Today, we have the privilege of sitting down with Mr. Jude Peter Damian, a Fellow Chartered Accountant with an illustrious career spanning over three decades in the corporate world. What sets Mr. Damian apart is his remarkable transition into the world of filmmaking. He completed a course in Film Direction at the prestigious LV Prasad Film & TV Academy in Chennai and has already achieved significant success with his first short film, “SHASHTHI,” and another short film, “SARAS.” Thank you for joining us today, Mr. Damian.
1.- Tell us about your journey from a seasoned Chartered Accountant to a filmmaker. What inspired this transition?
Chartered Accountancy (CA) profession is one of the highly respected professions and its exams are considered to be arguably the toughest in India. While my passion for making films was always there, I waited for the right time to step into this field, which took over 3 decades. In this world everyone waits for something / someone, only the wait time differs. For some the wait time is short, for some the wait is long and for some the wait is forever. I’m happy that my wait has not been forever.
2.- You have a remarkable educational background and extensive experience as a Chartered Accountant. How has your background in finance influenced your approach to filmmaking?
Directing a film requires not only the skill in the art of film direction, but it also requires knowledge in various other crafts of film making and managerial skills in coordinating with various people including the cast & crew members and getting what you visualize done. My CA background has unequivocally helped me in the later part of the said required skills.
3.- “SHASHTHI” is your debut short film. Can you give us a brief overview of the film’s storyline and what inspired you to create it?
SHASHTHI is just a half an hour movie and its storyline is: “As more knowledge, under different circumstances, change perceptions, the perception about Devi, a woman from an economically weaker background, too changes to the extent that she is equated to “Shashthi”, a Goddess of Children.”
The movie also conveys certain other messages including the following:
– One need not be rich to do great things;
– One need not necessarily be poor to have a large heart;
– Adoption of a child can do great things to the society; an example shown in the movie is “Christmas is also about Joseph adopting Jesus as his son”.
My inspiration to make films comes only out of my own experiences, though I have learned the art of film making from various sources including a film Institute. I should mention here that I have been fortunate enough to undergo many tough experiences throughout my life, some of them were due to certain unfortunate events during my childhood and some of them were caused by a few adversaries, which always made me stronger and to work harder.
4.- Congratulations on the incredible success of “SHASHTHI.” What was the most challenging aspect of writing, directing, and producing “SHASHTHI,” especially as a newcomer to the film industry?
Thank you for your wishes.
Of course, writing, directing and producing a film, that too a debut film, is generally a very challenging one. But I would say that making the first film is not as challenging for a person who’s in his 50s as compared to a person who’s in his 20s. Further, many skilled and experienced cast & crew consented to be part of the film and gave their best, despite this being my debut film. My decades of corporate experience helped me in planning & executing the job easily. On top of it, I liked what I was doing, which made a huge difference.
5.- Your latest film, “SARAS,” was created with the intention of submitting it to the Cannes Film Festival. Can you tell us about the inspiration behind this project?
The name SARAS is a short name for Saraswathy. In Indian context, Saraswathy means Goddess of Education. It may be pertinent to mention here that SHASHTHI, the title of my first film, means Goddess of Children.
The story line of SARAS is “Saraswathy, a woman from a backward community, aspires her son to pursue higher education from World class Institute and nothing, whether it is her economically weaker background or her loss of her husband, stops her from working towards it.”
The film SARAS was made a few months ago, primarily for the purpose of submitting it to the Cannes Film Festival in 2023. The film’s duration is only 15 minutes, as the maximum duration of a short film for submission to the festival, is not to exceed 15 minutes. But the film that was accepted for the competition was not (Officially) selected for screening in the festival. Though the result was not wholly unexpected, it was & is quite embarrassing indeed. But that has made me realize that I need to learn more about the Art of Cinema, some of the latest technologies being used in film making and expectations of viewers / juries of top Film Festivals, particularly from the West and am now learning to bridge / narrow the gap. I’m happy to say that I’m better prepared today than what I was a few months ago and will continue to do so for some more time.
6.- Both “SHASHTHI” and “SARAS” were written, directed, and produced by you. How do you balance these various roles, and what challenges do you face as a filmmaker wearing multiple hats?
Honestly, I didn’t, nor do I now find doing the said multiple tasks of writing, directing and producing that challenging. That said, I can’t deny the fact that financing film is a constraint factor. If you ask me whether I could do tasks in addition to the above three tasks, simultaneously in a film, my answer will most likely be different. For example, now I’m doing a short-term course in Cinematography. I’m doing this only for a better understanding of visual presentation and to keep that in mind while writing screenplay for films that I’ll make. This is not intended for me to play the role of a DoP, as I feel that would be like me biting more than what I can chew.
7.- As someone who has experienced success in two very different industries, what advice do you have for individuals looking to make significant career transitions?
Thank you for rating my performances in the two different fields as success. But I guess I’m yet to experience success both in my CA profession as well as in movies.
I would consider myself as a person who has, so far, done his job reasonably well and sincerely. I prefer to answer your question slightly differently. Rather than calling it a career transition, I consider this as a wait for over 30 years to step into the film Industry. As a career in the film industry is an uncertain one, the success rate is too low and those who succeed, succeed only after many years of hard work. It is necessary to have financial stability, at least at the beginning of the career in the film profession. Many people might have a different view on this saying pursue your passion and rest will fall in place. But I’m of the view that responsibility & survival come first, pursuing passion comes next.
8.- What can we expect from you in the future? Are there any upcoming projects or ideas you’d like to share with your audience?
Entry into Oscar 2025 (97th Academy Award) is my next objective. In between, I’ll do a film (again) for the Cannes 2024 Festival.
If a producer approaches me to do a feature film, I’ll happily do it. My preference is to make an Indian film with international standards targeting a global audience including Indian audience.
9.- In closing, what message or inspiration would you like to convey to aspiring filmmakers who may be hesitant to pursue their passion due to unconventional career backgrounds?
In my part of the world, a lot of people have the passion / dreams to enter into the film industry.
I appreciate aspiring filmmakers for their passion, as film making requires relatively more knowledge on the art & managerial skills compared to other functions in film making, say acting.
For all the aspiring filmmakers, I would say that follow your heart; but never lose your rational mind in the journey. Here, a rational mind is mostly about financial security.
10.- Thanks for being with us today, Mr. Jude. Your journey and aspirations as a filmmaker are truly inspiring. It has been a great pleasure having you as a guest for this FilmmakerLife Interview. Would you like to dedicate your recent wins to someone in particular?
Certainly, it was my pleasure. I understand how much effort you have put in to raise these well prepared & brilliant questions.
Generally, I reciprocate appropriately to anyone who helps me. But I have not been able to do the same to one such person and the person is not an individual, to whom I would like to dedicate the recent wins.
The film SHASHTHI has won 70+ awards from 35+ International Film Festivals and the film SARAS has so far won 70+ awards from 20+ International Film Festivals. The person to whom I dedicate these awards is Bishop’s House, Catholic Diocese of Kottar in Tamilnadu, India, who helped me during my school and college days. Thank you very much for asking me this question.
Thank you once again.
Thank you, Mr. Jude Peter Damian, for sharing your remarkable journey and insights with us today. We look forward to witnessing your continued success in both the world of finance and the world of filmmaking.