Shot on a backpacking trip, Simon Mulvaney’s The Hand of India is an immersive trip into the his experience there. Drenched in rich colors, he narrates his trip through the faces of the people he meets and the places he sees. The Travel Video Alliance spoke to him about developing the concept for the video, his influences, and more.
How did you develop the concept for “The Hand Of India”? What drew you to telling this story?
The concept for ‘The Hand Of India’ was developed mostly in post production. I shot around 20 hours of content during a backpacking trip up the west coast of India, shooting spontaneously and sporadically along the way. During the trip, my main aim was to enjoy the experience of being in India.
I had a rough idea that I wanted to make a short, observational, visual documentary about some facets those experiences, but as to what form it would take, I was unsure. It wasn’t until post production, that I was able to examine, scrutinize and eventually, pull all of the widespread and varied themes that I felt, during my time there, into a short film.
Hopefully, if I’ve done my job right, audiences will feel the presence of those themes within the choices of sound and image, or even better, interpret their own themes and therefore, experience the film in their own, unique way.
What has your path to travel filmmaking been like? Is this your primary profession?
Most of my financial income comes from directing commercial projects in different countries around the world. In between commercials, I like to work on personal projects, in an attempt to express who I am and how I see the world, at that given moment in time. ‘Travel filmmaking’ was simply born out of a love for experiencing cultures and societies that are different from the one that I was raised in and an uncontrollable desire to capture and narrate what’s around me. When I’m traveling, I tend to make films about the places I find myself in; but when I’m not traveling, other things spark my interest too.
What is the process of working with brands like for you? How do you balance your creative sensibilities with their goals?
For me, when working with brands, collaboration is key. It’s important to remember that as a filmmaker, you have been approached because an agency has seen something in your personal work, that they feel reflect the ideals of the brand. The challenge is marrying the commercial aims of the brand, with the ethics and ideals of the filmmaker, in order to provide the brand with the type of film that they came to the filmmaker for.
In my case, my favorite projects to work on are authentic, story-driven and ethically balanced. I’m lucky enough to have a relatively high number of commercial opportunities, so I’m careful to only take on projects that adhere most or all of those criteria. This ensures that the brand is getting the best out of me and we’re all creating something we can be proud of.
What other art / film / etc. has influenced your filmmaking?
Everything, both exciting and monotonous, influences everybody, in everything we do. If I was to draw a few names off the top of my head, I’d mention Alejandro González Iñárritu, Eliot Rausch and Leonardo Dalessandri. All are phenomenal (and in my opinion) pioneering filmmakers within their own, specific mediums and all represent a small slice of what I am trying to achieve with my own work.
What challenges have you encountered as a travel filmmaker / filmmaker?
The main challenge, for me, when it comes to travel filmmaking, is working in isolation. When I’m working on non-travel related projects, I love having other people around me to collaborate with. The reality of travel filmmaking (at least in my experience), is the it can sometimes be a lonely craft. Don’t get me wrong, there is beauty and liberation to be found in that loneliness, but there can also be self examination and doubt. Having others around you, enables you to see things that you may have been too close to the project yourself, to see. Luckily, I have a wide friendship group of talented filmmakers, who are always sharing projects for criticism and feedback, before the projects are released, which helps a lot.
What piece of advice would you give to other filmmakers looking to break into the industry?
For years, I didn’t shoot many passion projects because I was always waiting for an idea or script to be perfect before I began production. I spent a lot of time blaming external things for the fact that I wasn’t making many passion projects – I didn’t have enough budget, I couldn’t build a crew etc. As a human being, you improve every day, in everything you do, so pursuing ‘perfection’ in any way is near impossible, as your idea of what perfection is changes moment to moment.
So in 2016, I decided I was no longer going to aim for perfection in my films; I was just going to make films. If I made a bad one, I was ok with that. I’d just try to make a better one next time. This attitude is what lead me to pick up a little prosumer camera and actually go out and make things for myself, actually leading me to make some of the best films I’ve ever made! My advice would be – don’t wait for it to be perfect, do it while it’s imperfect and maybe somebody else will see perfection in it.