background image

Teen film-maker 

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. 

PHO

T

OS:

 V 

JOHN 

PHO

T

OGRAPHY

,

 COUR

TESY 

OF ISHAN MODI

Singapore student 

Ishan Modi has 

been making short 

films since 10 

AMRITA KAUR 

H

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-

corder.  

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 

residents here.

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 

American School. 

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 

film-making communities 

online.

Ishan, whose father is 

from Delhi and mother from 

Pune, considers Torn “his 

first legitimate film”. It was 

made when he was in 10th 

grade. 

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 

is history.  

Documentary

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-

dhism. 

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-

tary.’”

“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 

the monks. 

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 

filmed him. 

He is now working on the post-

production of the film before releas-

ing it. 

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.” 

➥ 

amritak@sph.com.sg 

“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.”

— Ishan Modi (left)

SINGAPORE

 

tabla

!

December15,2017

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