Aneel Neupane is a creative and performance-driven Director with an excellent eye for details, deep passion for film and knowledge of all stages of the filmmaking process.
Aneel has an unparalleled track record of working with National as well as International Musicians, brands and corporations. His Miniature Photographs series ‘My Small World’ has been featured all over the world in online portals including Rolling Stones Brazil and Bored Panda.
After dropping out of CA (Chartered Accountancy) in 2012 AD, Aneel has worked continuously in the field as a Photographer, Cinematographer, Editor, Colorist, Writer and Director, excelling in each field.
In 2014, He returned from Mumbai and started a production company called ‘Jazz Productions Pvt Ltd’ which is currently one of the leading production houses in Nepal. He has been working tirelessly to bring about a revolution in Nepalese media and soon the movie industry as well. Pravin has some cine-talks at this lockdown with him:
1. What, in your opinion, is the most important quality in a Film Director ?
I think the single most important quality of a Film Director is ‘Communication’. It’s equally important to have a clear vision of any given project but film-making is not a one-man job so the director has to be able to share the vision clearly with everyone involved including the Cinematographer, actors, editor, sound designer, production designer and so on. A good film can be produced only if all the departments are working toward the same goal and it’s the job of the director to make sure everyone is on the same page all the time.
2. What made you pursue film-making ?
As a kid, I wanted to grow up to be an animator, but it was prohibitively expensive to learn so I settled as a Photographer. But I fell in love with the idea of image-making and wanted to take it to the next level so I started shooting videos. I love how we can tell stories with the help of moving pictures and sound. So I have been trying my best to learn the craft and I plan to keep getting better at it.
3. What roadblocks did you face when you were starting out ?
There have been (and still are) a lot of roadblocks in my journey. Some of them are lack of resources, funds, proper equipment and reliable teammates. It’s also fairly difficult to stay motivated due to the unstable economy and political situation of the country. I’ve also had difficulty while convincing financiers and producers to invest in unorthodox stories and ideas.
4. Why your films always feel so thrill ? Is it your genre ?
I love many different genres that portray larger-than-life stories. I’d love to work on Sci-Fi, Fantasy, Adventure and other genres but I guess I find Thrillers more doable considering the circumstances. I love movies that make people think. It’s like having the audience participate in your story by having them constantly guessing what’s going to happen next. Yes, Thriller is the genre I feel most comfortable in but it’s one of many genres I want to try in my films.
5. How did you come up with the idea for your film ‘Thirsty’ ?
I am a visual thinker and stories come to my mind as random images. In case of ‘Thirsty’, the first image that came to me was two ghosts sitting by a tree next to their dead bodies while the ghosts are laughing their asses off. Then I thought about events that would lead up-to that moment and came up with these best friends who died in a trek and were wandering the forests. I also wanted to portray the fundamental divide among the youth of Nepal; half of them are abroad or planning to go and the other half want to stay back and do something for the country. This story felt like a perfect metaphor to show that and I started to give the characters more depth and background stories based on that.
6. Can you tell us more about your upcoming project(s)? Thinking about making a feature film ?
I have been working on ideas for a couple of feature films, TV shows and short films simultaneously. I’m talking to a lot of potential producers and financiers regarding these projects. I’m almost done writing the screenplay of a 90 minutes feature about child-psychology with a hint of fantasy and adventure. I’ve also been writing a feature film about Dreams and the mysteries of the human psyche. I think these ideas will be super fun to work on.
7. Do you think it is essential to go to a film institute in order to become a successful filmmaker ?
I could never really afford to go to film schools so I had to learn everything on my own, the hard way. My biggest source of film-knowledge is watching tons of movies. I make notes and breakdown scenes, dialogues, lighting, production-design and every aspect of a movie and try to see these patterns in a particular genre or the style of a Director. Learning theory is one thing but since Film-making is a practical job, I try to implement the things I learn from movies into my projects (music videos, short films and advertisements). So this has been going on for ages and I find myself and my team growing despite not being able to go to film schools. So I don’t think it’s essential to go to film schools but it’s very essential to keep practicing the craft.
8. Which film has inspired you the most ?
My top favourite movie is ‘Donnie Darko’ by Richard Kelly which is a mind-bending tale of a troubled young man. The film was made by Kelly at the age of 25 and that inspired me very much to aim for the stars despite my age.
9. Which particular filmmaker has influenced you the most?
I’m hugely inspired by all the movies by Christopher Nolan and Denis Villeneuve. I’m also digging the styles of other legendary directors like Alfred Hitchcock, James Cameron, Steven Spielberg, Peter Jackson and other relatively fresh directors like Taika Waititi and Spike Jonze.
10. Which book would you love to make a film out of one day? Are you a reader ?If.. what’s your favourite book or author ?
I’m actually not much of a reader but I have read a few titles by Agatha Christie and Dan Brown. I’m also reading a lot about Tibetan Buddhism and many different aspects of mysticism/spirituality related to it. I’m researching these topics for the feature film I’m writing.
I do extensive research for any particular topic I’m working on and read through all available materials but I do not have a favourite author or book per se.
11. If you got the opportunity to go back in time and change something in any particular short-films of yours, then which movie and what changes will you do ?
I think I would go back and work harder on my short film ‘Nifty’. I love the idea behind the film but due to various factors, I was unable to fully realize the concept into the film. I only focused on the technical aspects and totally ignored everything else like acting workshop, character development exercises, script analysis etc. I would also make some crucial changes in the crew I gathered for the music video ‘Nepenthe(s)’ by Kamero band. Having the right people for the right job means a lot for any project and I made some silly judgmental mistakes back then.
12. Favourite works of your own ?
My top favorite work is the music video I made for Irish musician ‘Winter Aid’ for his song ‘The Night Is an Ocean’. It’s my first international project and my crew and I gave everything to make it look as “international” as we could. We ended up with a beautiful piece of work special thanks to the Cinematographer/Art Director Mr. Prajwal Bhattarai.
13. Nepali movies are falling behind. Do Filmmakers are afraid of doing experiments or doing something new ? What do you think ?
I think Nepali movies are falling behind due to incompetent filmmakers ruling the industry who assume that the Nepali audience is a dumb mass and movies have to be dumber to accommodate their demand. But I think most filmmakers have no clue and lack vision of what they are producing. They completely rely on a particular Actor’s face value to sell bad films.
A good script is the first crucial element for a good film but that fact is completely ignored in most cases. I could actually write a book on why Nepali movies suck so bad but before that I have yet to try a lot of things to see if I can actually make a good film myself.
14. Eleven Nepali movies were submitted at Oscars till now. In 1999, a Nepali film named ‘Caravan’ got nominated, which is directed by Éric Valli ( a French Director ). When will we reach at Academy again with Nepali Director ? Do you see any possibilities in near future ?
Bong Joon-Ho made history by bagging the Oscars despite belonging to Asia. He was facing some of the greatest legends of Hollywood and still won. So I think the playing field has been leveled but it’s up-to us to try and aim for it. Although that dream seems very far away in current scenario, I like to think it’s not impossible. If we tell a good original story and wrap it up with global standard techniques, we will definitely stand a chance. I mean if Eric Valli could do it 20 years ago, I don’t see why it’s not possible now.
15. Where our films or filmmakers were doing wrong ?
Our industry will start going up only after our filmmakers stop prioritizing money and start focusing on the craft and style of film-making. For most people, movies are only the medium for easy money, fame and the benefits that come with it. We have forgotten that films are art and a very strong medium to tell what’s happening around us. We also have to stop copying the tropes of the latest successful movie and try to create something new every time.
16. How do you take ‘films’ in your life ? And ‘life’ in your films ?
I like to think our life is no less than a movie or a TV show. I pretend that I’m the protagonist of my movie and take decisions based on that. I’ve made some epic mistakes because of this thought but it has also led me to live a very cinematic life.
And Films have a lot to teach about life if you know how and where to look.
17. Do you have any advice for young filmmakers like yourself ?
The best advice I can give would be to watch a lot of films and try and see what you can take away from them; it could be a lesson in writing, shooting, editing or so on. And then, shoot and see if you can implement those techniques in your films. It’s very important to stay curious all the time, that way you’ll end up trying so many things and that’s how an artist creates their style that is unique to them.