The film, which also stars his brother Ishan, won several awards at film festivals including the Cannes World Film Festival
Shihan Shoukath has always had an interest in technology and software, and even a greater passion for film, which has led to him winning multiple awards at various film festivals around the world, including the Cannes World Film Festival.
At the Cannes Film Festival meeting, directed by Shihan, won three awards; Best Actor in a Short Film for Ishan Shoukath, the lead actor who is also Shihan’s brother; Best Original Story and Best Director.
“A distraught 811 call center worker navigates the connection of grieving callers amid another disturbing day of revelations — and discoveries,” reads the film’s official synopsis.
With meetingmarks Shihan’s directorial debut. Shot in one night, the film is based on years of intensive research into post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
And now the film hits UAE cinemas at VOX Cinemas Nakheel Mall from 27th to 29th October. For Shihan, who grew up in the countryside, it’s a “surreal” feeling. “Growing up with movies here in theaters and having your own work on the same big screen is a feeling I can’t describe,” he says city times. “I would say more than anything, I’m excited to see the audience’s live reactions and their perspectives and interpretations of the film.”
Shihan, who studied at DPS Dubai, moved to the US in 2012 for further studies. And after landing a job in his field of study, Shihan was back in the UAE and decided to set up his independent production agency in Dubai. He works on a nearby independent film production company and often gets ideas for characters in his films from his various experiences in Philadelphia.
Previously, he worked on micro-short films by students such as Anyone there? and TENSI 2018, which was selected by various film festivals and nominated as a finalist at the Gagarin.Doc International Student Film Festival. Shihan wants to direct a thriller and dreams of one day casting Edward Norton in it.
We speak to Shihan to learn more about his directing work. Excerpts from the interview.
You studied computer science, how did you get into filmmaking?
I’ve always been interested in technology and software since my school days in Dubai, but I’ve also loved films for as long as I can remember. I got into film editing first and really found joy in the whole process. Being behind the scenes and stirring that pot of imaginative elements – even in the smallest of ways – is an amazing feeling. After graduating and working in the software field for 3 years, I left the field and quickly set up a production rental company called Lensman Express in Dubai. In the meantime I have also shot short films and image films of all kinds. I firmly believe that if you want to learn how to make films, you just go out and make some films.
The film is based on a year of research on PTSD, what is your stance on it now?
I would say a lot of my research on trauma involved watching films about characters dealing with losses in numerous coping mechanisms. The way a person deals with trauma can be very complex and varied, so as a storyteller it is important to make the decision whether to connect the character’s emotions to the audience or to insert the story into a world of narrative wants to raise fantasy where the audience sympathizes with the character.
The film was shot in one night, how did you manage the whole process?
On a film set, it is important to find the perfect balance between the quality of a production, the budget and the desired deadline. The name “Guerillaman Productions” comes from the word “guerrilla filmmaking” which roughly translates to “zero budget productions” – and I find myself thriving in these types of productions. For this project, I planned on shooting the production in one night so there would be no compromise in quality and consistency. I’ve also found that working with small sets and crews helps align everyone more with your vision for the film than usual. Although it was my brother Ishan’s first role, the fact that he was able to channel all of his emotions perfectly helped the shoot to be completed in one night. Don’t get me wrong – it took us months to pre-produce and write. Luckily, my experience as a director of corporate projects and working with budgets and deadlines helped me defuse these situations.
What was the most difficult thing you encountered during filming?
While writing the script, I thought we had something incredible in the works. Bringing that to screen and shooting scenes where we portrayed the day-to-day nature of the character’s work but also had to keep the audience engaged was a challenge. Also, my main goal was to capture the character arc within the short 10 minutes and my biggest fear was to see if Ishan would be able to evoke those emotions for certain scenes. But once we got to that point and saw how effortlessly Ishan pulled off these scenes, my job became a lot easier. I can’t give Ishan enough credit for how flawlessly he portrayed the character.
Deadline has won several awards in Cannes, what do you think about it?
Normally the way I work is that when I finish a film I don’t think about it much. But the answer to meeting and the awards that followed were truly incredible. I often find it difficult to accept the fact that film festivals like Cannes, Milan and New York or anyone else recognize my work. But to see the people involved in the film winning awards gives me more joy than I can put into words. I cannot thank everyone involved enough and these honors motivate me more than ever.
What’s next for you as a director? Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
I am currently researching and working on another narrative short script that I am very excited about. Over time, I’d like to work with larger casts and crews and work my way up to full-length films. Ultimately, I want to be a producer, but until then, I want to move on and use my creativity to create and support great films.
What is success for you?
I measure success by satisfaction – not only by my satisfaction, but also by the satisfaction of my team. For me to be considered successful, the team must achieve both our individual and team goals.
Who are your inspirations in the world of filmmaking?
David Fincher is a filmmaker who has had a huge impact on how I enjoy working on films. He has a reputation for being a director obsessed with achieving perfection, no matter how many takes it takes or whose feelings he hurts. his movie fight club is by far my absolute favourite, and the way the audience empathizes with Edward Norton’s character right through to the twist at the end is exactly the kind of storytelling that inspires me. I am also an admirer of Aaron Sorkin’s writing and have used his scripts as reference points for several treatments. in the money ballfor example, it’s fascinating to see how he can uniquely transform a simple conversation into incredible scenes.
What’s the one genre you really like and want to get into?
I’ve always been drawn to thrillers and dramas that present or follow a single character arc but end in a twist. Something about the idea of a character connecting with the audience, winning their sympathy, only to destroy it in moments really appeals to me. Maybe that’s the reason Catch Me If You Can was one of my favorite movies growing up. Of course morality gets in the way at some point, but I’m deeply drawn to finding some obscure flaw in the system, making up a false identity, and then lying to people’s faces to try and make money.
What do you think is the best thing about filmmaking?
Collaboration with my creative colleagues. From the co-writers to the colorist, it’s rewarding to see your vision built upon. I always find when you have a great creative team, they can take your direction and go with it. I’m always pleasantly surprised and happy when I’m presented with different versions of visual references. Let’s not forget that this creative team also includes the actors. The relationship between actor and director is crucial. Most actors treat the director as their guide – a sort of “omni” friend who only wants the best in them. I loved taking Ishan through his character development in a moderate but intense way. And as much as I’d like to give him credit for his performance, it really was all his talent and hard work that earned him the Best Debut Actor award at Cannes. This process is rewarding, especially when an actor like Ishan trusts the vision.