American Golden Picture

International Film Festival


AN INTERVIEW WITH Jay Mohan, CINEMATOGRAPHER & DIRECTOR


As a filmmaker, please introduce yourself and let us know why you became a filmmaker?

My name is Jay Mohan and I am a software engineer, running my own software development firm in Dallas.

However, from a very early age I had this fascination towards films and thankfully, I had a bunch of friends who shared the same passion with me. Together, we used to watch at least one movie every week and then end up dissecting each one for hours.

Over a period of time, life was knocking on my doors and I decided to pursue something that was another passion for me, computers,

and ended up starting a software development firm. However, in the year 2019, few social events within my community influenced my thoughts.

I wanted to tell the world a different aspect of the incident. Making a small film around that story felt like the right thing.

My love for films and filmmaking began to evolve more rapidly. The more I thought about it, the more I gravitated towards

the filmmaking process. I invested time into learning whatever I could from the internet and it finally led to making my first film in 2019. 


Give some more information about the films you have made so far, and about your experience?

Till date I have made three films, where I wrote the story & screenplay, directed, did the cinematography, editing and coloring.

The first film was in my native language, Malayalam. This was about inequality of women within the four walls of our homes.

It was widely appreciated for the realistic portrayal of a typical working woman in the Indian community. The second film is

a multi-lingual film ( English, Hindi and Malayalam), a fictional portrayal of the mental turmoil of a soldier captured by the enemy

as he undergoes a brutal interrogation session. The third one is “I Resign” which is about institutional racism in the United States.  


How you got started in the film world. What sparked your interest in visual storytelling?

Few of my friends noticed my interest in cameras and videography and asked me to help them with cinematography work for

their short films. This was in early 2018. The films turned out to be well done compared to their expectations and won few awards.

That is when I realized I had the capabilities and flair for film making. At the end of 2018, there was a major incident in our community

that raised a lot of questions about women inequality. I had an opinion and wanted to tell the world about it. It was very clear

at that moment that telling the story as a visual work would be the right way. That is how it all started for me.

What are the films or people that had an impact on you and deeply inspired you to become a filmmaker?

There are many. The Coen brothers, without a doubt, are among my favorites. I am still amazed with the way they tell stories

that make the viewers think and rethink. Fargo and No Country For Old Men made a deep impact on me; Francis Ford Coppola for the sheer brilliance and breaking the mold; Godfather and Apocalypse Now helped me to embrace the ideas that light and shadows can draw everlasting moving paintings; Manoj Night Shyamalan for the brilliant endings of the strikingly different themes and stories he crafts. Sixth Sense and

The Village were classics that taught me many things about filmmaking, especially the ability to think out-of-the-box. 

 

Why did you decide to tell this specific story in "I Resign”?

The story was brewing inside me for a very long time. The inspiration was some experiences shared by few of my friends about

their experiences at work. Some of these incidents left a lasting mark in me. When I was planning to shoot my third film, I happened

to see a debate on a TV channel about the impacts of racism and this story came to my mind.


Can you share how you started and finished this film, what were some of the challenges you encountered

while filming and how did you overcome them?

One of our main challenges with the story was that it had only one actor in the whole film. Moreover, this actor had no dialog.

We had to shoot this film in a way where the viewer will have to forget that there is only one actor and he is not saying anything.

Moreover, there was another layer to this story which revolved around a suicide note he was preparing and mailing to big names in the media.

His goal was to take revenge on his employers who ill treated him. To keep it interesting for the viewer, we worked on the frames to give it different color layers in cinematography. The emotions and tensions had to be filled in with the narration and supported by a background score that would add to the emotions. All this was really challenging especially when we had a very small crew. However, everyone rose to the

occasion and ensured that they gave their very best for this film. The old adage stays true - Teamwork can move mountains. 

Your actor made the story come to life very well ! What was your casting process like? Did you have any actor in mind while working on the screenplay?

Manoj Pillai is a very close friend of mine, with a contagious passion for acting. He was one of the key actors in my first short film.

While writing this story, I already had Manoj in mind and hence the casting was easy and straight-forward. However,

it took some time for Manoj to understand the character of Pattabiraman in the movie. Once he had a clear picture,

everything fell into place and it was effortless for Manoj to portray the character.

 

Your film "I Resign" was officially selected in the "American Golden Picture International Film Festival" and won several awards. Did you have any other burden during filming?

While shooting this film, most of the locations were exteriors with people around in public places. It took considerable time and

effort to ensure other people were not inadvertently captured in the frame and with a limited crew it was hard to manage.

We spent a lot of time waiting for the right moment. It was quite a task to shoot certain scenes, especially the ones inside the car with

all the time lapses. Standing on the median for the time-lapse, we were honked at multiple times by passing car drivers.

Manoj had to stand motionless for 40 minutes to capture the sunset time-lapse scene. We wanted to take it natural without any green screen.

In spite of all these burdens, I believe we were able to capture some amazing frames and tell a good story. 


For you what was the biggest lesson you had to learn?

One of the most important things I try to learn from each filmmaking process is getting to know a bit more about the

technicalities of shooting better pictures. This was a valuable experience in understanding the play of light and shadows.

I was able to realize the emotions associated with shadows and the pitfalls of exposing all parts of the frame correctly.

I was also able to learn the fine art of color grading using the powerful Davinci Resolve. One more weapon in my armory.

The most important part is distributing the film. What did you do so far for distributing your film?

We knew that the easiest way to reach a wider mass of people would be through Youtube and its connected channels. We had already made numerous connections with the various social media channels that were keen to spread the word about our film since it was on a very relevant contemporary topic. After our premier, we released the film via YouTube and started posting links to all the relevant social media channels we could connect with. It really worked well for us. In a short span of time, we garnered 330,000+ views for our film on Youtube. 


What are your filmmaking goals?

Making a full length feature film is one of my primary goals. I have already started working towards this goal.

I have just started the filmmaking journey right. Let us see where this leads to.


What are you currently working on and what can you tell us about your next project?

I am currently working on a script based on the premise of human trafficking. It is still in the early stages.

I hope to complete this script by July 2020 and hopefully can start production by the end of this year (2. However, there are few other smaller

scripts which I have already completed, that I wish to complete before taking this larger project.


GOOD LUCK Jay