Dubai 2013: Shekhar Kapur Calls for More 'Chaos and Panic' to Bolster Creativity

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Shekhar Kapur

The Pakistani-born director of "Elizabeth" spoke, together with director Ava DuVernay, at an AMPAS-sponsored event at this year's festival.

DUBAI – Panic on the set, why a perfect script will not make the perfect movie and popcorn sales limiting theatrical release potential all were topics during a lively and well-attended panel at the Dubai International Film Festival.

Director Shekhar Kapur (Elizabeth) and Sundance-feted filmmaker Ava DuVernay (I Will Follow) regaled a crowd of aspiring filmmakers, directors and industryites Monday during "An Academy Conversation on Directing."

The filmmakers took part in the chat hosted by Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences managing director of outreach and strategic initiatives Vicangelo Bulluck at the Dubai International Film Festival as part of the event’s partnership with the Academy to deliver a "customized program" of events.

Kapur told the delegates that if panic and chaos didn’t exist during the making of his films, he’d have to consider inventing it, as it is "the great creator." The mischievous filmmaker, whose resume includes Bandit Queen, Elizabeth and The Four Feathers, said both help bolster energy and bring out great performances.

When asked if he could name his worst on-set moment of all time, he said he couldn’t because he sees all moments on-set as adventures in time. Kapur said part of his job as a filmmaker was to bring his vision and part of his life journey to a project.

"No script is a film until the film is made," Kapur said, noting that he had read perfect scripts that hadn’t ended up being perfect movies.

Kapur said that when he first went to Hollywood, studio executives kept pointing out that Bandit Queen had no third act and asked him if he understood the three-act concept. Drawing laughs, the filmmaker said he had shrugged and claimed not to understand the question.

On releasing movies and the methods of distribution, Kapur told the audience to remember that "it’s the story, not the platform" that matters when it comes to filmmaking. But he added that social media and multiplatform distribution do play a big part in the distribution of his films because, he says, he has always enjoyed a good relationship with his audiences, online and off. 

"The theatrical release industry is limited by the sale of popcorn," Kapur said wryly, pointing out that the exhibition industry is under economic pressure to sell concessions to maintain such large properties.

DuVernay, a former high-flying L.A.-based PR maven and Sundance Film Festival winner, gave the wannabe filmmakers in the room a fillip if they didn’t have a shot at film school.

“I hear film school is lovely. I didn’t go,” DuVernay said. Kapur didn’t go to film school either. 

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