has big dreams
Driven by passion...
(Above) Ishan Modi
interviewing a monk
in Dharamshala and
(right) a screen grab
from one of his short
films, Just Stories.
OF ISHAN MODI
Ishan Modi has
been making short
films since 10
E GREW up in a creative
ecosystem — some mem-
bers of his mother’s fam-
ily have produced original works,
be it is his mother’s collection of
short stories or his grandmother’s
documentary on the textiles of
South-east Asia or even his great-
grandfather’s book on the history
of Persian literature.
Ishan Modi, who was born in
Boston, in the US, has been im-
mersed in the art of storytelling
since young and has always want-
ing to tell his own tale one day.
He ended up picking the camera
over the pen, which he said, took
great influence from his childhood
best friend. Together, they had
made several short films in his Sin-
gapore apartment when they were
10 and toyed around with a cam-
Ishan’s parents, his older broth-
er and he moved to Singapore in
2002 when his father found a job
here. His parents are permanent
The first film the childhood bud-
dies made at that time, Sword Of
Trust, was a mythical adventure.
“It was just children being chil-
dren, engaging in harmless sword
fighting with a simple storyline be-
tween the good and the bad char-
acters. We would gather all our
friends in the house, get them to
act and have popcorn premieres.
“From those days, it spiralled —
as I grew older, my films became
more detailed and sophisticated,
eventually leading to where I am
today,” said Ishan, describing it as
an “influential experience”.
Now, he is 17 and has plans to
pursue film-making in the Univer-
sity of Southern California in
Los Angeles, after he completes
his 12th grade at the Singapore
He has also since made
over a dozen films and sev-
eral of them have travelled
to film festivals.
He finds out about the fes-
tivals by actively following
Ishan, whose father is
from Delhi and mother from
Pune, considers Torn “his
first legitimate film”. It was
made when he was in 10th
The short film of 2min 34sec,
which explores the relationship be-
tween two brothers, was nominated
at six film festivals including the
Hollywood Boulevard Film Festival
and 16th Annual Laurie Nelson Film
Festival, among others.
It also received an Honourable
Mention at the Fort Lauderdale In-
ternational Film Festival last year.
Ishan is entirely self-taught. He
listens to screenwriting podcasts
such as Scriptnotes, watch YouTube
tutorials from photographer Pe-
ter Mckinnon as well as interviews
hosted by Film Courage.
He also took a free online course,
Pixar In A Box, where he learnt the
process of how a Pixar film is made.
But for Ishan, it was practice that
would make perfect.
“The most important thing was
just creating as many films as pos-
sible. Over time, you start to get the
hang of it, realising which shots look
best, how to accomplish them, how
to find your way through editing
software and more.
“The more films I created, the bet-
ter I became,” said Ishan, who is the
president of the film society in his
school and whose favourite subject
During a family vacation earlier
this year, he combined both his pas-
sions — film-making and history —
when he went to Dharamshala to
film a documentary on Tibetan Bud-
Said Ishan, who was accompanied
by his father and grandmother on
the 10-day trip: “I was reading up
on Buddhism culture and religion,
and I was inspired to film a docu-
mentary about it. We were going to
India anyway so I said, ‘Why don’t
we visit Dharamshala too? See what
we can find and make a documen-
“We figured our way around the
city, chasing monks for interviews.
It was really hard because a lot of
them don’t speak English and I
don’t speak Tibetan. Some of the
monks speak Hindi and a bit of Eng-
lish,” said Ishan, who got through to
them with the help of his father who
spoke a mix of Hindi and English to
He also had a chance encounter
with the Dalai Lama.
“It was so unexpected and it was
one of the most amazing moments
of my life,” said Ishan, who spoke to
him for about eight minutes and also
He is now working on the post-
production of the film before releas-
Currently, he is trying to build his
social media presence on YouTube
by uploading his films on the site.
Ishan, who has set his sights on
Hollywood, hopes to actively pursue
film-making for the rest of his life.
“Maybe someday you will see an
Ishan Modi production at Golden
Village, that is the dream. It is going
to be a tough journey ahead but I
enjoy doing it.
When asked about venturing into
Bollywood, he said with a laugh:
“When my Hindi improves, then
Bollywood will be a great option.”
Village, that is
the dream. It is
going to be a
ahead but I
— Ishan Modi (left)