/Interview by Alika Gasimova/
Fahad Khan is the director from Pakistan. He shared his opinion on the topic of loneliness in the world of social media. His film ‘I Am Home’ reveals the idea of our inner demons which we hide and don’t accept in ourselves. Fahad told his story of becoming a director and showed his view on cinematography in Pakistan.
As I looked it up you are the visual effects artist turned director and at the same time, you are the founder and the CEO of Blunt Digital. How did you come to this idea of creating a company?
I started early. I was born and raised in Dubai, in Abu Dhabi in the UAE.
It’s a big culture shock when you change the place of living. At first, it was difficult in Pakistan to understand what the dynamics of the city and the norms of the country are. It was a different world. My dad was a painter. He is also an automobile engineer, but his hobbies lie in abstract paint. I kiked watching him. Then like at the age of 16 I was in situations where I had to be the elder of the house and go get a job or something. I had to get on the feet really quickly. That’s how it all started basically. The only thing I knew was how to draw and I just started doing internships at places. I started as a web designer. People in Pakistan told me that this is not an actual field and they thought that anybody who dives into this is stupid and that I shouldn’t be doing it. They didn’t respect animators.
I enrolled at the university and started to study animation. I went through some basic studies like anatomy. I was doing a job trying to do studies and also trying to do the practice. It was a little hard to balance and juggle so many things at the same time. I just skipped university and started the whole self route like self-learning. It’s been 21 years now doing this as a profession.
I started off as a visual effects artist and then I did visual effects for a number of Hollywood pictures as a freelancer. I worked in a lot of companies as a creative director, as the vice-president. The self-learning journey is always the harder one and you find a lot of people that don’t believe in what you do. You are kind of alone. You need to keep the belief in yourself. There are going to be naysayers at any given time and they will always try to put you down, say that this is shit what you are doing, whatever you making is crap. I guess every artist has to go through those struggles. And I did the same way. It was a little harder without any support because people from the industry would not also support newcomers. That’s kind of a bummer. Now the world has changed. Having festivals and all these kinds of things where people show their craft. A lot of universities support filmmakers.
One day I just left my job. My boss loved me at that time and I just went to him and told him ‘I can’t do this anymore. It’s a great place and I love working here but it’s not something that I want. I’ve been doing this for so long. I want to do my own thing.’
The company started very small. Just me and nobody else. Although at the forefront it was a company at the start it was just me trying to connect each wire and trying to get everything done. So we grew over the years. We’ve been going strong and we’ve set up in Dubai as well recently. We are purely based in Pakistan. We’ve got around 20 artists that are working with us and we’re just moving forward. We provide all the postproduction services.
Where did you find support?
I had discussed this with my Dad once. I’ve done visual effects for so long and now I felt that I have a company that is capable enough to keep on doing that. I feel that the artist’s exploration part is kind of dying if you keep on doing the same thing over and over again. I trust my team a lot and they came up with these great solutions to do all of this. For me, film has always been the ultimate content. I wanted to do that for so long and I never felt the kind of confidence to ever go through with it. It’s always kind of scary if you see all this great work out there. Artists are usually pretty self-critical about themselves. My Dad said that you’ve craved this idea for so long and why don’t you go for it. I had no intentions to like ever getting an award or even completing it, to be honest. I just tried it out to see what happens. There’s no harm in trying.
Would you call the topic of demons applied only to artists or is it relative to everyone?
I could’ve given a different answer if this was a year back like in 2019. But now the world has changed with covid and everything that’s happened. I think this film relates to a lot of people in a very different way because of the way I imagined it and the way I made it. This was made at a time when covid didn’t even happen and didn’t exist. This started in 2019 and we released it after late 2020. It just blew up after that. When this thing became real so many people asked me if this is a covid film. It relates to people more in the current situation. Now I’m thinking of a completely different meaning than it was supposed to be. As an artist, I would never want to do a cheap stunt where you see the world going through an epidemic and you just want to catch that out as a business. That is not for me. It took the life of its own.
By which criteria did you pick the actors?
That’s an interesting story. The name of the main actor is Tabre. A lot of people don’t know about him. He’s wanted to act for more than 15 years. He’s tried so hard but nobody ever came in. He’s a doctor by profession and I got to meet this guy through my partner. I met him and he was a very chill kind of dude and he didn’t look like a doctor in any possible way. He’s a chiropractor by the way and a pretty good one. So I met him for the first time and we went through a couple of things and I saw his passion for films. We had these three hours long conversation and he was just talking about films. I realised that this was the guy I want to work with. We shot for 48 hours straight for two days once. He kept going with us 48 hours without even a nap for an hour. That is the level of passion he had. My crew is my backbone. I’m blessed to have a team that they trust. You can just feel blessed that people like the way you work and they trust your vision.
Could you tell me about which challenges did you face during filming?
Oh, I don’t know even where to start. There were so many challenges. We searched for a place that will not look too modern and not very old at the same time. The house needed to have some monotony to it. When I found the place I understood it is the one. We just needed to change a couple of places. The fun part is that there was a family living there. So we relocated them to another space for the time when we were shooting. The challenge was that it was a family apartment so it was kind of decorated and rigged that way. There was a room for kids with ‘A, B, C, D’ and stuff written. There was no way of hiding that from the camera. We tried to play with lighting and we tried to move things around the house. The space was also an issue because I wanted to do these wide and broad moves but we didn’t have that much longevity to pull it off. Plus we had a 20 man crew. My whole crew used to be shifting with the camera as the camera was moving. So everybody had to constantly be behind the camera. We had a lot of mess-ups because somebody would just come in between or somebody’s arm would kind of pop in.
How do you explain the relevance of Bollywood-like films in Pakistan?
The only people to blame are not the filmmakers and not the producers and not the government. It is other people. If you want to change either start doing it or stop seeing it, stop supporting that kind of cinema. I feel that there’s a certain type of filmmaker. They probably invented this style, the Indian style of cinema or you can say the Pakistani style of cinema. There is also this target industry and these other industries will also do the same thing. But somebody brought this new style of cinema. If it did great with the business and then over the years people started to replicate the same thing template and it worked out. I don’t think this was ever initiated by the government because our government is pretty open about going ahead. So they would always support good content. Producers are the people that firstly will obviously get your film off the ground. Even the smallest film is expensive. Unless you are doing an indie film and you have a camera and shoot it yourself. This is real lifestyle filmmaking. If you want to make a film you need a budget. There always will be the people that are going to take to make the same kind of film again and again.
I love all films of Kubrick and Scorsese or Ridley Scott . People would talk about it but they would never do something about it. They would still go to that same love story which is in the theatre. Even if you have Alfred Hitchcock in the cinema right next to it people would still go and watch that has the music and the dance. The audience makes the film and the audience makes the content. It is the king for content. They don’t stop themselves. 80% of the audience still want that.
How do you see the influence of social media on the communication between people and on personal demons?
Social media is the demon itself. There are some things that you feel good about with technology growing like the ability to have this conversation right now. To me, even today is magic like how we do it just by clicking the button and it happens. But as to the rest of it, I believe that social media controls lives and friendships, relationships. It is like the episode of ‘Black Mirror’ I watched once. I feel like that is coming. I wouldn’t be surprised if in the next 15 years I would get to see people giving scores to people on their faces like in that episode. Social media has taught people how to pose and how to be the avatar of themselves.
There used to be this school bullying thing. I think everybody’s gone through school bullying, I have. But now there is social media bullying. I feel that bigger entities organizations, huge directors or filmmakers, even people at that scale are not safe. Any random dude can get up in the morning, brush his teeth without even making his coffee, and could just put a post on Twitter regarding some company, and then that company is in question. I don’t see a way of that ever-changing. I just see it is probably going to get worse as it goes.
You mentioned that we all have to agree that we have our personal demons. What do we have to do with them?
I think that’s the challenge of life. If you overcome that part you can be whatever you want to be. But if you get consumed by it then you shouldn’t complain to anybody because you couldn’t find it. Even the sanest people have the craziest insane ideas or insanity going on. That is the demon inside you. You need to learn how to tame it and control it, take it out when it’s necessary. You put it on a leash, that’s what important. If you don’t put it on a leash it is going to go crazy. You probably will never get organized, you’ll never get self-disciplined or you will never be able to learn anything. For me the biggest thing is not growing up and earning money, getting fame. Things happen for a reason. Stay as humble as possible because no matter how good you are there’s gonna be somebody who’s better than you. The day you start thinking you are the best that is the day you start falling. That’s how I believe that. That is something I learnt from my Dad very early and I’ve always kept it in my head ever since. Those demons have to be solved and fought with before you even move on or move on to something better.