Its been a year since I began contemplating seriously about getting into a film school. A series of confusions ensured that I miss the FTII 2009 dates. The binduest of all being the fact that I had to leave my peanut salary and start with an empty bowl again. It made me think over and over. My mind almost threw my heart out of head one day until I re-read a famous advertising quote inscribed on my office wall. The one we often use to describe our profession to non advertising people, especially women as that might impress/intrigue them. Who knows? Whatever. Doesn’t matter. What matters is the quote : “ Don’t tell my mother I work in advertising. She thinks I play the piano in a whorehouse”. Wait a minute !! whorehouse. Oh yes!! thats what whorehouses (agencies) do. They hook us, enchant us and keep us shut out from the real world. If you got to find your voice and truth, you got to get out of that cushy creative department of yours. With that note I decided I have to take the plunge. So I went ahead and checked the dates for SRFTI ( Satyajit Ray Film and Television Institute ) entrance exam. Lucky dog! The forms have not been announced and were about to be offered sometime soon (the exam was postponed else it would have been around FTII’s ) . Thus began my journey of appearing for the entrance and making it through.
Enough flattering and buttering of words and emotions. Lets get down to business. Which is to give you guys a clear picture on the whole process of selection. I am sure everyone knows how to fetch a form and get an admit card so wont waste my time over it and go straight to the exam details.
Stage -1 ( Written)
2 papers. One tests you on Arts and culture and people of India. The other is a creative test as per your applied discipline(direction & screenplay, cinematography,editing, sound design).
Paper 1: A&C&P of India (100 marks, 1 hour)
You ought to have a some idea on the roots of arts and culture primarily. Like knowing the various forms of art and folk forms that thrives in our country. From painting to sculpture to theatre to handicrafts, you name it, they have it on that paper. The good part is, its a multiple choice question paper. Questions like who has written this book, what is the form of theatre known as in West Bengal, amongst the shown paintings which one is this and which one is that… things like that.
Paper 2: Course Specific ( 100 marks, 1.5 hours)
I had applied for direction and screenplay ( sorry as I don’t know jack shit on what they asked for the other 3). Basically 4 questions. 25 marks each.
a) A given synopsis which has to be described as how you cinematically see it in 20 shots per say ( If you can wrap it up in less than 20, nothing like it)
b) which recent movie you enjoyed watching and why. Have to mention a few on credits like the director (how dumb!), cinematographer (hmmmm), screenplay (not sure) and music director (thank god I know this!)
c)Writing a sound narrative on a given situation. No dialogues or description of ‘we see…’. Just pure plain SFX to establish the space and time around that situation. The situation can be anything, one of the options I got was a kid who’s got lost on a bus stand.
d)Writing a dialogue conversation for a given scene. I wrote for a context of 2 strangers talking on the train for the first time.
Except b), every question has 2 choices to pick. And the most important thing is that they have given you a printed question answer book, so no writing beyond prescribed area. You are allowed extra sheets I guess but its advised to keep it to the printed book only.
Stage 2- Orientation program & Viva Voce
Patted my own back for clearing the first round. Umpteen beers down my belly, several miles east I travel to appear for the orientation. Entered the campus, got myself registered and did all the tam jham.
Day 1: Inspirational Talks, speeches, screening of few final year student diploma films , Checking out women, seniors & the other selected aspirants etc. After half a day, they lead you to respective departments and hereon my post becomes very specific to those who are seeking to specialise & get into direction and screenplay (you are welcome to read even if you aren’t .
20 selected students ( direction discipline) are divided into 4 groups. Each group has to name themselves and have a representative. Then the whole group will introduce themselves and others in their group. The same happens for all groups. Please don’t try your interpersonal skills overtly here. This is the first hurdle where unknowingly you might blabber some stuff which you could have kept to yourself. Choose your words wisely.
Then you got an SOP to write. Statement of purpose. Limited to a page and 30-45 mins of time. No one’s interested to read a speech. Its your life and how that journey has led you to the film school which will interest them.
Day 2: You watch a film, based on which you are asked to answer some questions. What made you like/dislike the movie. Describe the cinematic elements that you like/dislike and stuff like do you relate to the film personally or not. Then you have some chai samosa, meet seniors, smoke cigs, bitch about some chutiyas who you think are useless there.
Few yawns and then attention!! the discussion over an exercise that will transform your talking into doing (ACTION!!) starts. A camera exercise. An awesome 5some experience in my case. Its called the 3 shot exercise. Like the name suggests, every student has to shoot a film on a given topic in 3 static shots. The topic can be anything. Like freedom, indulgence, aspiration or nuisance!!
when I say 3 static shots, I mean 3 preset shots where you can do nothing with the camera (no zooms, playing with menu, trying to show off your camera skills). Your frame is static, your characters can move. But no dialogues. You can make your frame for each shot before you shoot. It has to be sequentially shot, camera edited. And yes, you can tap in sounds, but only ambient.
The exercise is assessed on the basis of a) compositional value b) plot as per theme c) team spirit and value you bring to every film in your group.
This exercise is to happen the next day and post giving the theme, the faculty will tell you to leave the room and discuss the sequential shooting order (who’s shooting which time of the day) and see the location (you can shoot anywhere within the SRFTI campus). Your team is your crew. The camera will be handled by a senior who’s an assigned cameraman to your group. Each group will have one. And yes, each student has only 1 hour to shoot. ‘Enough restrictions imposed for the day’, see you tomorrow the faculty would say smiling at you and off you go for the day.
Day 3: The 3 shot exercise
My take out from the day:
Try and build your mood with the help of the natural light setting as much as you can. Like if you have the last slot to shoot, choose a topic on the given theme that can be complemented with the surround lighting.
They say your cameraman is there to assist you. Most of us overlook the connotation and use them as mere operators. Use them as your value adds. They can help immensely for anything and everything (camera angle, light, how to cheat etc…
Please feel free to add your suggestions to others films, but not just for the sake of it. If you are desperate to earn those team brownie points, It shows.
Pack up and move out of the college. The faculty bench will assess your films overnight and will talk about it the next day in your department interview.
Day 4: Department Interview
Based on your SOP, film appreciation & 3 shot exercise, the faculty starts digging deeper into your interests. They want to know why, how, what the institute can give you. A small little discussion over your 3 shot exercise and why you chose the particular theme and stuff. They can have a candid chat on anything and everything in between as well. From the films you watch to the no of joints you smoke in a day, the questions can be specific to vague.
While this interview happens one by one, there’s a provision to watch a movie for the waiting candidates and the ones who are done with. This interview along with the other exercises are the tenets on which the faculty recommends people to a final panel of external selectors for final selection which is to take place in the next 2-3 days.
Day 5,6 – Final Interview with external jury
They already see who’s recommended and who’s not. So more or less, this is just a formal interview but an important one. Here, its just a little chit chat discussion in brief of your work and what led you to the film school and all. By this time, you’ll be comfortable enough to handle this interview. Buddhadeb Dasgupta and Sunny Joseph were there on the panel this year alongwith a psychologist, the dean and some gentleman I don’t know.
Day 8/9 – Final Results
Going by my take, the key to getting selected is to stay honest with yourself and your beliefs. They don’t want another Satyajit Ray or Ritwik Ghatak or anyone else for that matter. They are interested to see you. Your way of looking at things. Your take on life.
Mota Mota, that is what this entrance is all about. FTII would be more or less similar in terms of pattern I think.I would love to write about the campus and the life there in detail but I got a train to catch. In sometime, I will be boarding a journey that will transit me from the world I live in to the world I seek. And yes, excited I am . Hope this blabber gives you a better picture about the entrance in general.