Working towards your dream isn’t always as easy at it sounds, it most times involves walking unsteady paths and constantly questioning your decision. That being said, there is no truer and more fulfilling path than that which leads you to your dreams, it would be unfathomable to consider anything else but following your passion once you’ve made it clear you’re only going to do what you love. Jithin Majeed from a small town in Kerala made it to Hollywood on the back of his passion and hard work. He made the decision to do what he loves and has not looked back ever since. Jithin won the Royal Television Society Award for Camerawork Craft Skills at the RTS Student Television Awards for his short documentary ‘Moksha’. In conversation with this young cinematographer who is already making his mark, we get to know more about his journey and plans for the future!
Tell us a little about yourself.
My name’s Jithin Majeed, I’m a 22 (nearly 23) year old Malayali, originally from a small town in Malappuram, living in Calicut. A cinematographer and film editor by trade, I spent most of my childhood travelling with my family (my dad is a sailor). In 2016, I moved to London to receive professional training in film and media and graduated with a first class in film, TV & digital media production in 2019. I’ve been working there and in Kerala ever since.
When did you realize your love for film and cinematography? How has the journey been from then until now?
To be honest, I can’t pinpoint the exact moment I realised it, but I’d always been making little home videos when I was young. Back in the day, my mum had a bright orange Nokia phone that had a 2-megapixel camera on the back. Me, my younger brother and cousins used to film scripted short movies with that. I used to love doing those. But it was just a thing I used to do among a myriad of other fun things. When I was in 7th grade, one of my friends, Hasweed, introduced me to animation and VFX. He was a year senior to me, and I was blown away by what he could do. He was so creative that he even made animations just using PowerPoint. Over the years, I made short visual effects pieces using After Effects and sometimes put them up on YouTube. Then, when I was studying for my GCSE’s, I filmed two short films with my mates at school. They were objectively terrible films, but we had an absolute blast making them. We even entered them into a film competition and won some goodies.
Two years later, after my A levels, I took a decision to never study what didn’t interest me and if I was to be in a line of work, I didn’t want it to feel like ‘work’. I had started to hone my skills in filmmaking doing personal projects. I saw the media industry grow and decided that film and media was a viable career for me after high school. But I wanted training and after one year of preparation, tests and interviews, I was granted a scholarship to study film at Regent’s University London. Not everyone was fond of me going this route, but thankfully my parents were my biggest supporters and that’s all that mattered to me. Three years of London changed my life (cliché I know, but it really did!). I gained invaluable knowledge in what I now call my career, built life-long comradeship both personally and professionally, worked in New York City & Hollywood, got invited to Google HQ, filmed at the Royal Albert Hall, worked with Red-Bull, Roc Nation, Virgin Group and of course won my first major award, The Royal Television Society Award; among a myriad of other milestones, both professional and personal.
Could you tell us more about The Royal Television Society Award? How was your experience of winning the award for Camera?
Sure. The Royal Television Society (RTS) is a British-based educational charity under the British royal family. It is the oldest television society in the world. The group was formed as the Television Society on 7 September 1927 and was granted its Royal title in 1966. HRH Prince Charles (The Prince of Wales) is its Patron and Sir David Attenborough is a vice president at the RTS. I won the Royal Television Society Award for Camerawork Craft Skills at the RTS Student Television Awards for my short documentary ‘Moksha’. I honestly was not expecting to win, being nominated itself was an honour. Because artists and technicians in our industry know that bagging an RTS award is quite a task, since the selection process is very scrutinizing and only the quality of your work can influence the jury’s decision. So, it was an absolute shocker when they announced my name. I’m grateful.
What do you think are the skills every cinematographer should have?
There are several skills a cinematographer should have in my opinion. But If I had to point out one, it’d be composition. If you can create pleasing and story driven compositions, I think you would make for a great DP. I always practice this in real life, whenever I see something that could go on the big screen, I create a frame of it mentally. I always have my eyes as cameras. Also, lighting is crucial. Learning to shape light, natural or otherwise, will dramatically improve your work.
‘Moksha’, your award-winning film, was shot in Varanasi. What attracted you to Varanasi and inspired you to take such a film?
I had little to no knowledge about Varanasi until mid-2017, when I saw a short film on the place. It was directed by Ayas Hasn, a Malayali filmmaker based in Dubai. The visuals he had captured were nothing short of extraordinary and being a cinematographer, it sparked my interest. This was right around the time I was researching stories for my final year film at university and after looking into Varanasi and its history, it was a no brainer.
How has your perspective on cinematography changed after your experience with ‘Moksha’ and completing your graduation in Film and Media?
One thing that happened was that It further cemented the fact that equipment doesn’t matter. When I won the RTS award, one reason I was in such disbelief was because my fellow nominees had shot their films on the best film cameras money could buy, such as RED’s and Arri’s. Due to logistical issues and a limited crew, I could only carry a mirrorless camera and a few other pieces of essential gear.
Over these years of learning, I’ve evolved my style to prioritize serving the story than creating aesthetically pleasing frames. That dolly zoom or whip pan may look cool, but if it doesn’t help push the narrative forward, I’m not doing my job properly.
- Favorite Cinematographer: Emmanuel Lubezki
- Favorite Directors: Abbas Kiarostami, Asghar Farhadi, Cohen Bros., Adoor Gopalakrishnan, Orson Welles and countless others…
- Hobbies: Fine art, football and cooking
- Favorite travel destination: Los Angeles
What would be your goal for the next 5 years? Are you working on any new projects?
If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s “we plan, God laughs”. So, I’m a bit more conservative with plans nowadays. But as of now, I’d like to complete Moksha’s film festival run in Dubai and Frankfurt by the end of the year. Early next year I will be in London working to help further build a few media agencies. The goal is to build these companies into full-fledged production spaces in the next few years and provide jobs to up and coming talents. The team is also working towards the next film and a bunch of other unannounced projects. Inshallah!
What part of filmmaking makes you most excited and happy? And on the other hand, what part of it do you not like?
Obviously, I love directing the photography of any content. It’s probably what I do best I’d say. That moment when you get the shot you’d been hoping for, is quite ecstatic. I also enjoy being a colourist on projects, I think it’s the one of the most fun parts of the entire process. But I’ve been an editor longer than I’ve been a DOP and a good chunk of my work revolves around post-production. I’ve a love/hate relationship with editing, sometimes you just want to pull your hair out. But I still get it done…eventually.
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