character’s sole motives for leaving his family were never addressed and this was intentional by Sharma. “I wrote it in a way were the Survivor left his family as his instinct and myopic desire to survive lead him to fend for himself and abandon the family. When working on the characterisation with my lead actor, he came up with the backstory of abandoning his family due to fear of not being a good enough father and husband to protect his family … to protect them. Without giving too much away in terms of the underlying meaning and subtext. The Survivor left his family, but it wasn’t his choice to do so.”

Throughout the short we never see the world outside his hideout. This was purposeful on his part as “nothing I created would’ve been as interesting or exciting as what the audience would perceive. Plus the outside world wasn’t really the focus of the narrative I was going for. But if I were to say what it would look like, I would imagine a desolate, destroyed place like modern day Syria. A warzone with limited quaratine zones and people too concerned with surviving. A place of death, war, bullets and destroyed buildings and lives.”

There was unfortunately a few major issues during the production period that completely changed the story. He told me that “the third scene was meant to be a lot more intense and deliberate and the ending was originally supposed to be this destructive confrontation with the Valykries outside of his hideout. Both scenes had to be scrapped due to a technical fault with the camera that destroyed 11 hours worth of filming and the garage door breaking on location. With both elements changing and the fact I only had two days of the crew before losing them for five months on another project out of my own. I decided to film three more hours that day and sit my DOP down and tell him the entire restructured story and what I wanted changing. There was one shot in the film that was taken out due to narrative flow with the Survivor walking off screen with a weapon and make shift shield, but creatively it didn’t work and was left out.”

As a result of this there are several things he would change. “I’m very proud of the film but all I see now are the mistakes”, he said. “I would secure a good and reliable First AD (Assistant Director), we had one scheduled but didn’t show up, essentially leaving us without a First AD meaning my DOP (Director of Photography) had to do both roles. I would have had all my actors properly rehearsed with at least a week rehearsal before filming instead of on set hours before rolling, I would have sourced better props and I would have changed the second scene to allow more breathing room.”

This was a debut film for Sharma and was a steep learning curve. “I wish I could have made that film now as the Director I am today, as I feel more confident, more knowledgeable, better prepared and just a better filmmaker then I was when I originally directed it. But hindsight is always 20/20. There’s no point on dwelling on what could’ve been. Things will always go wrong on set and creatively, you’re never really satisfied. I count my blessing and proud of my Debut short film, I feel I’ve done well with my first ever film with the budget of £220. I’m just using it as a learning experience and carrying forward, I’m glad it happened the way it did because now I feel I can do even better.”

His thoughts are interesting for any amateur filmmakers. During the process of making any film there will be countless things that go wrong but it is how you react to them that will affect your end product. Sharma’s experience goes to show that even if everything seems to go wrong, you can create a short of really high quality.

In terms of future plans he has quite a full plate. “The next project I’m doing is a psychology horror called Eve about a girl getting ready for a night out, unable to leave her room beyond her control trapping her into a fate worse than death. I’m hoping to shoot it in April/May and will have a lot more time to prepare.”

After that project is complete he will begin work on more shorts. “I have an experimental piece, a 20 second film challenge at my Local Film society 7/5 Forum in Leicester, writing up two more short films (both that will need funding) and will also be attending Raindance’s Masterclass “Directing Actors” 27th and 28th May.”

“Apart from that I’m still taking Ascension through the festival circuit. Reading books on filmmaking, researching and practicing the craft of Directing and filmmaking. My limit isn’t the sky, it’s the stars. I’m planning on working harder, making more films and getting better at the craft I love.”

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