Shranjay Arora Interview Part II: the American Experience

Shranjay Arora Interview by Jen Bush

There are many reasons why Mr. Arora wanted to come to America.  Among them, he felt that his skills and talents aligned better with the entertainment industry here.  “The Curiosity & Quest were always my fuel to creativity. I remember spending hours and hours in my childhood finding unique creative ways to do the same old thing. Growing up, I honed those skills and set myself different from the crowd. My dad once told me, “You are not made for here,” which has stayed with me. I was always rebellious growing up, constantly questioning the topics people were too scared to or did not have much to discuss. Especially growing up in India, I was always shunned or pointed fingers at when I questioned God, Religion, Culture, etc. However, I remember reading comics over comics about Indian and other mythological stories and found glaring similarities within the storytelling of hope and fear.” 

“Watching action and adventure films from the USA was my favorite pastime throughout my childhood. I still remember MASK being one of my favorite films and my feelings when I watched Men In Black. In addition, I remember reading Marvel, DC, Tin-Tin, and Asterix comic books, and a whole new world opened up to me as a kid.” 

“With science as my favorite subject growing up, I focused on figuring out life, death, myself, psychology, and human emotions. When I switched from Medicine to Filmmaking, I worked in Bollywood in India and had my international Youtube Channel with 300K+ views and 3M+ views on Facebook, Youtube, etc back in 2018. I always knew I had to reach a larger audience and connect to people from different backgrounds.” 

“I learned that Hollywood audiences consume visual content with a genuinely open mind, and I believe the stories I tell and the way I tell them is more fit for a broader, international audience. So I planned my shift to the USA with the help of my parents and made my move after gaining enough experience and confidence in my own country first. Not only using the tool of science fiction to tell stories of humanity was the appeal but also having a global platform to express that voice. After moving here, I think I made the right decision and am ready to conquer more as a filmmaker and human being.” 

The best kind of career to have is when it doesn’t feel like you’re working.  Mr. Arora finds immense joy in being a filmmaker.  “I joke to my friends who aren’t filmmakers that I get paid to still be a kid! Fake realities, tell stories, and you get to work on your creativity for your career.”

“Being a Filmmaker is not a career. It’s a lifestyle. If you are not feeding your body correctly, maintaining it, experiencing things, having hindsight, and being calm and controlled, it will be tough for one person to be a creative filmmaker.
Being a Director, DOP or editor means you must hone your creativity and use it whenever possible. Being a filmmaker requires always being creative, and a good tip I have found for that is taking risks. Getting out of your comfort zone forces you to be creative and experience new things.”

“I also like the opportunity this platform gives me. It gives my voice some weight, so it becomes my moral duty to check my ideologies and rhetorics and be mindful of every frame or every thought I put in my films.
Having loved the life of challenge and pressure and constant working on myself, being a filmmaker falls perfectly in the combo.”

“My biggest inspiration and my most enormous support have been my parents. When I wanted to change careers, my parents found it challenging but were very open to my thoughts and listened to me. They have always done what’s suitable for me and kept me in check while giving me enough freedom. I am grateful to have such parents.”

“Leonardo da Vinci was someone I looked up to as well, as he was a Polymath, and I respect that. Growing up, I had many interests, and I tried learning it all and was even questioned about what that one thing I wanted to do was.
Vinci didn’t limit himself to one art or something since he was a painter, draughtsman, engineer, scientist, theorist, sculptor, architect, father of ichnology, and much more.

He inspired me to do what I enjoy, as much as to achieve and not worry. So I always thirst to keep learning more, try new things, and grow every day.”

“In filmmaking, Hitchcock is a big inspiration due to his technical use of visuals and audio techniques in his films. From proper use of psychological maneuvers to controlling human hormone secretion through visuals while also using sounds below human hearing frequencies to evoke strange eerie feelings within his audience.” 

“I also love Edgar Wright and Matthew Vaughn’s visual language as well. They use visuals in a fast-paced momentum while using various editing tools, tricks like Jumpcuts and Luma fades or blending, and even find new creative ways to transition into the next scene.”

“Jackie Chan is another of my childhood hero and a huge stepping stone for my interest in films and my quest to become a filmmaker. All his stories are entertaining and still have messages to learn from. I still remember watching Chan’s movies with my best friend all night, and then we would try to enact them all day.”

Mr. Arora’s creative process is multi-tiered.  He is involved in every aspect of a production.  “As a science guy, I love researching, scouting, developing, and planning. However, I believe one must do all the work in the pre-production. That’s where it’s really at, the core.  My skill sets revolve around all three steps of Filmmaking/Narrative – PreProduction, Production, and Post Production and being involved in all three processes really gives you clarity about the craft. The best work comes from most of the work done in preproduction, happy accidents in production, and right choices made in post-production.”

“I always go beyond my way to be involved in the post process or give it extra time. Editing is re-directing; it allows you to see what you planned for in preproduction in contrast to what you got in production and evaluate carefully. Post-production is where you really save it or drain it. So many films have been completely changed for good and or ruined, so it is crucial for me that the editing step goes well.”

“Writing is something I have found myself struggling with the most, but when I feel stuck or lost, long cold showers help a lot or a walk in nature. If you have to get good at anything, you must do it a lot and be smart about it.” 

Embarking upon an artistic journey in a foreign country does not come without challenges.  Luckily for Mr. Arora, these challenges were minimal, and he was able to successfully navigate a life and career here.  “Coming to the USA was a long-time dream come true. And having shifted to a different place from my home was not new to me, so I knew it would come with its unique challenges. Still, to my surprise, nothing was so off the charts or different from anything I expected. Even the transition here was so smooth, and people here clearly have a different way of thinking, which is inspiring and friendly. I thought I would experience racism, but aside from the once-in-a-moment stuff, most people seem very understanding and accepting.”

“Another vast opportunity or challenge was being self-dependent completely. Since I didn’t have any connections or relatives here. For example, in India, you can hire “maids” to do most of the general household stuff, but here, that’s expensive and looked upon differently. So I finally understood and experienced the true sense of freedom the American dream talks about. Of course, just like in India, living in the US has both good and bad sides. But being here has allowed me to stand more on my ground and feel more confident and independent.”

“Another big challenge was when I had just started making connections and friends, COVID happened, and being stuck in a foreign country while there was not much to be done during the lockdown didn’t help either. Overall I think that moment impacted me and made me reflect more on myself and life, and socializing definitely became a little challenging, which is crucial for my work. It’s been a while, and things have adapted or evolved. I took my lessons and moved on, but I look at my life differently, much more grateful. “          The pandemic changed everything, and things need to change as a result of it.  “Humans will show their true nature or colors when under a critical situation, and COVID was one hell of a situation. I think it evolved people for good or bad. A lot of people came terms to with themselves, while a lot of them took to sulking. Many lost loved ones, jobs, assets, and health, while others lost their minds. I believe now that things have calmed down in the US, some people are more aware of their reality and have come to terms with it. They understand what’s more important. And without any conflict, there is no change. Even in movies, characters go through a lot of rough stuff that gives them that character arc in the end. And everybody had their moment to have that arc during the pandemic. Many people learned how to stand up for themselves. I learned the most valuable lesson to respect my body which is the temple to my soul. Things definitely have changed, and people should be more understanding of what all they went through and lost as a whole and come together to not just deny it or hide it but face it and learn from it. So if I wish anything would be different, we faced a lot of trauma together, so to balance it out, we have to come together and heal from it. There should be open group counseling and important talks that need to happen, and I plan to make something about it or comment on the topic with my following films.”          Next for this talented artist, he would like to extend his time in America.  He’s hoping to explore the studio system.  He also has some really interesting ideas for films that he would like to make.  The film he made about virtual reality called Proxy was well done.  It makes perfect sense that he has an interest in working with virtual reality game development.

“The past year I have just forced myself to gain as much experience here and there working and trying different things to collect a reputation and new skill sets to see what I might like. As this year ends, I will be applying for an O-1 visa to have more time in this country, explore and experience more, and grow as a human being. I also would like to spend the next few years experiencing the studio system and figuring out if that works for me since I respect the process of having my own time as an indie freelancer while also loving the pressure.”

“I have a few ideas and short films I want to make as a feature film proof of concept and get funding for it. The movie revolves around the idea that AIs live hidden in the society disguised as humans to monitor and manipulate them into doing their deeds, almost like Men In Black meets Matrix. Another favorite idea of mine which I am writing into a feature is “Evan & Nave,” an action feature film based on two brothers, a successful doctor and a successful engineer, coming together to perform a heist to save their friend’s life.”

 “I am also thinking of taking my next steps into Video gaming development or VR simulation creation. My aim is to be able to create VR Movies or VR games in the future. I believe that might be the next big thing.”

For a person who was able to make a short film in 48 hours, my hypothesis is, Mr. Arora will succeed in all he sets out to do.

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