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How I Shot That (LAFF Edition): Siblings Ravi and Geeta Patel Get Personal for ‘Meet the Patels’

How I Shot That (LAFF Edition): Siblings Ravi and Geeta Patel Get Personal for 'Meet the Patels'

Brother and sister, Ravi and Geeta Patel, co-directed “Meet The Patels,” an intimate documentary detailing the processes of modern Indian matchmaking. It marks
the siblings’ first foray into directing. Ravi has previously acted in
television shows such as “Scrubs,” “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” and “Children’s Hospital.”

[Editor’s Note: Indiewire reached out to filmmakers with films
playing at the 20th LA Film Festival (June 11-19) to ask them about how
they shot their indie, and what advice they had for other filmmakers.
We’ll be posting their responses throughout the run of the festival. Go 
HERE for the master list.]

What
was the most difficult shoot on your movie and how did you pull it off?
RP: Well, I think the most important shoot was the one we didn’t
shoot at all. I don’t want to give the plot away, but it involves a big talk I
had with Mom and Dad. Geeta and I didn’t want to film these kinds of
super-intimate moments out of respect to the moments, and we also felt filming
them would distract from the authenticity of those moments. We experimented
with all sorts of techniques in re-creating that moment and others like it in
the film, and that’s what ultimately led the animation (and, more specifically,
the rugged hand-drawn sketchy style of animation).

GP: I’d say it wasn’t exactly awesome to
shoot in a clunky car, driven by a reckless under-aged driver, over a crappy
unpaved road in India, bouncing around holding a goliath 8-pound camera for
three hours straight while my entire family (and by this I mean my aunts and
uncles too) were yelling at me to stop filming. “If you put this much effort
into your personal life, you’d be married by now!” I pulled it off by getting
upset and making everyone feel guilty. That’s how we roll in my family.

What’s the one
thing you wish someone had told you BEFORE you started your movie?
RP: Everyone told me
how hard this was going to be. I wish they told me then “no, you still can’t
begin to understand how hard this will be!” That said, they did tell me that,
too.

GP: It would take just as long as the last one.

What’s the worst
piece of advice you ever got?
RP: “Hey, you know what will be awesome? Making a
documentary where your sister, with whom you already live, is filming your
personal life.”

GP: “Don’t co-direct.” Working with my brother has been one of the most
amazing experiences I’ve ever had, or will ever have.

What’s the best?
RP: It was from my
sister: “Let’s make sure we tell this story from a emotional point-of-view, and
not from the aspect of story or informational plot-points.” It was a
game-changer; I think the dramatic spine of this story is what makes it so
entertaining as a comedy. It heavily evolved my understanding of what makes
good comedy.

GP: “Hire Janet Eckholm to produce.”

What advice do you
have for aspiring or first-time filmmakers?
RP: If you saw the movie, you understand that
we Patels have a LOT of advice to offer. If I had to say one thing, it’s this:
it’s your story, it’s your movie. Borrow from the greats, but don’t let anyone
tell you how to make or sell your movie. It’s your POV, and therefore will
ultimately be best told through your lens. For example, we had a ton of
brilliant editors work on this film, but it really became OUR film when we
decided to make edits in the movie ourselves; at that point, we learned first
hand what the film really could be, and it allowed us to be better
collaborators with all these amazing editors and their ideas.

GP: If you are a director, learn the business side. This is freedom.

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