After winning top awards at SVA’s 24th Annual Dusty Film & Animation Festival, the short film Kush by recent alumnus Shubhashish Bhutiani (BFA 2013 Film and Video) is now set to screen the 2013 Venice Film Festival. The only Indian film selected for the venerable festival this year, Kush is inspired by the true story of a teacher leading a field trip in 1984 who was forced to protect a Sikh student when violence erupts following the assassination of Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by her two Sikh bodyguards. SVA Close Up caught up with Bhutiani via email recently to discuss the film and its recent success.
How did you react to the news that Kush was accepted into the Venice Film Festival?
I was in disbelief. It was quite something, my dad actually called me early in the morning because Italy is ahead of the U.S., and he told me to check my email. And then to see the letterhead and the invitation… It was a new feeling I experienced, an amazing honor to be screening alongside filmmakers I’ve long admired, at a platform that is truly global.
What was the inspiration for the film?
I came across the story of Kush in my economics class in 11th grade. I went to a boarding school in the Himalayas called Woodstock School, where our teacher actually experienced the story on the way back from a field trip. She told us the story, and I knew it should be a film. I didn’t know I would make it at that point. With research and time, I adapted it to the themes I wanted to deal with, and the setting I wanted to show.
What was the experience of shooting the film like? And how did you cast and fund it?
Shooting the film is a blur and extremely vivid at the same time. Everything felt so organic and in the moment. The story evolved with the shoot, and to see the energy of so many young people was contagious to the whole crew. I think the adults became as passionate as the kids did. It wasn’t easy for us, as a lot of us were working in India for the first time, and some were working on a film for the first time. We definitely did things that wouldn’t be allowed on a film set, like tying Mike McSweeney (BFA 2012 Film and Video), the director of photography, to a car with a rope and driving behind the bus to get the shot.
Casting of the film was done on a grassroots level, with a lot of the kids coming through the Sunday school my mom teaches at—kids who’s parents are friends with my father, and so on. The funding was done through private funding of family and friends, and SVA’s grants were extremely helpful as we won the Dusty Film and Animation Pre and Post Grant as well as the William Arkel Alumni Award. We were plain lucky and somehow it worked.
What was the most surprising thing you learned while making this movie?
I learned a lot of things through the process of making this film. I learned how much responsibility you can give kids. Kids are extremely intelligent and best when left alone. They have their own way of doing things and the more you try to direct them the more you lose the magic that they can offer. In terms of filmmaking, I learned a lot by the extremely talented people that supported me from the Director of Photography, Editor (current BFA Film and Video student Tom Knight), Sound Designer (Steve Burgess, BFA 2012 Film and Video), and my Thesis Advisor (BFA Film and Video faculty member George LaVoo). It felt like a crash course in making movies from a practical standpoint. But most importantly, I learned the value of support and persistence. There were many times this film could have fallen apart, but somehow the team kept it together and we just tried to keep making it.
What are your future plans for Kush? And do you have any new projects on the horizon?
My hope for Kush is for it to be seen by as many people as possible and to be seen all over the world. I hope people connect to it, as I’d like to believe it is universal in its themes. I hope people feel for the characters and are inspired by the story itself. I am currently in development for a feature that is set in the place I grow up in the Himalayas in India that I would like to direct and we are out and about looking for the funding.
MFA Photography, Video and Related MediaSVA Alumnus Yamini Nayar in 'The New York Times'
BFA Fine ArtsBFA Fine Arts Students from SVA Exhibit at Utrecht SoHo
MFA Fine ArtsInterview with SVA's Alix Pearlstein in 'BOMB Magazine'
BFA PhotographySVA’s Joe Sinnott Capitivates in Howcast Portrait Photo Series
BFA Visual and Critical StudiesSVA at the 5th Annual Degenerate Craft Fair
BFA Film and VideoIn Line for an Oscar: SVA Alumnus Shubhashish Bhutiani Profiled in ...
BFA Fine Arts, MFA Fine Arts, BFA Visual & Critical StudiesSVA's Steve DeFrank on the Art of Lucha Libre
BFA Illustration, BFA Fine Arts & BFA PhotographyNYC Exhibitions by KAWS, Domingo Milella, and Tim Rollins and K.O.S.
SVA Career DevelopmentSVA Fosters Relationships with Apple, Pixar, DreamWorks, Facebook a...
MFA Fine ArtsSVA Alumnus Katherine Bernhardt in 'The New York Times'
BFA Film and Video'Kush' by SVA Alumnus Shubhashish Bhutiani in 'The Times of India'
MFA Art Criticism and Writing & BFA Fine ArtsSVA’s David Levi Strauss, Miriam Atkins and Elizabeth Peyton in ‘Ar...
BFA CartooningSVA Alumnus Bill Plympton Featured in 'Animation Magazine'
MFA Computer ArtGuided Visit: SVA’s Bruce Wands on Algorithmic Artist Manfred Mohr
MFA Illustration as Visual EssaySecond Painting by SVA Alumnus Gustave Blache III Acquired by the S...
BFA Film and Video‘Missing Book of Spurs’: SVA Alumnus Marianne Vitale at Performa 13
MFA Illustration as Visual Essay‘Locomotive’ by SVA Alumnus Brian Floca Makes NY Times ‘10 Best Ill...
MPS BrandingSVA's Debbie Millman Featured on Fast Company
MFA Illustration as Visual EssayIllustrations by SVA Students and Alumni Featured on Brain Pickings
What's In StoreWhat’s In Store: Barcelona, La Camioneta and Deadly Sins
BFA Computer Art, Computer Animation and Visual EffectsSVA’s John McIntosh and Alumni at SIGGRAPH Asia 2013
BFA IllustrationBlouin Artinfo Interviews SVA Alumnus KAWS
MFA Fine ArtsSVA Alumnus Sarah Sze Featured on Blouin Artinfo
MFA Illustration as Visual EssayLive Drawing by SVA Students and Alumni at Proust Centennial Events
MFA Art Criticism and WritingNew Issue of ‘Zephyr’ Takes Risks
BFA PhotographyQ&A with SVA Alumnus Ash Thayer on 'The Atlantic'
MFA Fine Arts & MFA Illustration as Visual EssayNYC Exhibitions by Suzanne McClelland, Paul Hoppe and Guðmundur Tho...
SVA PortfoliosSVA Portfolios: Five Most Discussed Projects of October 2013
MFA Art Practice & BFA Fine ArtsSVA’s Gary Simmons Wins Joyce Alexander Wein Prize
BFA Fine ArtsRave Review for SVA's Alice Aycock in 'Art in America'
MFA Interaction DesignSVA Alumnus Michael Yap on Fast Company for Citi Bike Infographic
MPS Fashion PhotographySVA Alumnus Matin Zad on Winning the New Exposure Photography Compe...
BFA Computer Art, Computer Animation and Visual Effects‘Let’s All Go to the Lobby’: SVA Faculty Members Recast the GEICO G...
MFA Photography, Video and Related MediaSVA's Jade Doskow Named 'One to Watch' by American Photo
MPS Branding & BFA DesignSVA Alumnus Helps Rebrand New York’s Historic Seaport District
MFA Products of DesignSVA Student Featured on Fast Company for Interactive Cloud Lamp
SVA AdmissionsFollow SVA Open Houses on Social Media
BFA Interior DesignSVA Students in 'The New York Times' for Haunted High Line Project
BFA Advertising & BFA DesignQ&A with SVA’s Benita Raphan About Her Film at the Walker Art Center
MFA Design for Social InnovationRecap: ‘Design for 100%’ Event at SVA
BFA PhotographySVA Student Hector Rene Interviewed by 'Resource Magazine'
MPS Art TherapyArt Therapy Outreach at SVA: An Interview with Lisa Furman
MPS Digital PhotographySVA Alumnus Robert Herman in 'Metropolis' Magazine for New York Photos
Visual Arts JournalFall 2013 ‘Visual Arts Journal’ Now Available
BFA Visual and Critical Studies & Art HistoryTaking on Congress: SVA's Liz Magic Laser on Blouin Artinfo
BFA Film and Video & BFA AnimationVideo: 2013 Dusty Festival Promo
MA Curatorial PracticeState of the Art: A Preview of MA Curatorial Practice’s Internation...