Video on demandA collection of landscapes perfectly syncs with the melody of a flute and smoothly transitions to extreme long shots of a valley that all come together to beautifully narrate the story of one courageous girl and her big dreams.
A collection of landscapes perfectly syncs with the melody of a flute and smoothly transitions to extreme long shots of a valley that all come together to beautifully narrate the story of one courageous girl and her big dreams. Just a couple of weeks ago, Miss Nepal 2018 Shrinkhala Khatiwada released her introduction video for the Miss World beauty pageant to rave reviews. Not long after it was posted on her YouTube channel, the video went viral. It wasn’t just Khatiwada’s inspiring story that won praise but also the video, which was celebrated for its stunning visuals and crisp editing.
The video, crafted by the 20-year-old Abin Bhochhibhoya, a freelance filmmaker who goes by Abin Bho, is emblematic of the work of a new generation of artists who are changing how Nepali videos look. From short films and music videos to commercials and endorsements, videography in Nepal is finally turning into an art, led by a handful of young and innovative artists.
The internet age
The past decade or so has seen an explosion in the quality and artistry of Nepali videography. Film and video are no longer just the province of experienced professionals who have access to equipment that cost millions and networks that allow them to distribute their work. The increasing availability of high-speed internet, along with the proliferation of mobile phones and DSLR cameras has provided young people with tools and a platform to explore and engage with new modes of videography.
“The end of loadshedding has made electricity supply and the internet much smoother than before. So we have consistent access and exposure to outside world and the kinds of videos they are making,” says Aneel Neupane, co-founder of Jazz Productions, a multimedia production company known for its use of digital art and visual effects.
The internet, especially, has been critical in exposing Nepalis to film and video from the world over while also allowing them to share their own work with others, bringing them to the attention of companies looking for something different. Prasiit Sthapit—co-founder of Fuzz Factory Productions, another multimedia production company at the forefront of the new generation of videographers—also credits the internet and the advent of digital technology for this “new wave of video and film”. “As more and more people can come into this medium, there is bound to be more and more exploration and that is what is happening in Nepal too,” he says.
But the internet also comes with a lot of chaff, videos that have little substance and offer little of what is new or experimental. But for videographers like Abin, even such videos have purpose. “To others, such videos might be a way to capture their memories but for me, they’re crucial as I get to evaluate how I’m developing as a person and as an artist,” he says.
The internet and globalisation have also meant an increasing access to modern equipment and technology. Along with affordable portable DSLRs that shoot excellent high quality video to portable cranes, dollies and even drones.
These artists often get their friends who are abroad to bring in gear that might not be available or of a higher quality, says Neupane.
A still from Jazz Productions' music video for 'The Night is an Ocean' by Irish band Winter Aid.
Idea and execution
It isn’t just the access to gear and the internet that leads to great videos. “Films evolve with time, that’s for sure. But there’s one thing that’s always constant to make them admirable: the concept,” says Abin.
“For me, the concept is 80 percent while video quality is the remaining 20 percent.”
Almost 30 years ago, Bernardo Bertolucci filmed the Little Buddha at the Bhaktapur Durbar Square on reel cameras. The film is amazing both in terms of quality and storyline, says Abin. “Even now, we might not be able to achieve the same result with the fancy equipment we have available,” he says.
For Jazz Productions too, videos are more about “powerful storytelling” than its high definition quality or the kind of camera that is used. Details like set location make as much of a difference as computer-generated imagery. “You need time to establish the character, scene, costume, acting and sounds. All of these elements are important,” says Neupane. “I’m passionate about the process of turning all these details into a story that I can screen for people to see.”
Many contemporary videos are innovative and aesthetic because they indulge in the filmmaker’s worldview, rather than simply being an expression of the content. Whether it is a commercial for a soda or a tourism video for a new locale, videos that go viral are often an aesthetic dimension of the artist behind the camera.
“We are all just trying to reinterpret the world we see around us. We all do it in different ways, but we happened to choose the moving image as our medium,” says Sthapit. “If it wasn’t the moving image, maybe we would have chosen something else. It is in videos that we thought we could incorporate most of what we were interested in, like music, photography, stories.”
Abin too feels that his videos are an expression of his self. “After watching a two hour movie, people can determine the personality of a director. Everything that they have learned so far will be screened in those limited number of frames,” he says. “For every video I make, it makes me feel like I have one chance to show my work, and I need to make sure each of my frames are perfect.”
Finding like-minded individuals to work with has always been central to the process of making videos. For a company like Fuzz Factory, composed of long-time friends and collaborators, there is an ease in working with each other. The first thing that they made was a music video for Jindabaad, a band where Fuzz Factory’s Rohit Shakya and Rajan Shrestha are bandmates.
“We have been friends since very young. I was into photography and had a DSLR which also took videos, so we thought we should experiment with this new tool,” relates Sthapit. “So we gathered a couple of our friends, hired and borrowed a couple of lights and other equipment and started shooting. People liked it and slowly we started getting offers from other musician friends. As we did those too and as more and more offers started to come in, we thought of doing it professionally.”
Jazz Productions, meanwhile, frequently rotates teammates, according to the kind of projects that they are working on. This provides them with an opportunity to work with young, energetic people looking to break into the industry. And though Abin works independently, he does have a few of his friends who help him on the field.
The process of making a video doesn’t just involve the team; there is the other side that is rarely talked about: the clients. Neupane recognises how everything is “video specific”, as the world is going digital. “People (clients) are more understanding and it’s easier to explain our ideas to them. They give us a briefing of what they require and we try our best to design the output that fulfills their requirements,” he says. “In some cases we have to find a middle solution that fits both of us, but sometimes, we just have to go for what they want, as ultimately we are here to serve their purposes for the video.”
There is a delicate tightrope to be walked between what the client wants and what the artist wishes to make. While making videos for others, it wouldn’t be right to impose one’s views on what the client desires. A collaboration is required.
Luckily for Abin, he has only worked for projects that let him take full control of his creative integrity. That’s also possible as he ‘scans’ his clients before working with them. “I inquire if I will be allowed creative freedom, and if so then they’re my clients,” says Abin. “I have done compromising work in the past but that just demolishes creativity and I have started to slowly decline such offers slowly.”
Unfortunately, not all collaborations go well, or as intended, especially while working across distances. When Fuzz Factory worked on Bartika Eam Rai’s video for her song ‘Umer’, she was in New York while the Fuzz team was in Kathmandu. Sharing creative input across the internet did not go as intended, says Rai, even though she was very happy with the details and little flourishes that Fuzz added to the video.
“I wanted a more creative process, but I knew we might not be able to do so working remotely,” says Rai. “There are some fantastic people on the team. But it was not as creative as I wanted it to be, even though technically, it was really good. If I could go back, I would change some things.”
But even when things don’t work out as intended or if some clients are difficult, it can be a means to explore new avenues and grow. “Creativity flourishes in limitations. We do share a lot of ideas with the clients and most of the time, they agree with what we have to say, and add their input as well,” says Sthapit. “We haven’t yet met the stereotypical ‘evil’ client, as most of our clients are understanding. We try to convince them as much as possible and in the end, it’s a compromise.”
For this new breed of videographers, making films and video are a way to exercise their creativity, allow the industry itself to mature, and provide a platform for the audience to also learn more about what video and film can be.
“The hyper-lapses, slow motions, time lapses, the music, the timing, the transition... I was totally amused by everything [sic] single thing that you did to make this video. I can imagine how much of hard work was required to pull this off. Lots to learn about filmmaking from one single video,” reads one YouTube comment under Abin’s video ‘Aura of the Valley’.
For these videographers, video is “a way of archiving, documenting what we see going on around us”, says Sthapit. “We as humans have this urgent need to show what we’ve seen, add our perspective and share it. We are just doing what has been done for ages.”