Indian Filmmakers Poised To Make Their Mark: Whistling Woods

Rahul Puri, Executive Director, Mukta Arts Limited and Head of Academics, Whistling Woods International talks to BW People about the changing professional requirements in the media industry and preparing professionals for the future


Rahul Puri, Executive Director, Mukta Arts Limited and Head of Academics, Whistling Woods International talks to BW People about the changing professional requirements in the media industry and preparing professionals for the future.

How has the business of cinema evolved into different aspects over the years? How ready are professionals to tap into the potential of evolving business?

The media industry is extremely dynamic and exists in a state of constant evolution. It isn’t a season-driven industry, but audience-driven, where the preferences of the audience in terms of content and storytelling play a huge role. This makes forecasting any particular trend an extremely difficult proposition. However, I believe that Indian cinema has taken a huge leap from the cliché in the past few years, driven by more mature film industry and an increasingly savvy and worldly audience. 

Another factor that has evolved greatly has been the viability of various distribution channels. We’ve also witnessed advancements in, practically, every sphere of filmmaking recently, which has brought extremely positive changes to the Indian film industry from a technical standpoint. 

Film and media institutes such as Whistling Woods International (WWI) have played a key role in preparing young, aspiring professionals for the rapidly changing world they’re about to enter. Equipped with a world-class education and experience at par with the best industry, India’s next generation of filmmakers is well-poised to make their mark on the global cinematic scene. 

Where does Whistling Woods come into the picture for helping professionals in the industry? How does the school help in learning technological advancements?

Filmmaking is a very complex subject as it is an amalgamation of technology, art, and business. From operating the camera to writing the script and even approaching a producer, everyone needs to learn these skills. Talent is a must, but this talent has to be honed to provide longevity to an individual’s career. Education has a lot to offer in every field and film and media is no exception.

With that in mind, WWI adopts a holistic approach to film education. We constantly strive to stay up-to-date with the evolving nature of education and help our students attain the best of both theoretical and practical knowledge. Our course curriculum is structured in a manner that incorporates the latest advancements in the academic field. Each of our course is diverse in nature and has something different to offer to the students. At WWI, we work relentlessly for the benefit of our students and bring in industry experts to our campus on a regular basis. This gives our students first-hand exposure to experts in their respective fields and gives them the opportunity to learn from the very best. 

How do you perceive film and media education in India? Where do we lack in competing on a global scale?

India has only recently begun to understand the need for film and media education. This is an excellent sign of development since India’s entertainment industry is in need of more training and upskilling. In my opinion, film and media education should be a key criterion for anyone entering the industry, since it ensures that the foundational knowledge of the industry is already in place. This is especially true when it comes to specialised artists and technicians, who have such a crucial role to play in ensuring a film’s ultimate quality. Institutes like WWI play a vital role in this ecosystem – by training and educating their graduates in the latest techniques and accreditations to a global standard, we are ensuring the future success of the nation’s entertainment industry. 

How does Whistling Woods aim to improve teaching methodology for better learning outcomes? Have you partnered with any production house to help students learn better through practical knowledge?

At WWI, our unique selling point (USP) is that we are an institute intrinsically connected to and supported by the nation’s media and entertainment industry. What this means is that we are closely connected to and aware of any and all developments in the business, including the latest technologies, the newest techniques, and so on. WWI believes in training students for the industry of tomorrow, and we have designed a curriculum that is a perfect balance between practical training and theoretical knowledge. This is further reinforced by our faculty, which comprises of working industry professionals. Additionally, WWI is also renowned for its weekly masterclasses, which witnesses industry experts from a wide array of domains visit our campus to share their knowledge and expertise with the students. 

We also understand that staying ahead of technological advancements is absolutely vital for the success of an educational institute. WWI has embraced this challenge and constantly strives to stay ahead of the technological, academic, and developmental curves. We’ve been extremely successful in this, and are always 6-8 months ahead of regular technological advances. Through collaborative associations with various leading organisations and businesses, we have the state-of-the-art technical infrastructure, which includes Sony & Red HD Digital Cinematography Cameras, 40’ x 60’ Film Studio, Animation & VFX labs, to name a few.  Additionally, we have associated with various technology partners such as Reliance Jio, Sony, Adobe, Foxconn, Apple, and Canon. With the support of these partners, we have carried out various workshops and projects. In this way, we’ve greatly contributed to the growth and development of film, communication and creative arts domains in India. 

Do we need more film and communication institutes in India, pertaining to the demand? How has Whistling Wood been preparing people for the future of cinema?

India holds great potential as a market for the media and entertainment industry, by virtue of our massive population and an ever-growing demand for fresh, original content. According to a joint study by the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (ASSOCHAM) and PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), India is expected to be among the top-10 entertainment and media markets globally by 2021 in terms of absolute numbers, with the market size expected to reach USD 52.68 billion in 2022. In a scenario like this, there is a definite and urgent need for film and communication institutes in India. However, it is imperative that any such institutes be held accountable for the quality of education on offer, in order to ensure that the next generation of Indian filmmakers is able to compete at a global standard. 

For its part, WWI has always been synonymous with advancement. We strive to stay abreast of the latest advancements in both the media and entertainment and technology domains. Our curriculum incorporates the latest developments in the fields of cinema, music, media and communication, fashion and animation to name a few, while partnerships with companies such as Reliance Jio, Sony, Adobe, Apple, and Canon provide our students access to the technological advancements. Additionally, through our masterclasses and 5th Veda sessions, we help students learn from the experiences of industry experts. In all of these ways and more, we ensure our students are prepared for the future of the industry. 

Can you give us some idea about the placements in the film industry? What areas, job roles or skills are in demand?

At WWI, the placement and future success of our students is our highest concern. To that end, all of our programmes include internships or live projects, allowing many of our students to work alongside industry experts. We also have a special department of determined and passionate individuals assigned for placements. This department helps mentor students in decision making and choosing the right career option, keeping in mind their academic journey and core competencies. Our counsellors guide the students on the various companies and job profiles they should opt for an attempt to place them as per their unique talents and sensibilities. At present, there are more than 1900 highly successful alumni playing key roles in India’s burgeoning media, entertainment, and creative industries, many of whom frequently offer placements to graduating students. 

The recent explosion in global and local OTT platforms and the subsequent demand for quality content has proved a boon for skilled professionals in every domain, from actors, scriptwriters, and directors, to makeup artists, lighting technicians, and set designers. In today’s climate, your success is determined solely by your talent and your determination to succeed, no matter your specialisation. 

What is the admission criteria for candidates in Whistling woods? How do you reach out to students? What cost does it take for any candidate to learn in the institute?  

At WWI, we offer a degree as well as diploma programmes accredited by the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS). The basic eligibility criteria differ depending on the course the student aspires to apply to. To begin with, we look for candidates with academic qualification of HSC or equivalent from a Recognised Board and English proficiency. Following this, the applicants are required to appear for an entrance exam. The selection process depends on a General Aptitude Test, a Creative Ability Test, and the submission of Statement of Purpose, in addition to a Personal Interview. Applicants are also required to submit a portfolio of their previous work. Subsequently, our faculty committee takes a decision on whether they should be admitted to the programme of their choice. Depending on the chosen course, the fees for a programme ranges from 4.25 to 25.50 lakhs. 

However, it is vital that an applicant be creatively inclined, in addition to possessing inherent talent. Passion is the most important driving force to succeed in any profession and one should be hardworking and willing to take up any challenges that he/she may face. There is a lot of glamour involved in this industry, but it takes a lot of hard work to get to that point.

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