From Wedding Photography, How We Started a Documentary Filmmaking Brand

From Wedding Photography, How We Started a Documentary Filmmaking Brand

What we do in our free time is often connected to our innate passion. Such one random act of passion led us to launch a social documentary filmmaking brand. A lot of us, especially wedding photographers, have this bandwidth of free time where we are not shooting any weddings. In this off-season, do the things we do sum up to make a difference? This post is about how we chose to make short social documentary films and how transforming the experience was on the whole.

The Art of Questioning

After being in wedding photography for seven years, the biggest earning for us is the team that I built over the time. With all the collective skills acquired, “What good can we give back to this society?” was the question we always asked ourselves constantly. This act of questioning is very important for all of us in the journey that we take. In our own ways we do contribute to making this world better and interesting, but what more can we do? As a team, this question was always there and we stayed with an open mind to embrace the chances we got. That’s where it all started.
 

The Act of an Opportunity Knocking at the Door  

Like I said, during the off-season when we were not shooting any weddings, we were looking to do something interesting. It was then we got this random email about a short documentary film contest for a social change. The challenging part of it was that we would be mailed a topic on the contest day and we were supposed to craft a short three-minute documentary within the next 100 hours. We were excited and took up the challenge. Our topic was the "random act of kindness."  We went ahead and made a film. There were 500,000 entries for the contest. Eventually, our film went on to win a national level award in the contest. Watch that three-minute film below.


The Transforming Experience

So this film was about a camera mechanic who had the habit of feeding parrots on his terrace. Fewer than 10 parrots kept frequenting. What started as a hobby soon turned out to be his passion. For 17 years in a row, he kept feeding parrots, every day morning and evening. Then, something phenomenal happened. Today, around 3,000 to 4,000 parrots visit his terrace and it is quite a feat of kindness that his action exhibits. When we shot this film, more than storytellers, as fellow human beings our approach towards life changed. A small part of us stood changed at the end of the 100-hour-challenge. Also, the person on whom we shot the film went on to win national-level laurels and cash awards. This was a real change happening.

Passion Partnered with Purpose

We wanted to make more of these films and bring the extraordinary unsung heroes around us to the limelight. Thus, Big Short Films was born, a social short filmmaking brand aimed to document and spread positivity. What started as a random act of passion soon turned out to be our obsession. We went on to make 17 short social documentary  films in one year and are still going strong. We don’t have a corporate back up for these films and there are no monetary motives we hold, but yes, the fulfilling feel that we get when we see the change that each of these films makes is profound. That keeps us going. Each of these films we make is around 180 seconds and there is a reason why we keep it short. We’ll talk about it in a separate post how they have the power to transform lives tangibly.

Looking back at how the dots connected, one can summarize the journey to these points below.

  1. Make the best use of the free time in hand. Yes, this might sound trivial but trust me, in the long run, it is always these little things we do, the extra mile we stretch and the efforts we put in unconditionally that adds up to something bigger than the parts of it.
     
  2. Find what you are passionate about or what your team is passionate about, align your activities around it. It is always finding that one thing and everything else will fall in place. To us it was visual storytelling, and we fell in love with short social documentary filmmaking.
     
  3. Stay with an open mind to try out new things when an opportunity beckons. There are always silent chances that come and go in our lives but we might be too busy to notice them or might take it lightly. There is a world of possibility hidden in every chance that knocks the door and it is in our hands to rise to the occasion and make the most of it. In our case, it was that short film competition that changed everything else and here we are steering a documentary filmmaking brand with dedication.  
     
  4. Capitalize on the results of passion and see how you can tie an angle of purpose to it. Once you get hold of something passionate apart from your work, invest time and mind in it and see what best you can pull out of it. This will serve as a necessary distraction on which you can focus on when you are not working your usual routine. In a way, this helps you to stay inspired big time and perform well in the personal and professional aspects of your life.  


Thanks to my amazing team who shared the vision of making films for a better cause. It worked for us. It might work for you too depending on the area that you are interested in. Especially wedding photographers who have the luxury of staying put for a season of the year, such interesting pet projects can shoot up to something bigger down the line. You can watch the short films we have made in our Big Short Films YouTube channel. They are all quick three-minute films. Give it a watch and let us know what you think. Comment your thoughts on how we can make this project bigger, so we can spread more positivity. 
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4 Comments

Elan Govan's picture

Thank you Amar.....for these heart warming stories from India. Far too often we only hear negative stories from India.

Amar Ramesh's picture

Thank you taking the time to read through, Elan Govan. True that, exactly the reason why we started Big short films. It has been a year and now we are looking to make this bigger and better but not getting the right connect where we can make such more great films with purpose. We are looking to connect to someone in BBC/CNN or any organisation where these films will find value and also, where such films are being made. Let me know if anything or anyone strikes your mind. Would be happy to connect.

Elan Govan's picture

Hi there Amar,

Thank you for your comments.

I used to live about 40 miles from Bristol, happy to pass on some details. BBC Bristol run their annual wild life photographer of the year competition from Bristol. If you can google "www.countrylife.co.uk/country-life" there is plenty of information posted online including their annual calendar.

contact details for film makers: earthnews@bbc.co.uk or write to: Director of Procurement, Earth News Room 2.55, 21/23 Whiteladies Road, MPP / Vision, BBC Bristol BS8 2LR, United Kingdom..

website: https://www.bbcstudios.com/teams/the-natural-history-unit

As I understand, BBC Bristol Production Team is responsible for some of the major wildlife programme including Blue Planet, Planet Earth and Life on Earth etc. and they have a very good understanding of deforestation and it's impact on planet earth.

Having seem so many BBC wild wife series, including Ranthambore National Park of India, Rain-forest of Borneo etc, the short film posted here strikes a similar cord.

Good luck.
Elan

Amar Ramesh's picture

Thank you for the input. Sure will see through it!