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Charisma of an animal dictates its screen time: Renowned wildlife filmmaker & Cinematographer Alphonse Roy at MIFF Master Class

Charisma of an animal dictates its screen time: Renowned wildlife filmmaker & Cinematographer Alphonse Roy at MIFF Master Class

Mumbai, 18 June 2024


The charisma of an animal often dictates the possibility of it being featured in films and its screen time, said renowned wildlife filmmaker and cinematographer Shri Alphonse Roy. He was conducting a Master Class on the topic “Exploring the Wilderness: Indian Wildlife Documentaries and Conservation Efforts” at the 18th Mumbai International Film Festival. The session delved into the intricacies of creating documentaries about conservation initiatives and Indian wildlife.

Shri Alphonse Roy further said that television producers are more interested in animals like tiger, lion or blue whale than a bird or another small species. “There is certain hierarchy existing in wildlife films depending on the charisma of the animal”, he added.  

Roy advised aspiring wildlife filmmakers that passion is paramount 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.

(In Photo: Renowned wildlife filmmaker and cinematographer Shri Alphonse Roy conducting a Master Class at 18th MIFF)


He also stressed the importance of ethical filmmaking, highlighting that 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 explained. He criticized that in the age of 24X7 wildlife channels, this ethics of not disturbing wildlife in any circumstances is taking a back seat.

Discussing the evolution of wildlife filmmaking, Roy acknowledged the impact 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 current state of wildlife conservation in India, noting that increased human population and land mass 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.

Encouraging students to immerse themselves in nature, Roy urged them to join nature clubs and organizations like 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.

In response to questions 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.

(In Photo: Felicitation of Shri Alphonse Roy at MIFF Master Class)


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.

An alumni of Film & T.V. Institute of Tamilnadu, Shri Alphonse Roy’s notable works as Director of Photography include acclaimed films such as ‘Gour Hari Dastaan’, ‘Life is Good’ and ‘Urumi’. Roy’s cinematic vision has earned him accolades, including a Prime Time Emmy Award for ‘Tibet the End of Time’ (1995) and a Hugo Television Award for ‘Tiger Kill’ (2008), along with a Filmfare Award nomination for Best Cinematography for ‘Aamir’ (2009).