“I am generally not the one to start a conversation, but this time I am glad I did,” smiles Uma, a cinematographer based in Thrissur, recalling a sudden twist of Fate that colluded in the making of a feature film.
Uma Kumarapuram from Kerala and Los Angeles-based Nicole Donadio -who is a television producer- is all set to start filming their first feature film 'Across the Ocean' in January 2017. What makes it even more intriguing is the fact that the two have never met in person.
It was on Facebook that Uma and Nicole first met each other a couple of years ago, and became friends. They now plan to co-direct a movie with two women as their central characters.
The film seeks to tell the story of -Nila and Holly- two women who hail from different places, with disparate backgrounds, and who lead very different lives.
Uma took some time out between the shoot of her latest film ‘The Great Father’ to speak to The News Minute.
Having worked as an assistant cameraperson in the Malayalam film industry for the past five years, it was by sheer chance that Uma and Nicole connected.
“I came across one of Nicole’s videos that was a parody on gender reversion. It left a deep imprint on me. I am generally not the kind to initiate a conversation, but ended up leaving her a message on Facebook. I honestly did not expect her to respond,” smiles Uma, who has worked in a number of Malayalam films including 'Puthiya Niyamam' and 'Ozhumuri.’
They slowly bonded over online chats about their lives and careers. It was Uma who first threw in a suggestion over a year ago, that the two come together for a project.
“Nicole was at the time caught up in her own work. A few months later, I was pleasantly surprised to receive a message from her, asking whether I was still up for a joint project. That’s how it all began,” recalls Uma.
"The film is not based on my own personal experiences, or choices that I made. There are parts of Holly that seem similar, but on the whole, she is an original character. I think the situations that she goes through during the film, for example, continuing to stay at a job that is unfulfilling, and wishing for something more in life, are scenarios that can be relatable to everyone, not just me," says Nicole via email.
"Being women technicians in the industry, we were sure from the very beginning, that we did not want to make just another movie. We were particular that we wanted a female-centric story, but did not want it to be the same old emotional drama," remarks Uma.
“If you look at American cinema, it is only in the recent past that women-centric movies are being produced. In Malayalam industry, the numbers are even fewer, though women comprise more than 50% of our viewership. While brainstorming, we kept asking ourselves, what is the kind of movie that women like us would want to watch? This movie is our answer,” she adds.
They began visualizing the film with the characters as the base: “We wound the story around two women characters and their lives. It is however not autobiographical.”
The movie will be shot in two halves, with Nila’s story being filmed in Kerala, while Holly’s story is simultaneously shot in Los Angeles. Both the bits will then be combined into an hour-long feature film.
One movie that inspired them was the Australian animation film ‘Mary and Max’ which tells the story of two pen pals -a child and an elderly man.
“There are a few movies which deal with a similar thread. However, in all of them, the characters do meet at some point. But in ours, the two do not meet. Just like Nicole and I have never met,” Uma grins.
While Uma has sorted out the casting and shooting-locations at her end, Nicole is yet to finalize her cast and crew. She has penned the script for which both Uma and she will turn director-cum-cinematographer for their respective schedules.
Last week saw the duo start a crowd-funding campaign on ‘Kickstarter ’to raise their proposed budget of Rs 11 lakhs. You can check out their campaign here.
Once the movie is out, Uma and Nicole may meet…or not…you never know!