With an MFA in Film Production from Loyola Marymount University, and a Masters in Communication and film from Wake Forest University, British-Indian filmmaker J S Mayank lives the life of a Hollywood screenwriter, pitching his own ideas and reworking others’ work.
His first sci-fi feature – SLATE earned him a spot on the BLOODLIST, and he was invited by Robert DeNiro to the prestigious 2010 Tribeca All Access Program for his feature script – MARATHON. Most recently, his script for EMIT won a Grand Prize, winning him a trip to Sundance (2012) where a table-read of it was performed.
For his directorial debut, Mayank was granted an opportunity by the band Radiohead to create a concept music video for their song WEIRD FISHES/ARPEGGI. He’s currently doing the film festival circuit with his short film EMIT, starring veteran TV actor Jack Coleman (Heroes, The Office). He resides in Los Angeles
1) IMDB - http://www.imdb.com/name/nm3270768/?ref_=fn_al_nm_1
2) Radiohead Music video - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AKsWH6x7HUo
3) EMIT Table Read Clip http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lDiHoip1Fms
What is “EMIT” about?
EMIT is a sci-fi short film about a world where time flows backwards. In this movie,
an old man looks forward to greeting his wife for the first time, as her body’s
exhumed from the ground, taken to the morgue, and eventually the hospital, where
she takes her first breath. We juxtapose this moment of joy, with the man’s 7-year-
old granddaughter contemplating her looming mortality.
Why use Kickstarter to fund your film?
Kickstarter is an incredible resource to independent filmmakers. Not only is a
fantastic way to get funding from like-minded people, it also helps get the word out
for your projects, before they even exist.
Why do you think your campaign was successful?
Preparation, subject matter, and people’s love for sci-fi. Going into the Kickstarter
campaign, my team and I were very confident that our story was somewhat unique,
and that it had a built-in “hook” for sci-fi fans. Beyond that, my producers and I went
to great lengths to do as much work (put together a teaser, do storyboards, talk
about the rest of our team etc.) as we could, before launching our campaign. We
wanted people to know that they were giving their money to someone who had a
Is there a message in the film?
I’d like to think so. To me, all great science fiction strives to say something, to
examine a philosophical aspect, or bring new light to something we deem very
ordinary. Keeping in line with the great tradition of the TWILIGHT ZONE, I
constructed EMIT to be a short glimpse into a world where time flows backwards.
While the film has its moments of levity, by and large, to me – this is a very bleak
world. It’s a world of predetermination… one that lacks choice. You wake up,
and you’re told your name, introduced to your husband and children, assigned a
profession, etc. That’s not a very happy world. So I hope people watch this movie,
and think – our lives aren’t so bad. If we want to change something, we can actually
do it. We can try for a new career, or move halfway across the world.
Would you ever act in one of your films?
Oh, God no! Trust me. Nobody wants to see me in front of the camera! I’m very
happy having my worlds represented in the (waaaaaay more) capable hands of my
How has film school influenced you?
Film school was a great place for me to experiment. Having come to film school with
virtually no technical knowledge (I had more of a writing background), I was very
fascinated by cameras, lighting equipment, editing software etc. And while I still
don’t pride myself as too skilled in any of those departments, I have enough of an
understanding, and more importantly, an appreciation for what’s required in each of
those disciplines, that it helps me as a storyteller.
Beyond that, film school was also where I met most of my collaborators. To me, that
is the biggest reason for going to a film school. You meet like-minded, incredibly
talented people, who push you to be better. What more can one ask for?
Had you seen “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” before you started
writing the film?
I first had the idea for EMIT in 2006, when the movie didn’t exist. I hadn’t read the
original story either. However, when I officially wrote the first draft of the script (in
late 2010), I had seen the movie. To be quite honest, beyond the aging backwards
aspect, I really don’t see much other similarities in the two concepts.
What was it like working with Jon Chesson, Jesse Morrison, Maxx
Burman, Alexandra Creswick, and Antonio Lepore?
I’ll go by each department:
Jesse and Alex, my indomitable producer and co-producer respectively, were the
foundation of this movie. Without them, EMIT would not have happened. I had the
story and concept in my mind, but it was their unending support and championing
my vision, that led to us making EMIT. Jesse worked tirelessly, every day, for over
a year with me, and was the main hands-on producer. From location scouting, to
hiring crew, to rolling up his sleeves and doing craft-services if needed, Jesse did it
all. Alex was my consigliore at every step, solving problems left and right, keeping
me sane, and always talking me into remaining true to my vision. Together, they
were the perfectly balanced producing team I could have asked for.
Maxx and Jon are incredible VFX artists, and in my mind, in a league of their own.
From the first moment that I talked to Maxx about my vision for the movie, to the
day when Jon delivered all the final VFX shots to me, I had nothing but the best time
imaginable working with them. They are brilliant technicians, but also, gifted artists.
What they did in terms of visual effects in helping me create the world of EMIT, was
nothing short of magic. And being a relatively new director, I certainly learned a lot
from them about how to construct shots, how to talk to VFX artists so as to get them
the most flexibility, yet give them precise directions, and how best to handle the
work-flow in a VFX driven shoot. I had a blast working with them, and hope to get
another opportunity to do so, very soon in the near future.
Antonio Lepore is a consummate storyteller. He just happens to do so via music. A
brilliant musician, and an absolutely stellar collaborator, Antonio brought a level
of music to this film that was both seamless and yet haunting. As Antonio likes to
say: “If you notice the score, I didn’t do my job.” And that’s what’s so great about
his music for this movie – it fits so perfectly with all the scenes. It helps bring out
the eerie and unsettling qualities in some parts, while showcasing the beautiful and
moving moments in other scenes, without us paying attention to them. Antonio
composes music for the movie, for the story – he isn’t flashy just for the sake of it.
That kind of finesse and restraint, is the mark of competence far beyond his year, I
I would just love to talk about a few more people. I had the unquestioned support of two very important people – Kevin Chu and Anantshree Chaturvedi – my Executive producers. They were there at every step when we needed them, and I honestly couldn’t have made EMIT without either of them.
Two other key collaborators who helped me set the look of this film, were my
Production Designer – Derrick Hinman and my Costume Designer – Mandy Mitchell.
Both of them worked hand-in-hand on making the world feel authentic, yet askew.
Derrick did a phenomenal job with some very clever production design. He helped
me bring to life some very subtle things, like a TGI-Monday’s advertisement, or a
museum gallery banner that went from Sep 2013-Feb 2012. And while Mandy didn’t
have a lot of flashy costumes to pick out (we were trying to go for verisimilitude in
terms of clothing), she added little touches to each person’s wardrobe that made it
memorable to me – especially with Katelyn’s broach that was a timepiece.
And most of all, I have to thank one of my most key collaborators… my partner in
crime, my editor – Mark Sult. In terms of actually making the film, I think I spent the
most time with Mark, sitting at the edit bay, talking about the story, the characters,
the world, the themes, and the broad strokes ideas. It was so amazing to work with
someone who shared my filmmaking sensibilities yet didn’t necessarily look at
everything from the same perspective. He judged every cut in terms of story, not
continuity. As a director, I couldn’t ask for more.
Have would you live your life if time moved backwards?
Not very happily, I can tell you that much. As a storyteller, I live for invention,
imagination, and uncertainty. In the world of EMIT, everything is predetermined. I
would be very very sad, and most likely, out of a job.
Why did you decide to cast Jack Coleman, James Keane, and Katelyn Hunter?
I had been a fan of Jack Coleman’s for a long time. HEROES was such a great show,
and his character in particular was so interesting. What Jack brought to that role,
was so incredibly fascinating. When I first started talking to my casting director (the
amazing Jeremy Gordon, CSA), he mentioned Jack as a possibility, and I immediately
perked up. There were no second options. I asked if he could get the script to Jack,
and once he read it, the rest, as they say, is history…
James “Jimmy” Keane was another actor recommended to me by Jeremy. I watched
Jimmy’s demo reel, and immediately recognized him from an episode of MAD MEN. I
asked if I could have dinner with him to go over the concept, before offering him the
role. We sat down for a meal, and as he regaled me stories about convincing Francis
Ford Coppola to give him his first role (Apocalypse Now), or auditioning for Steven
Spielberg (for Close Encounters of the Third Kind), he did so with a childlike glint in
his eyes. I knew then that he was my character!
Katelyn Hunter was one of hundreds of little girls we auditioned for the part. She
was the only child who came into the room wearing glasses (she does so in real life),
and once I saw her perform, I just knew… I had to cast this little girl. She had a sense
of wisdom in her eyes – like she’s lived a life. And I went with my gut. Thankfully,
she turned in an absolutely riveting performance that still gives me Goosebumps
every time I watch the movie… (And that’s not easy, considering I’ve seen my own
film over a thousand times now).
How have you previous films influenced the way you approached
With every film you make, you learn what works, but more importantly, what
doesn’t. Having made short films before, I knew I wanted to do something on a
grander scale with this one. My big priorities were – working with more seasoned
actors and creating a world (by really playing with VFX). I think I’ve grown
tremendously as a filmmaker over the course of the past year, and look forward to
learning more as I continue my journey.
Is the Arri Alexa the best camera out there?
Not having worked with every single camera out there, I don’t know if I can say so
without question. But it’s pretty darn stellar! Besides, I defer to all camera related
questions to my incredible cinematographer – Patrick Meade Jones. He made my
movie look better than I had ever imagined.
Is there anything you’d like to add?
In closing, I’d like to thank you for this opportunity to help me spread the word
Thanks for doing the interview J.S. I hope you will consider submitting “EMIT” to the 2014 Boston Sci Fi Film Festival. Please let the cast and crew know that I would love to interview them as well.