In conversation with India’s Talented Filmmaker Praveen Whitefield

Praveen Whitefield has been making films as an independent filmmaker since 2018. He’s worked on music videos, short films, and now full-length feature films. His debut independent feature film, “Essentials,” was born during the initial days of the pandemic when the globe was reeling under strict lockdowns. The story was set with limited characters, locations, and budget. The feature film has won many awards at various International Film Festivals and can be watch on Movie Saints. His body of work, which is based in Bangalore, encourages free speech and personal expression by delving into topics such as new age partnerships, urban reality, sex positivity, feminism, and deconstructing romanticised ideals of love. In addition, the work emphasizes the ability to examine pre-existing social constructs. In an exclusive interview he says..

Tell us about your film?

Essentials is my independent debut feature film (106 mins). The language is predominantly English with some Malayalam as well. 

It was made during the pandemic and in the middle of partial lockdowns during the first wave. 

Synopsis: In India during March 2020, the pandemic induced lockdown was first of its kind. It was unprecedented, happened all of a sudden and crippled people’s freedom and movement. Raghu and Monica were no different. On the fateful night of the lockdown announcement, an adventurous Raghu wished to celebrate his birthday with Monica which turned out to be life-changing for both of them.

What was the thought process behind the name of the film?

The tagline of the film is “Basic things you cannot live without”. The lockdown had thrown life out of gear for most of the world and it crippled people’s freedom & movement. Only the basic things that were required for survival were made available. My film is a very sex-positive film. Just like food, water, air, health, rest etc., sex is also a physiological need and it is Essential. That’s where the idea of the title stems from. 

Please tell us what inspired you to enter into the world of films?

Films are a means of creative expression that is dynamic, experiential and aids in connecting the storyteller to the audience. It’s a medium that is an amalgamation of people, art, poetry, music, sound and visuals that leave a visceral reaction in the minds of the viewer. This unique aspect of films inspired me to take this up as a means of introducing new, bold, out of the box progressive thoughts and subject matter.

Filmmaking is a laborious job, so what keeps you motivated?

Filmmaking is an art and not just for entertainment. The idea that something beautiful can be created out of nothing and can inspire creative energies, thoughts, and actions motivates me to wake up from my bed every day. I love and enjoy the challenges that get thrown at me during the process of constructing the story, screenwriting, production planning, casting, working with actors, sound, music production and editing. The journey from one line of an idea to a full-fledged finished creative product gives me exhilaration and thrills. Creative work is what I live for!!

How much patience is required in this field?

It takes an enormous amount of patience and resilience to create a film! It took me more than a year to complete my film (although that is considered to be very quick in the mainstream industry!). The time taken from the first line of writing an idea to the final render of the film involves countless steps, a mind-boggling number of edits and scores of professionals and collaborators to manage. It is like honey bees building a beehive and the end result is always sweet! 

How do you choose your star cast?

 I am an independent filmmaker and producer. I don’t have the luxury of using casting directors or agencies and I depend on talented local theatre artists and scouting on the internet. 

What was the most challenging aspect of directing this film?

There were several challenges and not one!. The feature film idea was born during the initial days of the pandemic when the globe was reeling under strict lockdowns. The story was set with limited characters, locations, and a shoe-string budget. The pandemic threw an array of unique challenges that was tactfully dealt with, during the production. The production schedule was planned well in advance and was completed in just 17 days. 80% of the plan was done on paper first and then executed accordingly with a minimal yet fantastic crew of just 8 on sets and 20 professionals in total. There were intimate scenes that needed to be choreographed, shot and the actors to be protected as well. All these were done with a crew staying together in a bio-bubble and without losing sanity:)

What are you working on next?

I have multiple stories in the form of scripts. Want to focus on 2 of them – one in the form of a series and the other is a feature film. I am looking for producers who can invest upto 2 crores INR in each of these projects. I typically work with an available and known pool of freelance professionals who are into production and post production works.

How rigorously did you stick to the script while shooting?

I believe in Alfred Hitchcok’s prophecy of planning and shooting a film on paper first.  90% of my script was followed during the shoot and the rest were based on spontaneous and tactful decisions. 

If you were to shoot the film again, what would you do differently?

I love to work only with Sync Sound. If given a chance, I would like the sound design to be better. Also few new frames and camera angles could be explored. 

The film has already won so many awards. Are you satisfied with how your film was received?.

This is my first feature film and I cannot ask for more!  All forms of recognition and review are overwhelming. It is a team effort and I have immense gratitude for all the collaborators who contributed to making my film a success! 

Any advice for upcoming filmmakers?

Believe in your story and yourself!  Make a sincere effort to make it happen and everything else will follow.