Over Christmas, Australia was on fire. Literally, not metaphorically. Director and photographer, Adil Jain, spent the holiday break helping out in Willawarrin NSW. He was one of global disaster relief organisation, Team Rubicon Australia’s, volunteer “boots on the ground”, helping the local community to recover after their homes and farms were overrun by bushfires. As well as ripping down damaged sheds, cutting half-felled trees, sifting through burnt residences to look for any memorabilia for the owners and rolling up barbed wire from damaged fences, Jain managed to document the disaster.
This wasn’t the first time that Jain had used his talent to highlight the need for humans to respect our planet. He also created and produced a unique musical project, Where Will All the Penguins Go?, which was shown as part of the Sydney Fringe Festival at the Bondi Pavilion Theatre in September 2018.
Adil Jain: I had been actively reading up on climate change for a few years when in late 2015 my friend co-authored a science and policy paper, which I read over the weekend like a fast-paced novel,” he recalls.
A few days later I re-read parts of it to decipher what the data meant for me personally, in my lifetime. It was shocking and scary. I was keen bring this to life as a creative project. To make it more accessible, to break it down and simplify it. And while trying to decide what medium it should be, I spontaneously conjured three little songs, which set the ball rolling for it to become a ‘children’s musical on climate change’. A year of writing and composing later, including a summer writing program at Oxford University, where I put myself back in the classroom to get the feedback and mentoring that the story required, I had a musical that was mostly ready, with 45 original songs – from ballads to an army march, to songs of celebration and lament. After further tweaks and cuts, and a partial showcase at the Hayes Theatre earlier in the year; I was able to produce the full show for the Sydney Fringe Festival.
I’m deeply fascinated by climate change. I personally think we’re past the tipping point, it’s going to be like living in a Hollywood summer blockbuster disaster movie for some parts of the world. I hope I’m wrong.
Jain has directed commercials and short films for nine years. His career, though, began nearly twenty years ago in photography – commercial, documentary & travel.
The Stable: How did that begin?
Adil Jain: I was drawn to photography in my late teens and, thankfully, I had the courage and family support to follow it as a full time career. It has been a roller-coaster ride from not knowing anything and being constantly broke, to photographing some of the most beautiful Indian actresses, traveling all over the planet and living my dream job.
The four farmers with the shaved heads were part of the Hindu pilgrimage on the outskirts of Allahabad in early 2001, a once every 12 years event called the Maha Kumbha Mela. It is a holy site for Hindus and they travel from all over the country by bus, train, rickshaw and foot to get there, take a dip in the holy water, say a prayer, wash away their sins. This image was part of my first solo show (at the age of 25) about the Kumbha Mela – and was part of the Royal Photographic Print show in the UK for a year.
Two Couples was shot on the banks of the River Thames. It has featured in a college art book in the US for the last few print runs.
RamieR is easily one of my favourite portraits. She was a make-up artist and friend during my time in NY after I graduated from my photography degree.
TS: What drew you to directing?
AJ: I discovered cinema quite late in life, in my early 30s. It was on the set of the 3rd Bollywood movie on which that I was shooting stills – 150 crew, massive sets, a crane, an Arri 435, some steadicams running around, some of India’s biggest movie stars…I fell in love with the medium and wanted a slice of the pie. Initially, I pondered and explored whether I want to go the DOP route, but after 6 months I decided I want to be in the director’s chair, thinking director’s thoughts, solving director’s problems. I have since worked as a DA, AD, production assistant, producer, director, DOP, sound guy, editor and composer.
TS: What did you bring with you from photography to directing?
AJ: Everything I learned as a people photographer transferred to my film world – team management, time management, project management, casting – so many similarities, just bigger. Directing and filmmaking is definitely more of a team game, so I also learnt to delegate and let people who know better do their thing.
TS: How would you describe your directing style? How do you like to work?
AJ: My first two films were, not surprisingly, very visually stylistic. When my art director friend first told me the concept, I tried out the camera move at home with a handycam and a chalk drawing of the props on the floor. I then called three DOPs to check what gear would be best. Two said a jib on a short arm and tracks, and one said a panther dolly with a three-axis head. I went with the jib. My debut films were part of the Cannes submissions by the agency (JWT Mumbai) that year.
Both were single-take films, shot on Super 16 film. Blood was shot at 36fps, so we had to calculate how long the shot should last so that it would be the correct duration when it played back at 24fps, with the end titles to fill 30 seconds. I shot both films in 1 can.
I’m now fascinated with performance-based work. I won a little award for my last film, which was for Pepsi – written and directed by me.
I would love to work with concept-rich scripts that have a half-decent budget attached. Then I think I will really shine.
[Lux Pears Vaseline]