A debut producer puts a promising career on hold to pursue his dream, and makes it a reality! By RITAM MITRA
If you think it?s too late to change careers, Nilesh Patel will make you think again. At the age of 37, he recently left behind a comfortable career in management consulting to become a movie producer. Within six months of making the big decision, Nilesh?s first-ever full length film, an Australian revenge-drama titled Torn Devotion, premiered at Hoyts earlier this month to over 500 people, the first step in a truly inspirational journey.
Brought up in Baroda, Nilesh was fascinated by the idea of making movies, having fallen in love with the movie The Last Emperor in his youth. He considered doing a Bachelor of Social Sciences after finishing year 12, believing that it would prepare him to become a good movie maker. However, his parents did not warm to the idea, as they wanted Nilesh to take over his father?s engineering business.
?I wasn?t desperate to the point of having the courage to go ahead with making movies,” he says. “I wanted to do it but my parents said, ?you shouldn?t do it.? It didn?t come through, and engineering was the default option?.
Getting on with it
Having moved to Australia to pursue further studies, and eventually moving into management consulting, Nilesh still always felt as though something was missing. He recalls the moment when he decided to drop it all and do what he had always wanted to do. ?It was only in late 2012 when I decided, to hell with it all, I will go after my dream. It is now or never!?
Nilesh was well aware of how big a decision it was to be. ?When I left management studies I thought seriously and hard about what I was going to do. I said I?ll give myself five years, then I?ll re-evaluate. If things don?t work out, I?ll consider whether I will still pursue movie-making or go back to consulting. At this stage I don?t have any regrets,? he says.
The journey begins
Nilesh?s extraordinary turnaround time between leaving behind his old career and producing his first movie, just over 6 months, might seem scarcely believable. However, a support network at the Participate Film Academy (PFA) gave him the guidance and knowledge he needed to take his first steps in the industry. He also made several contacts through some short courses at the National Institute of Dramatic Art (NIDA), with whom he made sure to keep in touch.
Nilesh?s role as producer involves managing the entire process, including getting storyboards done, securing financing, hiring the cast and crew members ? and it?s what drew him to the idea in the first place. Although he had no previous experience in the industry, he believes being honest to the cast from the outset allowed them to work cohesively, even though at times it was tough going.
?We were upfront that we?re newcomers ? we don?t have the experience of making a full-length movie,” he explains. “It was clearly mentioned to them in the contract. There were times where there was frustration ? sometimes, pros get things done in 2 hours, but we took 4 hours. But we set the expectations at low and tried to better them”.
The team more or less hit the production schedule of 35 days, but these were not by any means traditional 9-to-5 days of work. Because shoot locations were booked by the day, even if it meant working 12-hour shifts, the work had to be done. Nilesh tried to do ?little things? to make sure the cast knew they were being taken care of ? such as letting them know if filming was running late, so they didn?t have to come in early without reason. A mentor from the PFA guided Nilesh and his crew through the process, but as the debut producer says, ?when you go on set, things don?t go as planned ? things don?t work as expected?.
For Nilesh, the main challenge was sustaining the group?s momentum and enthusiasm. ?When you have a project that goes for a long time, people are enthusiastic for a short time. But you have to maintain their energy levels, because there can be long hours throughout,? he says. And long hours they were, during 2 months of pre-production, Nilesh worked 12 hours a day, 6-7 days a week, often sleeping for only 3-4 hours a night. During post-production it got even worse, because of the constraints of imminent deadlines, Nilesh often found himself without sleep for a couple of nights in a row.
But all the hard work was worth it when the film premiered on April 10.
?Seeing the final product was definitely the most rewarding part. To watch the movie together with others, that was amazing. There was a red carpet, and an after party, everyone was very supportive and people said they liked it,? says Nilesh enthusiastically. His parents too, came around to the idea. Nilesh?s father speaks with him every week and was ?very curious? about how the whole industry worked. Nilesh was also glad to receive a call from his father the day after the film premiered, although his parents will have to wait to see the movie on DVD only after it releases on DVD here.
Words of wisdom
Nilesh recognises that parents want people to follow ?proper career paths with jobs,? acknowledging that all the actors who worked on Torn Devotion were working ?odd jobs here and there to make it in the film industry?. But he has some very constructive advice to anyone trying to choose their career.
?Love your parents, but if they force you to do something and it?s not your passion, stand up for what you believe in. It?s good to have a road map and plan, a high level one that will guide you and tell you whether you?re going on the right track or not. Find a role model who is doing what you want to do, so that you get an idea of how to approach whatever career you?re looking at. This way, when you start, you already have an idea of where you?re going. In any industry, in any career, it sounds clich?d, but you just have to go out and do it,? says Nilesh emphatically.
Nilesh also has some special advice to anyone who thinks it?s too late to change things. ?I am excited to be starting my journey as a movie producer. I want people to know that it is never too late to go after their dreams and that instead of looking to settle in life, we should be looking to live life through our dreams,? he says contentedly.