Field Notes Interview #48: Jevan Chowdhury, Filmmaker
If he wasn't a filmmaker, Jevan Chowdhury says he would be a taxi driver in Japan. By a course of happenstance, he finds himself now as one of the more premiere filmmakers of dance film. Jevan is not only the founder of Wind & Foster Films, his Moving Cities project is turning the heads of performance art lovers and haters alike. He's creating something completely different.
Taking to the streets and working with the natural hustle and bustle in cities around the world, he's paired together dance, music and film into one striking piece of art. His stories rely on capturing improvised and raw moments in time while weaving them together into one tapestry of sight and sound.
We caught up with Chowdhury between projects and chatted about the importance of music in his projects and understanding the massive opportunities that a soundtrack can bring to film.
M: When did you know you wanted to be a filmmaker?
JC: I didn't. I wanted to be a taxi driver in Japan. My school didn't offer this so I chose Maths that led to Architecture that led to Design then Filmmaking. If my sister didn't buy me a VHS video camcorder then I'd probably be a taxi driver in Japan.
M: What's your favorite moment of the filmmaking process?
JC: You're holding your breath throughout the project. When everything falls into place, you start to breathe again. It's like a sigh of relief, the moment the edit transforms from a series of clips to the finished product.
M: What do you think defines a filmmakers' voice?
JC: What you see, what you hear, food you make, things you break. Everything adds to a voice. I just hung up some washing and had a short film idea about a man who died of washing up. Its important to know when your idea is going nowhere, too.
M: Tell us more about your process when filming Moving Cities.
JC: The city, the dancer and I, we all move. Phrase by phrase it's an observation exercise in which quality control is completely intuitive. There's no storyboard, no script, no choreography, and even if there was, it would work around events in that time and space. Using everyday, mundane, transient spaces, I use dance to unearth a sort of local consciousness.
In practical terms, the process is always different depending on the dancer's ability. I'll present a general vision and let them respond.
M: What's the toughest decision you've had to make as a filmmaker?
JC: Having captured more than 500 professional dancers in the last year alone, it still pains me to edit their amazing performances down to seconds. Editing is ruthless.
M: What role do you feel music has in film?
JC: Unbreakable. Nothing moves me more than music. I am transformed by it. I've been wanting to produce Moving Cities for a long time mostly because I wanted to be led more by music.
M: How do you feel music is misused in projects?
JC: Music makers are remarkable. There is stuff out there written and composed from nothing other a than spiritual intuition, not for consumption, but for creative release. Who knows the source of that release? For me it's exciting to work backwards and seek out a world that music might have come from and visualise it. I don't feel music is necessarily misused in projects, but I don't think enough of us understand the potential of the music.
M: When do you know that you have something ready to show the world?
JC: I'm obsessive about the edit. I trim, shave, bend and cut till I'm blue in the face.
I spend more time than I'd like to admit on the opening 10-seconds, but it feels good to finally let go and upload.
M: What's coming up?
JC: Moving Athens, Moving Moscow, Moving Mexico and one of 5 London boroughs, Moving Southwark.
I've just bought the domain name talking-cities so more from that too.