"I gravitate towards films where one of the characters has to overcome some adversity, whether it’s personal thing or a societal thing."
July 8, 2018 - by Morad Abdelbary
Jith Paul is a filmmaker based in Ottawa, Canada, a producer, director, cinematographer and editor of several award-winning short films, documentaries and music videos. He is President, CEO & Janitor at Treepot Media, which he founded in 2010. His directorial debut, Algebra, a short film about a painter grappling with the loss of his eyesight won awards and screened at festivals in North America, Europe and Asia including the Festival international Entr’2 marches in Cannes, France in 2015. The films Polar Bear Love, Moments and Perfect, which he produced, were selected for competition in CBC Television’s nationally broadcast Short Film Face-off in 2011, 2012 and 2013 respectively.
For more info please visit jithpaul.com
Morad Abdelbary: As a director what differentiates you between the rest? Is there a specific style you prefer?
Jith Paul: As an independent filmmaker, budgets are kind of tight which takes me towards doing movies that are more personal. Personal stories that effect people about people, being told in close ups.
MA : How do you compare yourself at the start of your career and now?
JP : When I started out, I didn’t know many people. The progression of getting to know people in the industry is never ending, especially through festivals like Digi60, because each year brings new opportunities with new filmmakers. You gravitate towards teams of people who share your vision and you tend to work with people that you meet at these festivals.
MA : What challenges have you faced when you were starting out?
JP : I’m not a writer so my biggest challenge is finding good script. I find I can’t write credible dialogue, I’m good at coming up with stories, but it’s just not my skillset. The other challenge is the equipment and access to these equipment. Filmmaking equipment is typically pricy so if you don’t know where to rent gear, it’s kind of a challenge.
MA : If you were to take an apprentice, what qualities do you look for?
JP : Someone who is eager, willing to learn and who has a good work ethic. Someone who would just treat every day with passion and not give up easily, so someone who would stick it out for the long run.
MA : What was the most important lesson you had to learn that has had a positive effect on your film?
JP : The ability to take criticism, even feedback from all members of the crew, because that would result in a better product.
MA : You are a collaborator. How have you discovered members of your team and how do you keep the relationship with them strong?
JP : Partially through other people, networking at contests and festivals like Digi60 or I went to school at Algonquin so some of the people from my graduating class I still work with from time to time. Willing to work on other people’s projects in exchange for their work on yours.
MA : As a veteran in this industry, what advice would you give to the rookies?
JP : Don’t be afraid of trying something new, all you can do from doing a project is learn something new. You learn something about yourself and the people you collaborate with, which helps with your next project.
MA : What are personal characteristics that make for a good filmmaker?
JP : I would say patience, it takes a lot of patience primarily. You also have to keep in mind that you are not going to make movies that everyone will like and you have to be okay with that.
MA : What makes a film great for you? Are there certain qualities that make a film better for you?
JP : I gravitate towards films where one of the characters has to overcome some adversity, whether it’s personal thing or a societal thing. Storyline definitely, special effects as well but only if it lends itself to the story.
MA : What films have been the most inspiring or influential to you and why?
JP : I remember one of the first movies I saw in theatres was star wars episode four, and as a kid I thought the fact you can escape and pretend you are in space without having to be an astronaut is a cool thing. So I kind of liked the fantasy aspect of the film, the ability of film to take you to a different place or explore something you wouldn’t necessarily be able to explore in real life.
MA : What role have film festivals played in your life so far? Are they necessary?
JP : I think film festivals are great in that it lets you experience films that you don’t see in mainstream theaters. It is a chance to see films for example made by local filmmakers in local auditory or local environment, so you can appreciate what the local production community does. It’s also fun to try and spot local landmarks in a film. Also when you go to these festivals you meet the people that make these films or star in them and so that’s kind of a good networking opportunity too.
MA : If there is one or more thing you think would make the film industry better, what would it be?
JP : We’ve been talking about it for a very long time, but having a studio in town where you can rent the space and be in there for a week or two when you shoot a movie. So far there hasn’t been a local economy to sustain the development of a studio and I know there have been several tries to do it, but that would be kind of handy. So more facilities would be key.
MA : What is your greatest achievement till date?
JP : I think the biggest thing I can be proud of is having films made/produced/directed or being part of films that have been outside of Ottawa. So a few of the films I have worked on have exhibited at festivals around the world, that gives me a thrill to see the work and effort that we put in is seen outside of Ottawa.
MA : How did you come up with the idea for your film Algebra?
JP : It was 2012 I think, the catch for Digi60 that year was ‘reunion’, my friend who is a writer (Jennifer Mulligan) and I were chatting after the catch was released. We wanted to come up with something that was not your typical reunion, you think high school reunion or something like that. So something a little more abstract and she pitched this idea at Digi60 about a painter who is losing his sight and he’s trying to reunite with his former life, or his ego as an artist. We ended up working on a script for a little while maybe three or four weeks and we came up with a new version of algebra and went through casting. We were lucky enough to find our lead actor to be a painter in real life, which made it less difficult to shoot. He had a studio in Wakefield so that was a great location for half of the movie. It was a lot of luck and being at the right place at the right time.
MA : Do you think it is essential to go to a film institute in order to become a successful film maker?
JP : I don’t think it’s essential, but it certainly helps, more with learning on how to use equipment and skills like that. I think it also connects you with other like-minded people which you need when you are starting out. Because you can’t make a movie by yourself.
MA : Is there anything you currently working on that you would like to share with your fellow followers? Can you tell us more about your upcoming project(s)?
JP : I always have several things on the go, my current project is putting together a second season of the web series about filmmakers in Ottawa, or artists in general. I also cofounded a festival with two other people of the Ottawa Canadian Film Festival so that’s my other big project, gearing up to our screening this year in November.