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Photo courtesy Mehtab Brar

Independent student filmmaker Mehtab Brar shares personal experiences and advice for newbies in the field

By Cristina Paolozzi, April 26 2022—

The film industry in Calgary is taking off, and offering new opportunities to people in Alberta. While the big Hollywood blockbusters can be seen slowly entering the Calgary area, the independent film scene has always been a part of the city’s community, finding underground festivals or projects to create and unique stories to tell. 

However, for people interested in starting out in the film industry, it can be challenging to know where to begin, even with all the emerging opportunities Calgary has to offer. 

University of Calgary student Mehtab Brar is currently studying political science but is also an independent filmmaker and stand-up comedian. He says that he’s been a part of the film scene in the city since he was a child, and that his family is a huge part of how he started growing up with film. 

In an interview with the Gauntlet, Brar spoke about how he has been working on his first feature film and gave some advice for people who want to get started. 

Brar’s family moved to Canada from India and immediately began creating a TV show, which gained national popularity. Titled Aaghaaz, Brar says that he even managed to get a segment on the show when he got older. Being around the film industry for most of his life, Brar says that he wanted to take filmmaking more seriously, and recently had the premiere of one of his short films at the Globe Cinema on April 24.

He is currently working on his first feature film, which he started writing when he was in grade 11 for fun. 

“I started writing it years ago,” he says. “It’s evolved so much. It started off as a really depressing drama, and I’m like, ‘You know what? No, I’m a comedian, I need this to be somewhat funny.’ We started filming last year and now we’re restarting filming because I rewrote the entire thing over Christmas.” 

Brar says he will probably start filming again this week, attempting to craft the tweaks he made to the script on film. 

The feature film is called The Striped Cat and follows the story of a budding romance between a man and woman. The man eventually loses the woman and he spirals into a depression he hopes to cure by working as a park ranger. 

While Brar explained that the process of creating a film can take lots of revision and re-examination, he says that one of the most difficult things about creating a feature film is just how long it takes. He also mentioned how much he is inspired by events in his everyday life when writing a script. 

“I can usually get done filming short films in maybe a couple of days, and I’m used to editing fast,” he says. “I also realized that my writing is really dependent on my personal life — I like to write my experiences.” 

Brar also says that part of the film process is being able to market yourself and your projects successfully. He says that making deals and setting up collaborations with local businesses is a great way to advertise your creative passions as well as showcase other local talents. 

Brar says you can also connect with the community by signing up for local film festivals. The 48-hour Movie Making Challenge is a project created by the Calgary Underground Film Festival (CUFF) and has partnered with the U of C’s NUTV this year. 

Brar spoke about how stressful this challenge is, and how this tight schedule forces you to focus and pay attention to even the smallest details. 

“It’s a big learning experience,” he says. “I like to rewatch a single scene a billion times before I move on to editing the next thing. Because of the short time, I was editing all day from 4 a.m. to 9 a.m.” 

Brar also says that when it comes to young filmmakers who are just getting into the industry, not to sweat the small stuff. Typically, creatives are their own worst enemy, and he shares that if you’re happy with the way your projects have turned out, that should be enough. 

He also shares that if there are some people out there nervous about where to find their start, to pick up a camera and just shoot something. 

“The main thing is to just start recording, and eventually you learn as you go,” Brar says. “Always try to learn something new when you’re filming something or just learn from someone who’s better than you.” 

To check out more of Mehtab Brar and his work, check out his Linktree online.  

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