Of cameras, close-ups & change

“So obviously everyone knows what shutter speed is?”

All of our blank faces stared expectantly back at Nadir.

“Okay then. And you’re going to be shooting on your own?”


Feeling like we had wasted our entire lives learning everything but the dynamics of a camera, we listened intently as our new sensei went through all that we needed to know before filming our very first independent documentary.

We were filming the guard at the gate – and he had some very groundbreaking views about education in Swat!

Gul Khan had been a loyal employee of SOC films for the last 3 years and he was quite delighted to hear that he was finally getting to be in front of that heavy equipment he drove around for the crew. Three eager interns that we were, set about extrapolating minute details about his life from him while scribbling down everything and anything of interest on a recycled piece of paper we had nicked from the printer.

Gul Khan was a resident of the Swat region, his family still living there. One of his sons was working in Karachi, the other enrolled in a school as well as a madrassa back in Swat. He had two daughters too. Neither were educated. Aha, a story?

He proceeded to explain that the norms in his community were such a few years ago that girls were not put into school. The schools consisted of mainly male teachers and there weren’t separate classrooms for girls hence it was unsuitable for any girl to enjoy this privilege. Gul Khan couldn’t stress enough how he thought this norm was wrong and a result of illiterate and ignorant behavior. It obviously still had to be followed though. What would the people say?

He then proudly proclaimed that the situation was changing now and people finally understood the importance of equal education for both. There were separate schools and female teachers as well. He likened education to the headlight of a car, vital to find your way around in the darkness. Being three girls, we were delighted by his statement.

The rest of the day was a mixture of batteries, wires, sound levels, shooting frames and a series of recordings that we proudly loaded onto our computers. An amateur attempt at editing later, we had a three-minute reflection on the education system in Swat.

Well a series of unevenly filmed clips, half of them portraying a Gul Khan with no forehead.

No, we weren’t even close to an Oscar. Yes, it developed a sparking interest for this art in the three of us. As of yesterday, I have registered for a photography course online and the DSLR rotting in its bag in my cupboard has now been placed front and center on my desk.

This might just be the beginning of something very exciting.

— Maria Chawla


My internship experience at SOC Films

There have been few experiences in my life, that have impacted me the way, my time at SOC films has. Pursuing film, has been a long-standing dream that seems nerve twistingly far? It’s hard enough believing in yourself and no matter how much confidence you feign, sometimes you need a hand to stretch itself out and say, go for it! Dream bigger!

I came to SOC films, knowing that I wanted to pursue film but scared, that I wasn’t good enough. In Karachi, what value does a story have? I had no technical knowledge and I was fresh A-level graduate, when I joined the internship program.

It’s hard to believe that I found myself, in a pile of transcriptions and subtitles. Some interviews were a mechanical process of recording, lines of dialogue in correspondence to time codes but others moved me, they showed subjects beyond the victim-victimizer lens, these people, were resilient and their stories were powerful. I was keen to note, the interview process, from the style of questions being asked, to the way scenes and subjects were framed.

Transcriptions were just a stepping- stone and the work quickly paid off, as I was pulled onto research and other administrative tasks. It wasn’t just the work, that pushed me to grow, it was the team that made up SOC films. Everyone on the team, had their own personal narratives and their own style of teaching but they were all models of people who took the plunge and worked with commitment, to refine their skills. I had never looked at people as role models till my internship.

My second summer at SOC, I decided to take all the skills and knowledge, I had accumulated and shoot my own documentary. It was great, SOC films acted as my supervisor and I was able to earn 5 college credits as a fieldwork internship. The producers helped me with characters and gave me feedback on my interviews, while the cinematographer and editors gave me feedback on technical aspects. I interviewed people from all walks, to find leads and characters.

Going into the colonies of Karachi, and finding my own stories was high stress but it was a blast! It really pushed me to improve the technical aspects related to my work and threw me out of my comfort zone, in the best and worst possible way. The team at SOC films, was without the doubt, the best support network for my project.

This summer, I was able to shoot and edit a short 2 minute promo for SOC films, in addition to various other tasks. I received feedback from Sharmeen, the editors, the cinematographer and sound. Everything from content, lighting to the kind of music I wanted to use, was a learning curve.

Coming back to SOC, always makes me grow, I measure myself against the people who make up the team and I realize how much I still have left to learn. To date, there has never been a time, when my internship has not pushed me. I have gained a lot from the work I have done, the team and the other interns, all of them, have been remarkable. I am still quite nervous, when it comes to film, I constantly question whether I am good enough, but my internship stands as a personal reminder, to dream big and work hard.

— Eleyna Haroun