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Renowned Wildlife Filmmaker Alphonse Roy Shares Insights at 18th Mumbai International Film Festival

Mumbai: The 18th Mumbai International Film Festival was graced by the presence of acclaimed wildlife filmmaker and cinematographer Alphonse Roy, who conducted a Master Class on “Exploring the Wilderness: Indian Wildlife Documentaries and Conservation Efforts.” During the session, Roy discussed the challenges and intricacies of creating documentaries focused on Indian wildlife and conservation initiatives.

Roy emphasized that the charisma of an animal often determines its likelihood of being featured in films and the amount of screen time it receives. “Television producers are more interested in animals like tigers, lions, or blue whales than birds or smaller species. There is a certain hierarchy in wildlife films based on the charisma of the animal,” he explained.

Addressing aspiring wildlife filmmakers, Roy highlighted the importance of passion in this field. “There is no single place where you can learn wildlife filmmaking. It requires a passion for wildlife, and India, with its rich biodiversity, is the perfect place to pursue it,” he said. He also stressed the importance of ethical filmmaking, underscoring that the welfare of the subject and nature should always take precedence over the shoot. “We wanted to document undisturbed visuals without the animals knowing we were there,” he noted, lamenting that in the age of 24/7 wildlife channels, these ethics are often overlooked.

Discussing the evolution of wildlife filmmaking, Roy acknowledged the role of digital technology, which has made it easier to capture wildlife on mobile cameras. However, he also pointed out the high costs associated with professional wildlife filmmaking today.

Roy expressed concern over the state of wildlife conservation in India, noting that increasing human population and land constraints are leading to more frequent man-animal conflicts. “We can learn from Africa’s approach to wildlife management, which allows selective culling of animal herds, although implementing such methods in India is challenging,” he remarked.

He encouraged students to immerse themselves in nature by joining nature clubs and organizations such as the Bombay Natural History Society or the Madras Natural Science Society. He emphasized the importance of learning jungle craft and drawing inspiration from tribal knowledge.

When asked about incorporating fictional content into wildlife filmmaking, Roy revealed that he is working on a script to bring more wildlife into mainstream cinema. “With OTT platforms, there are immense opportunities to highlight wildlife without relying on big stars,” he said.

Reflecting on his personal experiences, Roy recounted the challenges he faced while filming tigers for the first time. “We tried to climb trees and sit on branches, then used a gyro stabilizer, but the noise disturbed the tigers. Eventually, we built a makeshift 14-feet high tripod with bamboo,” he shared.

He concluded by highlighting the power of social media in bringing attention to lesser-known species. “If you have an interesting story about a species, you can tell it through your mobile phone and get it noticed,” he advised.

Alphonse Roy, an alumnus of the Film & TV Institute of Tamilnadu, has an impressive portfolio as Director of Photography, including acclaimed films such as ‘Gour Hari Dastaan,’ ‘Life is Good,’ and ‘Urumi.’ His cinematic vision has earned him numerous accolades, including a Prime Time Emmy Award for ‘Tibet: The End of Time’ (1995), a Hugo Television Award for ‘Tiger Kill’ (2008), and a Filmfare Award nomination for Best Cinematography for ‘Aamir’ (2009).

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