The Cannes Film Festival, a talent show for the Hollywood film elite, usually conjures up images of A-list actresses in custom-made gowns and Academy Award-winning directors. While this year’s lineup included films by established directors such as Sofia Coppola and Todd Haynes, it also showcased the work of USC student Aman Adlakha.
Adlakha, a junior majoring in film and television production, recently transferred to the USC School of Cinematic Arts from UCLA this fall semester to cultivate his budding passion for motion pictures.
While in Westwood, Adlakha wrote and directed a short film called “The Spaceman,” depicting a man who abandons his day job to pursue his lifelong dream of becoming an astronaut. Produced with a budget of less than $100, the film received widespread acclaim from viewers and critics alike, eventually being selected to screen at the Cannes Film Festival in France.
Adlakha has always considered himself artistically inclined. Growing up in New Delhi, India, he was usually seen with a camera in his hand from a young age, taking photos of remarkable landscapes and recording memorable moments while on family vacations.
In addition to his interest in film, Adlakha also developed a love for writing during his childhood. Pursuing these separately, it occurred to him that he could merge his two pastimes through writing and directing his own screenplays. However, he still was reluctant to commit to a career in film, entering UCLA without a declared major and waiting to ensure that his interests were true passions instead of mere hobbies.
It was only through his involvement with Delta Kappa Alpha, a co-ed cinema fraternity, and the Campus MovieFest — the contest through which “The Spaceman” was selected to screen at Cannes — during the past two years that drove Adlakha to major in film.
Adlakha has specialized primarily in short films, citing the limited funds and resources available for students to work on feature films. He hopes to create features later on, tapping into the inspiration behind his shorts to provide direction for his larger-scale projects down the line.
“My goal is to create the best short films that I can right now and use those as a foundation from where I can do feature films in the future,” Adlakha said.
Growing up in New Delhi with what he referred to as a Westernized upbringing, Adlakha also notes the impact other cultures have had on his work, as well as cinema’s unique ability to communicate across cultures and languages.
“I feel that it’s impossible to watch something and not be influenced by it, whether it’s Hollywood, Bollywood or Japanese films,” Adlakha said. “I’ve seen a lot of different kinds of films from different countries and filmmakers, but they all touch upon things that are very universal, which is what makes films very exciting for me because they do transcend language and other boundaries.”
This desire to allow viewers from disparate backgrounds to see elements of their own experiences in his work was one of the motivating factors in his creation of “The Spaceman.”
“It’s about this man who grows up to realize that he hasn’t really followed through with what he wanted to do,” Adlakha said. “I think that that’s something we can all relate to, because everyone has dreams and aspirations.”
The short film drew the praise of the judges in the CMF competition, and was later selected, along with 30 other films submitted by students across the nation, to be shown at Cannes. The festival attracts some of the most talented filmmakers from around the world, and proved to be a pivotal experience for Adlakha.
“Cannes was magical. It was a beach paradise in the south of France, and every day you feel so fortunate to be a part of it,” Adlakha said. “On top of that, you have some of the best movies in the world being screened and some of the biggest celebrities there.”
While at the event, Adlakha wanted to learn, since he is just beginning his career in film.
“I haven’t worked in film for 30 or 40 years, so the way I saw it was that I can learn from these people and see how [making films] actually works,” Adlakha said. “I’m very happy that that was the perspective I went into [Cannes] with.”
Attending Cannes helped to reinforce Adlakha desire to become a filmmaker after graduation, prompting him to transfer to the School of Cinematic Arts to take advantage of the school’s modern facilities and noteworthy faculty.
Ultimately, Adlakha encourages all students to chase after their dreams, regardless of the school they attend or their specific circumstances.
“At the end of the day, if you feel that, in your heart, you know you’re supposed to be doing something, it doesn’t really matter what school you go to or which program you’re in,” Adlakha said. “If you have that vision, I always feel that no matter what it is you’re doing, whether you’re a filmmaker, an artist or a doctor, I feel that I have an obligation to follow that passion, and hopefully others pursue theirs as well.”