Filmmaker and Producer Gurdeep Singh Takes Us Behind the Camera in This Exclusive Interview
Hello Gurdeep, nice to meet you. First of all, how have you been coping through quarantine and has life drastically changed for you? Good/bad?
Covid has had a huge impact on me mentally, physically, and socially. Luckily, I didn’t get the virus, but I have seen people dying, losing their jobs, career, and loved ones. It was tough for everyone. The only good part, like many others, was also riding a train without knowing where I want to go, covid gave me time to think, about what I really wanted to do with my life and revisit all the good and bad memories of the past. As a creative, it’s very important to look in the mirror and know yourself, using your imagination and your emotions to tell the stories your keep inside.
Tell us about your background in producing and how it all began:
I started my career as a producer by accident. It started back in 2014, in India, when one of my friends was supposed to produce music for Jassie Gill’s Baapu Zimmidar. Unfortunately, he got sick, and he called me to help him organize the shoot. I had no idea about producing and what I was supposed to do there. But coming from a film school in India I.e B.Tech in film, television, and media production, also having theoretical knowledge, luckily everything went smoothly.
I met Balwinder Singh Kohli ( Ruby) owner of Speed records on set. From then onwards, it was a smooth ride. I worked as Executive Producer for around 39 music videos, and out of those 15 were major hits crossing over 200 million views on youtube and becoming a trend on country and TV music channels. I never expected I would get a chance to work on a project for Daljit Dosanjh, Jassi Gill, Amy Virk, Parmish Verma, A-kay, Kulwinder Billa, and Mankirat Aulakh and pull it off with ease. Although I was working behind the camera, dealing with contracts, permissions, promotion, booking, budgeting, and scheduling. In the end, it was a team effort and I feel blessed that I got the opportunity to work with such geat artists and people.
After that, I came to the US, and although, I did my major in cinematography once again I got the chance to work as a producer on Gangster in 2017, Fenced in 2019, and A family Barbecue in 2019. All of these movies were critically acclaimed and won numerous awards in film festivals. Producing in the United States is slightly different from India or say, Bollywood. Here we have more rules and guidelines to follow, but they all exist for good reasons. Initially, it felt tough but slowly I got used to it. Now I have wonderful memories attached to all these projects.
A Family Barbecue
Do you feel like you have grown a lot more as an artist/producer over the years, through your experiences?
Yes, of course! We all make mistakes; it’s a part of learning and I have made so many. Sometimes I look back at times and think, “what was wrong with me back then?”. It’s a huge responsibility. So much time, money, and effort are at stake. I became more proactive in budgeting, scheduling, and hiring people. I started having a plan A, B and even C. Even till this day, I was never able to sleep a day before the shoot. Stress is a part of success, so sooner or later we need to learn how to deal with it. I don’t want to mention the artist, but in one of the earliest shoots this artist came 5 hours late to set, and we didn’t have enough funds to go over the production budget. From that day forward, I decided to always have 2–3 hours of buffer time.
There are so many things that are out of our hands. I remember one time during the production of Gangster (2018). We were shooting the final scene at a studio in Burbank and the police chopper was chasing someone in the neighborhood. We literally had to wait for an hour since police sirens were creating noise and we were not able to get clear audio. I learned from every single set and I’m still learning new things every day.
What has been one of your favorite projects to work on so far?
It’s very hard to pick one, as all the projects I have worked on are close to me. But my favorite movie was “From a Barren state”. I am closely attached to that movie because for obvious reasons, I worked as a cinematographer on the project. We worked day and night on the script and had plenty of debates regarding various scene options, transitions, choice of lens, and camera movement. Working with Priyam Sadhukhan was amazing, and we became close friends on the shoots. Every scene of the film seemed challenging at times, but somehow, we managed it. Every crew member has put their heart and soul into making that movie.
Some of my awards include Winning the Best Cinematographer Award at the Crown Wood Film Festival in 2019 for Best Drama, Paris Play Film Festival in 2021, From A Barren State -Beyond The Curve Film Festival, Virgin Spring Cinefest (Won the Silver award for Best Director at the Calcutta International cult Film Festival 2019, to name a few.
Who has been one of your favorite actors/filmmakers you have worked with so far?
I had the pleasure of working with Canadian-based cinematographer Mr. Baljit Singh Deo. He is my favorite cinematographer and an absolute genius. It was a dream come true when I got a chance to assist him. Baljit Sir has directed around 7 movies, over 30 music videos and 8 feature films as a cinematographer. Yet he is so down to earth and a very humble person. I may consider myself successful if I could even become 1% of what Baljit is. He has an amazing eye for detail, he is a master of technique and a child at heart.
I have never seen anyone more passionate than him. After him, I admire Sidhu Moosewala, such a big name, it’s so saddening he isn’t here anymore. I remember meeting him on the shoot of the Same Beef in Los Angeles, he was so humble, and it did not feel like I was meeting a celebrity. I was so sad hearing the news about him. He was and will always be a true legend.
What other projects do you have coming up?
Currently, we are working on our next project, Sleepless Night. It’s a TV series based on the nightlife of LA, New York, and the Bay area. We are planning to shoot 3 seasons. It is going to be produced under Urban Phulkari Films. We are still finalizing the location and setting up auditions in a month or two. I don’t want to reveal the story, but the whole series will be shot at nighttime. I am very excited about it, I hope everything goes well, and God will guide us, as always.