Meet the Makers: Sushant Chadhary
BY Kio Shijiki, May 3, 2018
Meet the Makers is an ongoing interview series highlighting current Columbia University School of the Arts Film Program students and faculty.
Sushant Chadhary is a directing student currently in pre-production for a narrative short film scheduled to shoot this summer.
What's your background in film?
I'm from Chandigarh, a gorgeous city in North India where I spent most of my childhood. After high school, I moved to Pune where I pursued a Bachelors in Media Studies with a concentration in film. And I got very lucky. I found a bunch of talented and like-minded people there. In 3 years, we churned out multiple shorts, commercials, and sketches.
During this time, I worked in several capacities: mostly editor, sometimes cinematographer, occasionally colorist, and when I really wanted to, director. During this time, I freelanced under a digital content agency ‘Shotgun Media’ as an editor, and also contributed as a director's assistant for The Little Button Films in Mumbai.
What made you want to pursue a graduate degree in filmmaking?
Graduate school was always on the horizon for me. Everything I did in high school and college was related to my graduate school plans somehow. The idea of drowning myself in a conservatory-like academic setting, where you’re surrounded by artists was always exciting. School of the Arts offers just that (and so much more).
For me, school offers an optimal amount of creative freedom which lets you enter an experimental, trial and error mode but keeps you protected. What always excited me about school (and still does) is this laboratory experience where you’re arranging a Rubik’s cube to figure out a hundred things at once, while failure is on the horizon. In fact, just the ability to fail constantly within this 'safe space' makes it all worth it.
Where’s the pleasure in directing?
Oh, everywhere! I've given this some thought. When you look at a film crew from the outside: maybe they're setting up a shot, going for a take, or a billion other things one does on a set, they look hilarious. It's insane to even think about how so many people from all walks of life come together to tell a story. So being surrounded by such people who are equally enamored by what they do is one big reason I direct.
I think John Krasinski said in an interview: "As an art form, filmmaking is a huge group of people working on one painting, and as a director, you happen to be the one who hangs it on the wall." I find a ton of value in collaborating. The process itself is fascinating: from having an idea to the final DCP export, you go on a journey which is often painful and exhausting, but beautifully rewarding.
What was your biggest challenge at Columbia?
The first two years here are like boot camp. You’re churning out pages, sharing fresh stories, shooting exercises, working with actors, giving feedback, getting feedback, it’s a battleground and you’re scrambling. The challenge was not only to deal with this all, while balancing a hundred other things, but also getting to know myself better. It took a while, but I finally started asking questions about cinema I hadn’t thought of before.
Besides that, working with different artists with unique voices was a learning experience on its own. My a-ha moment was this realization that everyone works differently. We all have our individual strengths and weaknesses, and in order to learn from each other and grow, we must complement those pitfalls with powers.
What are you currently working on?
I’m writing a feature script which kind of talks about gentrification in New York; also starting pre-production on my second-year film which will be a narrative short. These (along with other second-year films I’ll crew for) are course related projects. On the side, I’m cutting a feature length documentary about the rumba scene in Cuba, which I directed last fall. Lastly, I’m also developing a biopic set in the 70’s-80’s disco culture in New York.
What kind of a filmmaker do you want to be in future? What stories do you want to tell?
This one’s tough. Like everyone, my tastes keep changing and I go through phases. But Kieslowski, Kiarostami, Villeneuve, Tomas Alfredson etc. are some names that are constantly in the back of my mind. But I also love playing with non-fiction formats so there’s always a push and pull. Neo-Noir (if that’s a thing) is a genre I’m allured by. Lastly, music is my biggest source of inspiration and I’m sure my cinematic voice feeds off it. So I guess a Frankenstein’s version of all these elements interests me at the moment.