A unique exchange program is underway that has Calgary students working with film students from Mumbai to produce a short film.

The students, five from Mumbai and five from Calgary, are from SAIT Polytechnic, the University of Calgary and the Whistling Woods International film school in India.

The group has been using video conferencing since September to plan and develop the script for the film which will be produced in Canada and India over the coming weeks.

 “We get to make a movie across continents, which is pretty exciting and monumental,” says Kevin Weir, a second year film student at SAIT Polytechnic. “It’s been extremely rewarding, but also challenging as we try to communicate creative, artistic ideas through long emails.”

“We were trying to get them out of their comfort zones. Get them to a culture they’re not used to because film is becoming more and more global,” said Instructor Somnath Sen. “A lot of international films are coming to India and our students are at sort of a disadvantage when it comes to those productions because the ways of functioning, the practical ways of capturing images and sounds are not entirely different but there are different ways of doing it.”

The film is centered on the challenges faced by an inter-racial gay couple when one partner dies and the other tries to return the ashes to his partner’s family in India.

“What we hope to achieve out of this is to give them a better understanding about globalization of film and for them to understand that film is as much cultural as technical,” said Sen.

“Education is not all about the knowledge you have it’s also about the experience that you create,” said student director Tariq Muhammed. “I find Canada beautiful, especially the landscape.”

The production crew is currently filming scenes in and around Calgary and will head to Mumbai in mid-February to finish the filming.

Ben Rowe is a student and is the producer and director of the Calgary team.

He says the two styles of storytelling are very different and that posed a few challenges in pre-production.

“So finding a story that worked for both an audience here and an audience there was a longer process than we had anticipated,” said Rowe. “We had two writers on the project, one here and one there, and they sort of exchanged drafts back and forth and our storytelling here is always based around a strong protagonist who goes off and achieves a goal and  over there it’s sort of, a traditional form of storytelling that has existed for hundreds of years that they follow.”

The students are aiming for a 12 minute drama and plan to also produce a “Making of…” documentary.

“The documentary would surround the dramatic piece and we’d like to put it together into a complete piece to peddle out to film festivals on an international level,” says Steve Olson, Academic Chair for the School of Information and Communications Technologies at SAIT.

The final production should be ready for screening at the end of April and the students will begin pitching the show to film festivals for the next year.