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The techie film-maker

September 12, 2013

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Jamshed Mahmood Ansari, better known as Jami, is one of the best known directors in the country. He runs his own production company, Azad Films. Its official website - www.azadfilms.com – is currently under construction.

Jami has recently completed a few films. Currently, the trailer for Moor - a Pashtun word for mother, is doing the rounds on social media and is also being aired in a local cinema to generate interest. This will be Jami’s first feature film and one that will be quite different from mainstream Lollywood flicks. Moor is expected to release by the end of this year.

Jami entered the Pakistani entertainment industry in the 1990s, and since then has expertly combined skilful storytelling with new technology to produce amazing results. His portfolio is diverse. On one hand, it boasts tongue-in-cheek videos such as Ali Azmat’s Bum Phatta, a socio-political song and on the other it has something as simple yet original as String’s Duur to offer. Since the beginning, his videos have been noticed and appreciated by people who are always looking for something new and original, but with a Pakistani touch. Some of Jami’s other notable music videos include Rakh Aas for Karavan, Pal Do Pal for Najam Sheraz, Inteha-e-Shauq by Hadiqa Kiyani, Dhaani, Anjaane and Main Tou Dekhoonga for Strings.

Jami also makes television commercials and several of these have managed to strike a chord with the target audiences. These commercials tell a story, while being visually appealing and giving attention to detail, conveying the intended brand values and the image associated with that brand. One of his most recent TVCs is Khud Pakistan, which is an Engro Foods corporate commercial starring Sohail Ali Abro, Mawra Hocane and Ahsan Khan.

In around one minute and thirty seconds, the TVC touches upon the themes of patriotism, importance of education, empowering women, achieving goals, thriving industries and a strong Pakistani identity - relating all this to the brands of the company. Another commercial directed by Jami is Dettol’s new commercial starring cricket star Shahid Afridi. Last year, he directed the video for a subtly sentimental song for Nestle Everyday - Tum Main Hay Kuch Khaas. He has also made commercials for HBL Visa, Silk Bank, Surf Excel, Rose Petal, Mobilink and Wall’s Feast ice cream.

Looking at the recently released teaser of Moor – which shows some breathtaking views of Muslim Bagh in Balochistan - one can expect his upcoming feature film to be a visual delight. He showcases the beauty in simple things by keeping abreast of new apps and technology.

In this interview, Jami speaks about his upcoming projects and his love for technology and gadgets.

Tell us a little about yourself and your work.

I am a filmmaker and I direct TV commercials and music videos to finance my films and analog camera company. I just finished a few films recently.

What are your major upcoming projects?

Moor is our (Azad Film’s) first feature film, it is about Pakistan and how an honest family struggles to survive in this new, hyper corrupt society. The second film, Downward Dog is a black and white film noir. The story revolves around writers going mad. The film stars Sajid Hassan, Joshinder, Nayyer Ejaz, and Ali Sheikh and is due for release in 2014.

How has digital technology affected film and video making?

Well, digital technology is unfortunately a game changer for the film industry. I say unfortunately, because in the film business, 35mm film is still better than digital but for indie cinema and globally it’s the new standard of film. It has made our lives easier as low budget films are possible now.

How do you use technology in your work?

We shoot and edit as well as colour correct on the same day. It’s a big leap forward. We can spot our mistakes and correct them right away. It is very important to check what you are doing on the set and in post production; you can correct it right away.

Do you keep trying new gadgets, apps, software programs, and etcetera?

I think we are gadget freaks. We used DSLR cameras seven years back on major commercial shoots, then a PL mount. After that, we used GoPro cameras on our new vitamin water TVC. It’s quite a lot of fun. We use Final Cut Pro (FCP) 7, but FCP X is not as good as FCP 7. MacBook Air is another useful innovation. MovieSlate, a professional production tool for iPhone and iPad, and iPhone 5 are the other game changers.

You are one of the first people to start using the RED camera. Manufacturers have officially stopped making film cameras and it's all about 2k, 4k, etcetera. How do these cameras compare with film?

Film is king. It’s a coup by the American studio system. Red is a very high resolution motion picture camera and is capable of recording raw images at 5k and soon 6k Dragon formats.

What can you tell us about your post-production workflow?

In post production, the R3d format is transferred to laptops, and then to a R3d data manager, which verifies every single frame, file, and folder. It then manages the data and copies it to drives and backups. Then the file goes to Redcinex, converting a 5k file to HD file size in 422 ProRes, a lower resolution format for editing. Once editing is done, we conform the 5k to an EDL and then it goes for proper colour correction using Scratch or Da Vinci. Finally, it is then ready for release.

How much research do you do on the internet? Do you have any favourite or useful websites that you would like to mention?

I always use the internet to find out more about new gadgets, workflows and etcetera. I just search for ‘filmmaking sites’ using a search engine.

Have you subscribed to any magazines on a tablet?

American Cinematographer is one that I have subscribed to.

In your view, how does technology impact story-lines?

Avatar is the best example, it clearly shows how latest technology can influence story-lines.