Bangalore Love Story

by Tom Cowan

I was DOP on the feature SAMSKARA in India in 1969. It won a Silver Lion at Locarno and The President of India’s Award as Best Feature. It was screened in Australia at the Opera House. Over the years, I worked on a few other films in India.

I formed a partnership with Indian producers and directors and I was really keen to work with my Indian colleagues too. Of course it is a no-brainer that we should have been doing all we could to foster trade and societal bi-lateral relations with India.

After I made ORANGE LOVE STORY in 2004, an Indian partnership had seen that movie and approached me to work with them to make a similar movie set in Bengaluru. So it was to be called BANGALORE LOVE STORY.

Screen Australia couldn’t cope with the development process. It is contrary to the conventional development process.

interesting movie. It scored 3 and a half stars from David and Margaret and was deemed ‘ONE OF THE BEST AUSTRALIAN FILMS OF THE YEAR’ by Adrian Martin in The Age. It got very good audience response at the Melbourne International Film Festival and a few other festivals.


But to be fair here's a precis the Development process for BANGALORE LOVE STORY that Screen Australia couldn’t support.


LOCAL EMOTION PICTURES is a workshop production method. It promotes as much connection as possible between the story, actors and their background. The script is written from the people and their stories. Auditions are held to find people whose stories personify the place where the movie is set. Each applicant tells a personal love story which is recorded on video. The recording provides potential story material and also reveals more about the person than a conventional ‘acting’ performance. In conventional acting auditions the applicants pretend to be characters instead, we try to find the unique qualities of the person applying to be in the movie. Actors are chosen from their unique qualities and the stories they tell. For a real story set in a real place, the characters must be connected to that place.


As well as finding people with qualities that give character to the place, they (the actors) have to be willing to avoid trying to be invented characters. When actors try to represent 'characters', or give performances, it can be entertaining but it diverts us from the essential mystery of the person. To pursue that mystery, we search for the deep, hidden needs and desires of the characters. The main thing practised in the workshop by the actors is reading their partners attitudes while pursuing their own desires. This work engages the actors in analysing their hidden desires. In addition, all love stories include the tensions between the individual and society, between tradition and modernity, money and detachment, body, soul and mind, good and evil, youth and age and innocence and experience.


BANGALORE has all this in the extreme. The place is packed with vivid, comic and tragic characters rich with entertainment skills and there are brilliant locations and situations. We must celebrate this in the movie, especially any actor’s special talent and flair for entertainment. 


In the script development workshop, the chosen players work on scenes from dramatic elements found in their love stories (using improvisation). The video-ed scenes are edited (distilled) and become part of the scripting process. 'Story' is found in the people and place where the film is made. Rather than squash that into the structure of the Hollywood/Film School

manuals, we work to discover a film form in the alive stories. This involves finding the ‘VISUAL AND DRAMATIC RELATIONSHIP OF THE CHARACTERS TO THE BACKGROUND’. We develop this as a movie. In other words, this means discovering the appropriate framing, rhythmic, textural and sound juxtapositions that suit the character’s stories. The method encourages the camera operators to also go with the flow of the improvised action rather than being too premeditated. The camera needs to be alive to the flow of energy between the actors and to the changing relationships of the characters to their locality. 


Capturing images is only part of film-making, but for me, preparing to capture those authentic impulsive moments of courage and humour is crucial. The whole production process is a way of setting up and capturing those decisive moments.


Scheduling the movie is easy because everyone knows where they are in the story


Editing: A good editor should participate early in the process in order to discover and practise the individual filmic style of the movie. And a generous amount of editing time is needed to arrange that mosaic. A huge benefit in production would be re-shooting. That would be encouraged by a good editor involved in the whole workshop process.


Some background: We (audiences) are engaged by what is inimitable about people on the screen. And a visual story can be found in the TENSION BETWEEN THE FOREGROUND PERSON AND THEIR BACKGROUND and we can explore that story in

the movie. This naturally results in dealing with the SOCIAL CONDITIONS of the place where we are filming. Real social issues are exposed through this way of depicting the characters.


These issues generate real emotions. The question is: what is the best way to capture genuine and spontaneous moments? Most of the actor’s preparation is done to achieve an unselfconsciousness (forgetting of themselves) while they strive for their desires. Preparing actors through scene analysis and practice, through ‘Practical Aesthetics’, is a good way to achieve those moments of truth with actors. When the crew is also technically well-prepared and committed enough, we will be filming at that moment. 


We want to capture something authentic about our lives to depict the story of people's true desires in relation to the community and conditions where they live.


Exhibiting the Movie: Screenings will initially be at grass-roots venues in keeping with the integral nature of the production and maintaining connection with the community.


OK, there's a bit more to it than that but I proved that it is a valid process. I did a great job complying with the tortuous Screen Australia development application process. I included the excellent credentials of my Indian partners.

You can see above some stills from the preparation.


Some bozo at Screen Australia knocked it back.




Published March 27, 2018. © Tom Cowan, March 2018