‘A producer should always think like a filmmaker’A producer of award-winning movies, Prawin Takki Karki talks about his experience working as one in Nepal, his approach to films and how he builds creative bonds and partnerships.
Prawin Takki Karki’s decision to join filmmaking wasn’t unexpected. All his life, he had worked with local newspapers and television—even producing his own sports show at one point—in the hope of one day putting all his broadcasting experience into making films.
However, when he started working in films as a production manager, overseeing and managing the daily schedule and shoot of the films, he saw a dearth of producers who were taking their responsibilities seriously, helping the directors to achieve their vision.
And that was the main factor, says Karki, a Pokhara native, that encouraged him to take on the responsibility of a producer, as he believed that he possessed all the necessary managerial and creative skills a producer should have.
Today, with a career spanning more than a decade, Karki is the CEO and founder of Media Port, a production company has till date produced four short films: The Contagious of Apparitions of Dambarey Dendrite (2013), Dadyaa: The Wood Peckers of Rotha (2016), Ama Khando (2019), and The Big Headed Boy: Shamans and Samurais (2020), which have received recognition and appreciation in many big international festivals. Likewise, in 2018, he also produced Naakaa, a feature film, which featured Bipin Karki as the lead. Similarly, since 2014, he has also been serving as the festival coordinator of Pame Film and Music festival.
Karki is currently gearing up for his next feature film, The Whole Timers, which is anticipated to be a game-changer for Nepali cinema. In an interview with the Post’s Ankit Khadgi, Karki talks about his experience working as a producer in Nepal, his approach to films and how he builds creative bonds and partnerships with the directors and the crew. Excerpts.
How did your journey in films start?
I was a big Bruce Lee fan during my growing years. As someone who was into sports and was even producing my own sports programme for a local television channel in my hometown, Pokhara, I was always inclined towards making sports movies like that of Lee's.
However, when I came to Kathmandu for my Bachelor's degree in Media Studies, the way I started interpreting and analysing movies changed. I then started critically examining movies and became part of circles who enjoyed watching films that carried artistic values.
Later, my interest started getting stronger and then I also took film workshops, eventually leading me to make my career in films.
In the initial stage, I took many responsibilities that came my way, like being a production manager or even as a camera assistant in both mainstream and independent projects. Kabadi was my first big mainstream project where I worked as a production manager.
Rarely do we see people in Nepali films who are interested in producing films. What encouraged you to be a producer?
From the time I was studying media, my interest was always inclined towards media management. While I used to write stories, I was more interested in managing and production-related works, as I possessed great media managerial skills.
That’s how I started working as a production manager because the projects I was involved in initially didn’t have enough good production managers. My focus then started shifting towards polishing that skill, which eventually led me to take on the role of a producer.
Most people, even those who work in films, lack knowledge regarding the role of a producer in a film. Could you please shed light on what producers do in a film?
In movies, the post of a producer is a creative one. They are at the same hierarchy as directors and their role isn’t just limited to the financing of the film. From writing to direction to editing, to lights, to casting, and financing they should know everything, as they serve the significant role of a supervisor and coordinator who has to look at every aspect of filmmaking.
Likewise, their main function is also to help the director achieve their vision, in regards to how they want their film to be like. In my opinion, a director can’t be a director without the help of the producer, because it's the producer who helps to turn their idea into a film, by managing and supervising every department and element of the filmmaking, on behalf of the directors.
What’s your creative approach and working process like? How do you work as a producer in the films you produce?
I prefer to work within the same circle of like-minded filmmakers who are on the same page as me, in regards to how they perceive films.
Likewise, I am interested in collaborating with a filmmaker from the idea phase itself, as well as helping them in the research and script as well. From assembling actors to picking costumes, I like to show my involvement in each aspect, offering my suggestions.
The reason why I prefer to work with filmmakers from the initial stage of filmmaking is because I believe that if I closely work with a director, it will help us to be on the same page. We both will be driven by the same agenda, the same motivation, due to which in future the chances of having conflict will be minimum.
For me, the most important task when I am producing a movie is to help my director in the fullest capacity, so that I can help them to achieve their target—how they want their film to be like.
As a producer, how important is it to build a creative bond and partnership with filmmakers and the crew members?
When people are making movies, they mostly prefer to work with a cast and crew with whom they have faith because it's important for everyone working in a film to be driven by the same motive of making the film.
That’s why I prefer to work with the same bunch of people because over the years, working together, we have built enough trust and confidence due to which it becomes easy to work with them. Without even speaking, we now understand each other, due to which the chances of having conflict during the course of filmmaking gets minimised.
Likewise, there are many other benefits as well. It becomes easy to mobilise the crew if you know them well. For instance, I know how a certain person in my crew behaves and talks, which makes it easier for me to deal with them. Such bonds are beneficial in a film set, as due to it there won’t be any conflicts that can damage the film.
What are the challenges you have endured while working and producing films in Nepal?
One thing that is really lacking in the film industry is how they perceive their creations. People don’t see films as an art or a cultural entity. They are driven by the idea that making films is just a source of making money.
Likewise, we don’t have an environment that supports the growth of films. The rules and laws in the country aren’t friendly enough for our films to grow. For instance, I have been struggling to get permission to get a fake gun, which I need for our film, but the policies and laws do not favour filmmakers and producers to quickly get things which they might need for their movies.
We also lack a market. We do not have halls dedicated to independent films. The policies and the bills related to films that are proposed equally worrisome as it will directly affect the independent filmmakers.
Many people are really hopeful about your upcoming project, ‘The Whole Timers’, since it is getting directed by Pooja Gurung and Bibhusan Basnet, with whom you have made path-breaking movies over the years. How has the experience been of producing a movie of this magnitude?
I believe our film will be one of the biggest films to be made on a big scale in terms of budget as well as storytelling. It has been a difficult experience for all of us, as to get what we are envisioning for is not easy as it requires a lot of budget and time.
We have already completed 50 percent of the shoot and we will be shooting throughout this year. There were times when I wasn’t hopeful, since how we wanted our film to be was going to be difficult to achieve. We are still looking for finances. However, we are now focusing our whole energy and risking everything, as we believe that the film which we are making will be a historic one.
Lastly, in your opinion what are the qualities a producer should possess?
I firmly believe that a producer should always think like a filmmaker. As a producer, since they need to supervise every department, they should have enough knowledge of how every cast and crew work in a film set.
In Nepali films, there is always a conflict between directors and producers, because most of the producers themselves are unaware about their roles, due to which they are unable to help the director to achieve their mission.
The expertise of a producer shouldn’t be limited to just financing. They should be able to understand the story, help to assemble the best team, and also offer suggestions in post-production from sound to colour grading as well. There is the management and financing responsibility, as they need to find the best possibilities for the film as per its budget, but a producer should always think like a filmmaker and have a solution-oriented approach to every issue.