Sumudu Malalagama was very young when Titanic came out. She probably never danced the macarena but she is of today all set to storm the Srilankan film scene. Unlike many of her friends she wants to focus on producing, a promising feat in itself.
Following her time at the Busan Film Festival’s Asian Film School, Sumudu has keenly been developing a few ‘secret’ projects. Her focus is on building a body of work that represent her and the world she calls home. Equally intrigued by the value of being an Asian telling stories today, Sumudu talks about herself, her experiences at Busan and how more filmmakers should take the next step.
Sumudu graduated from the Busan Film Festival’s Asian Film School in 2017. Before that she was an alumni of the Srilankan Digital Film Academy, the island nations only school with a film related program. When not producing, Sumudu is making new friends, busy finding new stories that inspire her and is very very active.
Here’s what she had to say.
How do you see the the Sri Lankan film industry today?
Sri Lankan cinema industry had a golden era and which was challenged by the 30 years of war. Veteran film directors like Vimukthi Jayasundara, Ashoka Handagama, Prasanna Vithanage lifted Sri Lankan cinema into a different stage and from then onwards Sri Lanka has an art house film culture which runs in the international film festival pipeline.
After that generation, we have a newborn cult who is interested in filmmaking especially experimental films. We have talents, stories, creative people.
Our government and Film Corporation need to do more to the film industry soon and I believe there will be a future soon.
What do you think are the roles of young producers to make cinema more accessible for young film makers ?
As Asians we have more stories to be told, more stories to share with the world cinema. I believe as young producers we have more power in this medium now. I think it is the core duty of upcoming producers – finding the most influential, important storyline. The moment you feel confident about your story is the moment you can see directly to the audiences eye. I believe in that.
In Asia, we seem to lack producers who practice in industry standards. I suggest all young filmmakers and upcoming Directors and creative people stand on the ground, trust your gut feelings and, write every day and stick to it. A way to move forward is to try applying to more festivals. The more you stay active the more you get.
Are there enough infrastructures available for young producers to explore their skills?
In European countries, I believe there is but for Asians, we need more opportunities.
There are special training programmes offered by international film festivals and anyone can apply to these with their prior work. If you have a good profile it will be an additional qualification. Busan International Film Festival, Busan Asian Film School, Locarno Open Doors (2016-2018) have guided programmes, Berlinale Talents are few other names I can suggest if anyone would like to follow up a structured session to learn more about producing.
But to explore your skills you need to roam and you need to be yourself and understand people and how the industry works. Talk to professionals who are not from the digital era. They know how hard it was to plan everything on paper and how hard it was to keep the strings together. We are born in a generation which makes our lives easier and which makes us lazy. There are so many places out there to power up your skills and creativity.
Tell us about your AFI experience.
Busan Asian Film School was initiated in 2016 By Busan International Film Festival Deputy Director and Programmer Late Mr. Jiseok Kim and Director of Busan Film Commission and President of AFCNet Mr. ChoiYoon to start a network among Asian producers. The school focuses on producing and international film business and it has the best instructors and mentors who guided us on all aspects of the film industry, including pitching projects, production, and leading into investment. Especially I need to mention the lectures HAN Sunhee, KIM Young, Darcy Paquet, Joyce CHO and their support and guidance throughout the sessions.
I learn film producing and International Film Business with 20 film producers from 17 Asian countries and that is a wonderful experience and I am really grateful I got selected for it. Further my project got selected to Asian Film Market in Busan International Film Festival 2017 and it was my first public pitching experience, which was a real challenge.
The experience and the cultural sharing among 17 countries were so much interesting and that was a memory to cherish.
Apart from these people I met number of young Asian filmmakers during the Busan International Film Festival 2017 and I believe there is a long way to go with these amazing filmmakers. Together as Asians, we have to go to the world cinema and that’s what we planned.
Tell us about your new plans and projects in specific that you would want us to know about.
The project I developed at the Asian Film School is my main priority at this moment. I received a development grant during the AFIS pitch – Busan Film Festival 2017 and these days I am using my time and effort to get the maximum of it. At the same time, I am working with few Sri Lankan and international filmmakers these days. We simply read our scripts as a group and study each other’s works. Because we believe the much we work together with the longer we can go.
We have been told you are working with a ‘lot of new talents’ in Sri Lanka at the moment, how is this going – please tell us more about the new vibe in Colombo.
Sri Lanka has new blood and I am sharing the knowledge I received from the Asian Film School with them and at the same time, I am learning a lot from them. Simple there will be a total different cult for film very soon.
Festivals often support alumni filmmakers, Can you please add more on how this works with Busan.
I believe the talent and the effort of the filmmaker and the passion of the filmmaker and how honest are you to the story is the key point to the festivals. Being from the alumni is an additional qualification I must say. But the newness of your concept, the creativity of the story, keeping the originality of your country or the region and a serene and the pureness of the filmmaker will lead the filmmaker and the producers and the film to the audience.
All Photos provided by Sumudu Malalagama.
Text by Anushruti Adhikari.