A talented filmmaker from Darjeeling, Phurba Tshering Lama is the founder of Ferry Tale Pictures
Born on 21st January 1982 in Kurseong, Phurba Tshering Lama studied literature from St Joseph’s College, Darjeeling and pursued direction in Film and Television Institute of India, Pune. Ek Dhakar Jiwan (The Beaten Path) was his debut short film. Many of his films have been screened at festivals across the globe and have also won awards. He is currently ready with his anthology of short films based on selected short stories of Nepali literature. We find out more about the filmmaker and his work.
Was there a particular event or time when you realized that filmmaking would become your life?
It was definitely during my moment of clarity after I watched The Pianist. I suddenly became aware of my strength as an artiste and instantly fell passionately in love with the idea of what I could do with moving images. I was 25 years old then.
What was the first documentary/ project you worked on, what kind of challenges did you have to face?
My first short documentary project was called The Wayfarers. I wanted to capture a day in the life of a Dhangar family – a nomadic tribe from Maharashtra. Looking back at the challenges I faced then, I feel that it is very important to know why you want to say rather than focussing on how to tell a story.
Do you think that it is viable financially to pursue documentary filmmaking as a profession in India?
If you are smart and a really good documentary filmmaker with conviction then there are plenty of opportunities in India. There are thousands of stirring stories waiting to be told and there are many grants and support for documentary filmmakers both in India and abroad. However, I feel that we have a dearth for fresh narrative style and interesting content.
You founded ‘Ferry Tale Pictures’
in 2015 with the vision to develop a professional work culture in the motion pictures industry in the Northeast, can you briefly tell us about your journey so far.
It’s our aim to discuss, share knowledge, learn, unlearn, experience work together and inspire one another to cultivate local cinema culture. The Northeast is too big and some parts are already doing great! It’s exciting to see how a lot of interesting individuals are doing their bit for the same. The past two years has been dreadfully slow in terms of progress but we are glad about having been able to study our place and pace within the region, work with many individuals and organizations and set up some solid groundwork for the future. We are quite positive about tomorrow.
We hear so often about the lack of original stories. How do you stay manage to keep it fresh and unique in the face of something like that?
You will always have a choice to ‘do it your way’ or ‘his/her way’; even when you are not doing an original. There are countless examples of creativity when the same ‘seen it before’ story was successfully presented with a ‘never seen it before’ story experience. The Departed by Martin Scorsese is one such example.
Do you think that one needs a big budget to make a meaningful film that will give viewers food for thought?
That’s not true at all.
How much do you have to compromise as a filmmaker because of financial restriction?
I have so far compromised one way or the other in all of my films, but mostly in the production value department. It does affect your story in some way or the other. But in the long run, these circumstances are valuable lessons and a much-needed stepping stone for a serious filmmaker.
You and your team have been conducting workshops and educating youngsters about quality filmmaking in schools and colleges across the Northeast, where did this wonderful idea come from?
Workshops and roadshow screenings are primarily motivational exercises for the young generation. We try to expose them to different genres and teach them how to appreciate cinema. The idea came to me after considering how majority of our children are misguided about cinema and fed rubbish right from an early age. Lastly, because reading Nepali literature is gradually becoming a dying art among youngsters, we decided to inspire them through cinema and interactive sessions, where we also highlight the importance of our roots.
Do you think it is essential to go to a film institute or university in order to become a successful filmmaker?
Not very essential if you are determined to become one anyway. However, a film institute will expose you to a lot of things in a short time and that will definitely widen your playing field.
If not a filmmaker, what career would you have chosen?
It’s difficult to answer. I don’t know.
There are many young aspiring filmmakers in the Northeast, any encouraging words or advice?
A reading habit is very essential and so is writing. Watch and discuss plenty of films. Widen your film and art circle. Google. Shoot and make films. If you are not happy, make some more. Just don’t trick yourself if it’s not happening at all.
Can you tell us more about your upcoming project(s)?
Right now, we are involved in the post production of an exciting documentary portraying the role and spirit of Hayden Hall in Darjeeling. We will also be resuming our work on ‘Macqee’ next year. It’s a two-year-old project and is based on Shakespeare’s Macbeth.
Ek Dhakar Jiwan (The Beaten Path) Screened Around the World
Gothenburg Independent International Film Festival, 2014, Sweden (Best Short Film Peace Award)
SIGNS International Film Festival, 2014, India (National Competition Section)
XX Film Festival Della Lessinia, 2014, Italy (International Competition Section)
IDFL Film Festival, 2014, India (National Competition Section)
Clermont Ferrand International Short Film Festival, 2015, France (Special Mention Jury)
JAGRAN International Film Festival, India (Top Shorts Section)
WIZ-ART International Film Festival, 2015, Ukraine (Special Screening)
Ajyal Youth Film Festival, 2015, Doha (International Competition Section)
REGARD International Short Film Festival, 2016, Canada (International Competition Indian Panorama Section
Ek Dhakar Jiwan (The Beaten Path) won the Best Short Film Peace Award at Gothenburg Independent Film Festival
His debut short film was also presented with Special Mention Jury at the Clermont Ferrand International Short Film Festival
The Price of a Fish was selected for the 57th Krakow International Film Market in Poland
Cock-a-doodle-do won Best Short Film in the Darjeeling Short Film Festival held during the 21st Annual Darjeeling District Book Fair, 2016.