Interview with Shahid Kamal (Cinnamon – Short Film)
There are films that make such a strong impression on you that it stays there in your head for quite a long time.
Shahid Kamal’s Cinnamon is a story of a newly elected mayor who comes from a family where his dad was verbally and physically abusive to his mom. He is waiting to go on a chat show. On the chat show, he ends up saying good things about his dad. The story shows psychological effects of domestic violence on a person.
After getting nominated for Best Director, Best Actor (Male) & Best Editing at Short of the Month’s June Online Short Film Festival, Indie Shorts Mag team interviewed the talented director of Cinnamon. Here’s what he has to say about his grippy drama – Cinnamon.
Abusive dad and a twist in the end makes this film a must watch. Shahid, how’d you come up with such an idea? What was the inspiration behind this story?
I am a doctor by profession and the inspiration comes from my psychiatry rotation. The twist in the end reflects what a traumatized mind can do. It also gets the audience thinking.
They say that half of your film is complete if you cast just the right actors, how does it feel like when working with experienced actors like David Sandercock who delivers a powerful performance in the film also got nominated for ‘Best Actor’ award at Short of the Month’s June Online Short Film Festival? Does it make you a little nervous while directing them? What were your key inputs to him?
You are absolutely right. David Sandercock was an amazing actor to work with. His experience didn’t make me nervous at all; in fact it gave me more confidence as a director to work with such a refined actor and make an entertaining film in the end. Although I loved his acting throughout, but I really liked his performance in the last scene-that of giving milk to his dad in the cellar. I needed contradictory emotions from him-that of hatred/revenge (and a need to punish his dad) and sadness (he would wish that he never had to do that). I thought he acted exactly the right mix of emotions in this scene. My key input was my support, friendly yet, professional attitude and clarity of direction, as in what I exactly wanted from him in different scenes in the film.
What was the casting process for this film, if you can share us your experience on that?
We received many applications. I relied a lot on actor’s show reels and I was lucky to find most of my cast through this method. One of the most interesting auditions was for the role of Harry (Abusive Dad). After intensive scrutiny of at least hundred show reels, I originally liked one actor, but unfortunately he lived in Switzerland and we were not in a position to pay for his travel and accommodation. Then after, I found another actor who, on the first day of rehearsal told me that he had booked a holiday on the day of the shoot. I had to then re advertise and again after going through many show reels, I liked one guy who was in the show reel of another applicant. I was pleasantly surprised that when I contacted the applicant asking for details of his co-actor, he did not mind it at all and got back to me almost immediately. That co-actor turned out to be Steve, who I finally managed to contact and he happily agreed for the role. The other challenging bit was casting the child actor. I had no previous experience with working with children. During the audition, I asked children to get a cup of milk from the kitchen and offer it to their parent. I am glad I was able to cast the right actor in the end with the help of my team.
My favorite part of the film was the last scene of the film. What is that one thing that you like the most about “Cinnamon”?
The one thing I love is the scene where his dad was about to slap his mom and for the first time he gets the courage to stop his dad. When our composer was making the music, he came up with the idea of combining Bach music (Which was used in first flashback) and string music (used at the present time). It created the exact build up of emotions that I was looking for, just before the final scene.
You’ve earlier directed a film “Bonjour”. How different are these two films from each other in terms of your approach in directing them?
I am currently finishing Bonjour. These two films are really different from each other. While Cinnamon is a serious drama, Bonjour is a lighthearted film about a little two-year-old girl who wants to make friendship with a two-year-old boy. Directing Bonjour was a challenge as the kids were around 18 months of age at the time of filming and I had to take a lot of help from their parents. Their parents would make them do certain things for me, which would sometimes be random, and I had to then be opportunistic to choose the take with required emotions, so I could use them to tell the story.
Shahid, it was a well written drama with a perfect required twist at the end. Well to end this, when can we expect another short film from you and your team?
Well, thank you for the compliments and I am really glad you liked Cinnamon. We should be ready with Bonjour within a month or two and I would love to submit Bonjour to your film festival. We have decided to change its name to ‘It’s a kid’s movie’, We are really looking forward to see the audience response to ‘It’s a Kid’s movie’.
We would like to thank Shahid for doing this interview and wish him all the luck and success for his new venture “Bonjour”.