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When lockdown led to the ‘Highway to Hell’

COVID-19 curbs helped New Zealand-based Malayali chef and restaurateur Rejoy Antony Paul explore his passion for filmmaking

For many, the lockdown or a retreat indoors would have meant a life of monotony, but not for Rejoy Antony Paul, who is based in New Zealand. He found an opportunity in adversity by exploring avenues to tap into his ardent love for filmmaking. While for some, it would have indicated redundancy, he saw it as a means of possibility so as to channelise his passion. And, within a few days, Rejoy was already on to deciding a storyline and zeroing in on the cast for his movie titled ‘Highway to Hell’.

Ask Rejoy about how the idea panned out, and he says, “COVID-19 was the main reason for the film to happen. The script of the film was originally written in 2013 by Albin Jaison, who figures among the prominent Ad directors in Mumbai. Being my roommate’s cousin, I had already told him about my passion for filmmaking and he later gave me the script.”

The lockdown eventually became a trigger for him to set out on the same, as he adds, “We were in lockdown for over two months. So, I casually talked to a colleague, who introduced me to a person called Sam. He had finished a two-year filmmaking course in the USA. I gave him our script and he was very interested and asked if he could act in it. Sam then agreed to also act and help with post-production.”

His hunt for the rest of the actors landed him in the film groups of New Zealand on the social networking platform Facebook, from where he got two.

He goes on to say how the filming was done. “The initial plan was to shoot on iPhone. However, I wasn’t quite satisfied with it. We had to cancel roping in a cameraman, as it was too expensive. Since the film was self-produced, I had to do the cinematography. It was shot using LUMIX Gh5s and Osmo Pocket camera,” he quips.

Rejoy says that the entire film was shot in less than ten hours. When asked about what the film is about, he says, “The film is based on a crime thriller. It’s done in a narrative style with very minimal dialogues. ‘Highway to Hell’ revolves around an incident of robbery and the consequences it has on the characters of the film. The title signifies the message that we want to convey through the movie.”

“It was just a three-character film and I was the only crew. And the actors also helped,” he adds.

Apart from donning the director’s hat for the movie, Rejoy also took over its cinematography. The cast comprises Sam Murray, Tash Francis and Liam Hinz, who are from the USA and New Zealand. Rejoy, who works as a chef and now manages a restaurant, says how it all began. “I had plans to first shoot this in Malayalam when I would be on vacation. However, that couldn’t happen as I was busy with finishing studies, and getting settled with my career.”

That said, it was when the Malayalam movie ‘Life of Josutty’ was being filmed in New Zealand that he got to be a part of the production team. “This was an opportunity for me to watch filmmaking closely and it proved to be a great learning experience. From then on, I started following YouTube tutorials on filmmaking, interviews, documentaries and lots of movies on Netflix and other portals,” says Rejoy.

The sound design and background score were done in Kerala. The sound engineer for the project is Karun Prasad and the sound studio is Sound Brewery. The background music was done by Rakesh Kesavan. He adds that both of them are busy technicians in Kochi and have done a very commendable job in the film.

Rejoy is elated that he has now inched closer to achieving his passion, and he is all set with his flick, which was shot entirely in Raglan, a famous beach town in New Zealand.

“We are awaiting its release in two weeks as we are trying to associate with a banner and release the movie. I am glad that after the film was privately screened before a few film groups, it got a warm reception.”


Cochin Herald

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