Who am I?
My name is Jall Cowasji. I’m 24 years old, and I’m an aspiring filmmaker. I’m incredibly lucky to have discovered my calling at a very young age. Soon after my 10th birthday, my grandmother passed down an old video camera that she no longer needed. It was a casual gesture that unbeknownst to her, fundamentally changed the course of my life. I remember being so taken by the technology, by the sheer capacity to capture the moving image. It was a remarkable time of discovery, the time I first began to associate with the word “filmmaker”.
Why am I here?
I’ve been offered a place at New York University’s TISCH School of The Arts to pursue the Graduate Filmmaking Program with a Cinematography Emphasis. The film department, arguably the finest of its kind, is notoriously selective, accepting a small mix of students that evolve into some of the most capable filmmakers of our time. It is an opportunity of a lifetime, one that unfortunately comes with a hefty price tag.
What is my philosophy?
Find what you love and let it kill you. When you discover what makes you happy, you don’t hesitate to put everything you have into it because it doesn’t register as labor. When I’m behind the camera or devising a shot list, I work like a mad man. I work through the night, deliberating on minuscule details, sometimes forgetting to eat, fueled by a kind of adrenaline rush. I’m so grateful to have found what I love, and I’m making every conceivable effort to nurture it.
What can I brag about?
Last year, I had the opportunity to work closely on Qissa-e Parsi: The Parsi Story, a documentary about my own beloved Parsi community. This film was my sister’s venture, and she brought me on-board because she was jaded by the hackneyed documentary format, wherein information is dished out with little concern for how it is conveyed. My role therefore was not just to make things look pretty, but to shape and enhance the way in which information was relayed. The film has seen widespread success, winning the National Award for Best Anthropological/ Ethnographic Film this year. Seeing it spread from one film festival to the other, sparking dialogue and educating people; there’s just nothing more gratifying.
In the same vein, I photographed and edited Navroz: The New Day, an educational film commissioned by the Ministry of External Affairs for a special screening at the United Nations. Aside from these larger projects, I work on a series of short films the year round, from awareness films for NGOs, to fiction narratives for niche film festivals. I even work on some projects purely for my own understanding because I believe that the best way to bridge the gap between where I stand and what I envision is to continually expand my body of work.
In college, perhaps my greatest accolade was receiving The Elmer Capshaw Award for Outstanding Senior in Media: the highest honor for excellence in the film and photographic arts at the University of Oklahoma.
What is my end goal?
To become a highly proficient filmmaker/ cinematographer that doesn’t just know the technical stuff but really understands the art of visual storytelling. Good movies may seem effortless but there is so much thought, insight, planning, and coordination that goes into them.
After three rigorous years at NYU, I will have a strong body of work and a really solid network of filmmakers that will aid in launching my professional filmmaking career. From where I stand now, I have an awareness of all these unrefined stories that exist everywhere, stories that can open minds and influence the way we think. If I can do justice to these stories through film, I’ll be content.
What’s in it for you?
I wish I could say a free gift card or something, but really all you get is the satisfaction of knowing you’ve been a part of my journey (lame I know! Sorry). For those of you that know me well, you know my heart’s in this.
Thank you so much for taking the time to read all this!