The Process of Creation by Sanjit De Silva
Pulp Fiction. Dead Man. Flirting with Disaster. Ararat:
If I ever make a film as good as any of these, I can die a happy man. Someone once told me there is no such thing as a new story. That all stories are old stories and what separates one film from another is not the story itself, but how the story is told. That is what defines the great filmmaker. His/her ability to take a story we’ve already seen and present it anew. From a new perspective. A singular vision. All the films I mentioned above have done that for me.
So when I decided last year to sit down and write my short film, “Time After,” I had to ask myself: Why am I telling this story? What makes this story different from the hundreds of other ways it has been told before? The questions were daunting, and made the blank page seem a thousand yards wide. But as I thought about the filmmakers that inspire me: Tarantino, Jarmusch, O’Russell, Egoyan, I thought, these artists create from a place of need, a place of personal desire to express a vision of the world as they see it. That’s why they are for me the quintessential writer/director role models.
When I sat down last year to think about what I wanted to write about, my wife and I were going through serious discussions about whether to have a second child. We have a son and we were finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel of figuring out how to have artistic careers, be present parents and still have enough money to feed our kid. A second child felt like an impossibility. Yet, we live in Brooklyn, where it seems like children are multiplying like rabbits. We felt the pressure to keep up and my wife felt incredible guilt about not wanting to have another child. Light bulb moment. I realized I hadn’t seen a film that had captured that ambivalence and guilt about not wanting a child, and certainly not from the perspective of a strong, modern working woman, let alone a woman of color. I love films, but I certainly don’t see many American films that have American characters that look like my wife and I, and the diverse group of friends that populate my life and my city. As much as I love Woody Allen, his New York 'aint my New York. Characters that look like me don’t exist in his films. I’m guessing because characters like me don’t exist in his life, and we often write what we know. The film came to life for me at that moment, and I knew I had a deep desire to tell a story about a South-Asian American couple living in Brooklyn, who were struggling with the question of family versus career; surrounded by friends, some of whom were having multiple kids and some who didn’t want any. It felt personal. It felt urgent. It expressed a deep need for a story I wanted to tell and see, and that blank page soon filled to the very edges of the margins with the words that expressed that need.
It’s been an amazing journey taking this short from the page to the screen. The minute I put out our Kickstarter campaign the response was overwhelming and we reached our goal in 10 days and far exceeded it by the end of our 30-day time allotment. We shot it fast and furious over four days and had a final cut in three months and premiered it this past March in Brooklyn. It was one of the most satisfying experiences of my life, and I have heard from so many people that have seen “Time After” that they were so compelled by the characters and wanted to know more about their lives. As a filmmaker your goal is to create characters and stories that resonate with an audience, and when you hear it said about your work, it is the ultimate compliment.
The artistic road is a long one. It’s full of bumps and deep pitfalls. But the reward is great when you find a way to give something to the world that allows other people to feel more connected to the human experience. The filmmakers I admire and who inspire me spend their whole lives doing that. And I’ll die a happy man if I can say I did that as well.