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Mansoor Ahmed Talks About 'The Sunrise'

Tell us about yourself. How did you become an artist?

I don’t consider myself an artist. Filmmaking has been my passion as a hobby. I am an engineer by training and my primary career. I retired from NASA after a 30-year service. Most of my career was working on the Hubble Space Telescope. I’ve been fascinated with movies ever since childhood. We lived across a movie theater in Pakistan. That’s where I was first exposed to the world of film.

I have formed a small group of film enthusiasts, called Storytellers. Our mission is to be hands on about every aspect of filmmaking. We start with a story idea, develop the screenplay, do the pre-production, production, and postproduction, all by ourselves. The idea is that by learning the filmmaking process, we will better appreciate other people’s films. We now only make short films and have made about 20 films since we came together as a group.

What was your first job in the art field?

My first venture into filmmaking was making home videos of my kids. My very first filmmaking venture was to make a feature-length Pakistani film, which took 6 years to make but I learned a lot about filmmaking through this project. Since then, we have decided to only make shorts.

What makes you want to tell stories? In other words, what are the themes/issues you want to incorporate into your work?

Our films are more for entertainment, rather than a commentary on society. Even though some films are comical, they represent a personal experience anyone could have, rather that a generic statement on the society. Our stories are agnostic about any culture. Our stories can happen to anyone in the world.

Please tell us about your vision and your method of approaching a new project?

We would like to tell unique stories, or an interesting twist, whether the film is a drama or a comedy. Our vision is to produce our stories from the talent within our group, rather than hiring professionals for various departments. This way we get to learn about each aspect of filmmaking.

Who are your filmmaking influencers? What are the films that were influential for you?

There are quite a few filmmakers I look up to, including Steven Spielberg, Francis Ford Coppola, Stanley Kubrick and Akira Kurosawa

How do you think the industry is changing? How has COVID affected independent filmmaking/creation?

I think the industry has bounced back from the COVID days. Theaters are getting crowded again. But the plight of independent filmmaker remains the same. That’s why film festivals like Tokyo International Short Film Festival are so crucial in helping independent filmmakers to get visibility and recognition.

What advice would you give to aspiring artists? What are some of the things they must follow/avoid?

I think the most important trait would be to be passionate about your story. Don’t be afraid to seek advice from the experts about your work. But seek only those experts who share your sensitivity.

Do you think films/stories can bring about a change in the world?

Personally, I don’t think so. In most cases anyway. Folks will get excited about a message in the film, discuss it to feel good about themselves, or talk about it at the next cocktail party to look good, and then forget about it.

Films however do bring about change in the filmmaking process. Several technical and intellectual advances have been made over the years in how the films are made and stories told.

What do you think people like to watch these days? Has the pandemic changed people's taste?

I am optimistic to say that the film industry has survived the pandemic and has continued from where it was left off. With the new streaming technologies, more people can watch film at their convenience, Yet the theater going trend has also come back, which is good news.

Please tell us about your upcoming projects.

I am currently struggling to develop a screenplay from a story idea I had. I imagine everyone has thought about this at one time or another. “What will people say about me at my funeral”. So, in my story, the protagonist is obsessed about this and somehow ends up attending his own funeral.

I will be thrilled if some of your readers want to help me develop this screenplay.


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