Issue date: 
Wednesday, 23 August 2023

Bala Murali Shingade graduated from the University of Auckland with an MA in screen production and since then has freelanced as a writer, director and actor both on stage and for screen. We connected with Bala to ask him about his screen journey and in particular his NZFC Fresh Shorts funded short film Perianayaki  (2021).

When did you first become aware of filmmaking? 

I first discovered that filmmaking is something people do when I watched the behind-the-scenes documentaries for the Lord of the Rings trilogy in the early 2000s. I was absolutely blown away and inspired by the hours of footage that documented the process of making those films, which are among my favourite. Everything from adapting the books into a screenplays, to designing and creating all the props and sets, to the shoot itself and then the lengthy post production process, I was awe struck by how fun, creative and intense it all seemed, as well as how the cast and crew seemed to have developed such a bond.

What was your first attempt at making a film?

I remember an afternoon when I was on holiday in Hyderabad, India, when I was about 9 years old - all my cousins were at school and all the adults were busy so I was left at home with nothing to do. I ended up playing around with our digital point-and-shoot camera and made a really short stop motion animation film about a pair of socks circling each other and one of them eventually eating the other one. I remember being pretty stoked with how it turned out and I showed everyone as soon as they came home.

Did your education involve any screening studies?

I loved media studies at high school, where we made music videos and short documentaries and I had some great media studies teachers, Jo Beck and Simon Allen, who were really encouraging. I went straight to uni and studied Screen Production, ending up with an MA in Screen Production, specialising in drama directing, although we did study scriptwriting and editing throughout the degree too. I had some really supportive and encouraging teachers at uni too, like Shuchi Kothari and Peter Simpson. I think a huge part of education is who you are taught by and I’ve been very lucky to have some amazing teachers throughout my education and career.

Tell me about your journey into filmmaking.

My first film after uni was 800 Lunches, which was funded by the Outlook for Someday as part of their Someday Stories programme, an amazing initiative designed for first time directors. This short initiative throws you straight into the deep end with a funded short film and gives you a taste of what it’s like in the industry. After that, my next short film Perianayaki (written and produced by Shreya Gejji) was funded by NZFC. Since then, I have been freelancing as a writer, director and actor on various projects.

Can you tell me about your first interaction with NZFC?

My first interaction would have been applying for Fresh Shorts and the process after that of being shortlisted, reapplying and then eventually being funded.

What was the project?

Perianayaki, a slice of life short film about a Sri Lankan immigrant who struggles to fit in as she goes about her day stacking shelves at a supermarket.

What were the highlights?

There were so many highlights with this project, from working with our amazing cast and crew, through to all the success we’ve had with the film but I have especially enjoyed working with Shreya (writer and producer). She and I started the project together and have supported each other throughout the entire process.

What was the most important lesson you learned? 

This is something you hear from a lot of directors and I really understood it on this project - casting is one of the most important decisions that can make or break a film. We were so lucky to work with Jeyagowri Sivakumaran, whom we found through the community casting call we had put out and this casting decision contributed so much to the final film.

Tell me about winning the NZIFF awards?

Perianayaki won NZ’s Best Short Film, the Audience Choice Award, as well as a Special Award for lead actor, Jeyagowri Sivakumaran. All of this was so rewarding and such a validation of the hard work that the entire team had put in over the last few years for the film.

Tell me about your experience at the Melbourne International Film Festival (MIFF)?

In 2022, I participated in the MIFF Accelerator Lab through the Melbourne International Film Festival. This was an awesome experience that I highly enjoyed - over the course of one extremely intense week, I made connections with the other participating filmmakers, attended panel discussions and workshops and we also watched about a dozen films!

Are there any Kiwi inspirations to you for your work?

I really love the early work of Taika Waititi, with the delicate balance of humour and pathos in works like Boy and Hunt For The Wilderpeople. The work of Indian Ink Theatre Company (Justin Lewis and Jacob Rajan) was also really influential and inspirational, especially Krishnan’s Dairy and Guru of Chai.

What are your aspirations for the future?

I just want to continue writing, directing and acting on meaningful and exciting projects with other creative people that inspire me.

Last updated: 
Wednesday, 23 August 2023