Filmmaking is like farming, you have to wake up early, tend to your field and nurture it with the sweat, toil and discipline that a farmer puts into his crops. In this case, the ideas are the harvest.
Photo courtesy of Charly Feldman.
Aditya Thayi is one of Asia’s leading creative thinkers. He is a writer, director and producer who has received 20 nominations and five wins at the Asian Television Awards, including two awards for Best Direction. He is at the forefront in new forms of storytelling, spending the past decade exploring the boundaries of curating and producing television content. He has been involved in cutting edge shows commissioned by the likes of National Geographic, History Channel, Discovery Channel and Channel News Asia. He is currently working on feature projects both fiction and non-fiction.
We have a quick chat with him to find out what goes on in a typical day of his - his inspirations, what drives his creative processes and his advice to budding filmmakers.
Filming an ancient Burmese Royal Ceremony with cinematographer Lau Hon Meng (pictured with camera). Photo courtesy of Cape Diamond.
I know what I don’t do. I don’t wake up when my alarm goes off. I have a weakness for snoozing even though it has been proven that it’s bad for the brain. Then I start my day by breaking all the New Year’s resolutions I have made about diet, exercising, discipline and in general, Life. One routine I try to stick to after a big breakfast and before heading out of the house/cheap-production-hotel, is to sit down and meditate for at least for 15 minutes. I try not to rush myself in the morning as that pace is my constant for the rest of the day; if I wake up in a rush, I find myself rushing through the day in a frenzy. And trust me, you don’t want to see me in a frenzy.
Taking a timeout from filming. Photo courtesy of Lau Hon Meng.
Personally I find the 10am – 12pm slot my most unproductive time of the day, so I spend that time answering emails and reading the news. If I am editing, I chat through the previous day's cut with the editor. The distance of sleep gives you a good perspective. What you thought was genius the day before tends to lose its shine the next day. Speaking to the editor helps keep it in check. I tend not to get my news from social media but I curate it from a long list of websites. I also spend this time researching little scratches of notes or lookups I may have jotted down the day before in my book. This often takes me to weird places. The last note I had in my book was about female Butoh dancers. I always carry a paper monolith from the pre digital era – a notebook.
I keep slots of time during my day where I have no internet or phone connection. In the isolation I tend to find some clarity with my thoughts.
Outside Ariana Cinema, one of the few movie theaters in Kabul, Afghanistan. Photo courtesy of Lau Hon Meng.
LUNCH! I always go to my friend and an all-round amazing cinematographer Lau Hon Meng for food recommendations. He is the foodie - his taste in food is only surpassed by his taste in images. I rarely eat alone. I think all meals should be a communal event, but that could just be my needy side showing.
Filming at one of the newly opened amusement parks in Kabul, Afghanistan. Photo courtesy of Aleem Agha.
This is the most creative time of my day. This is when I am writing scripts for the current projects or developing ideas. At any one point of time, I am developing at least ten ideas at different stages. I have sketches of feature films, TV shows, and documentaries.
At the Singapore National Library Reference Section. Photo courtesy of Aditya Thayi.
I go to one of my favorite places in the world. The place I find calm and inspiration - libraries. Singapore has some of the best stocked libraries in this part of the world. The National Library in Bugis and Esplanade are my play pens. I can spend hours getting lost in books and this is where I can be found if I am not answering calls.
Working in an improvised office for the day in a village in Northern India. Photo courtesy of Lau Hon Meng.
I have a weakness for good craft beer at the end of the day. The satisfaction I get from that beer is directly proportional to the amount of hard work I feel I have put into the day. There are tons of new places all over the city.
In an interview with Daw Su Su Khin, the granddaughter of the Last King of Burma. Photo courtesy of Lau Hon Meng.
Night is the time full of life with music, films, theatre, books and art. Look up Steven Soderbergh’s list of everything he has watched in a year. I would be a happy man if I ingest half of what he has done Inspiration takes hard work. I am working on a Virtual Reality project that interrogates the extinction of species and culture.
We live in an interconnected world and events like the Singapore Media Festival help us navigate it. – Aditya’s thoughts on the Singapore Media Festival
What is the Singapore Media Festival to you?
“Events like the Singapore Media Festival have the ability to bring creatives from all fields together. They set the direction on where the industry will head in the next year. It enables filmmakers to calibrate themselves to current trends and technologies, thus opening up new forms of storytelling.
These days, no one who’s creative is isolated. A filmmaker could be influenced by a web designer who in turn was influenced by a book, which was influenced by a piece of music that was actually influenced by a Youtube video… The list is exhaustive. Technology is at the centre of this. We live in an interconnected world and events like the Singapore Media Festival help us navigate it.”
Don’t listen to authority. No one has a clue.” – Aditya’s advice to budding filmmakers