San Production: In the spotlight

Dimapur | May 5

‘San Production’ is taking the lead as one of the trusted brands for professional videography in Nagaland. It took not less than six years and a lot of hard work for Sanen Kichu, the person behind San Production to arrive at this place.

San Production, a private company based in Kohima has been in operation since 2015, filming documentaries, directing, producing and shooting music videos and weddings. 

“San Production was the outcome of all my life’s experiences and journey until 2015,” Sanen shares with The Morung Express in an exclusive interview.

Hitting the right button 

Clueless about the profession of videographer or cinematographer, Sanen found his field of expertise through music.

“I was part of a band called ‘Making Merry’,” he says recollecting the practice sessions and gigs performances where he constantly found himself interested in documenting and filming. “Little did I know this was the training ground for something much better than I ever imagined,” he says.

During the early stages of learning, a closed friend introduced Sanen to the editing software ‘Sony Vegas Pro’. He remembers exploring the software in his computer to see what the particular tools were capable of and often messed up. “I had to re-install it all over again but I loved every bit of it. I love exploring things, testing its capabilities, researching and trying to get the full potential out of it.”

In 2012, Sanen and one of his friends decided to make a drum solo video. Sanen borrowed his dad’s handy-cam, went to the church to shoot the video and came back home for editing. 

“By that time I had a decent idea of the software. After syncing the audio and video together, when we hit the play button, I was blown away by how amazing it looked. I look back on that particular moment as the turning point of my life,” he asserts.

Stepping into the unknown

With a graduation degree from Baptist College Kohima, Sanen moved to Bangalore with the aim to do MBA but instead took filmmaking and visual effect from Bangalore Zee Institute. “I knew the risk involved in my decision but I was willing to take it.”

After graduating from the film school, he worked in a company, did freelancing for different clients and even got a promising work offer in Dubai. Though he was “pretty sure” of what he wanted, due to “some personal problems and obligations,” Sanen declined the Dubai offer.

Sanen came back to Nagaland with ‘big vision and lot of expectations’ but got lost not knowing how to get a head start.

“I tried to get a government job while working as music instructor in a music school. I worked as a government employee for six months and realised that was not for me. I had to take a chance and step out into the unknown. I ended up shooting a music video and since then I have not turned back.”

It all started with a lot of free projects, getting paid just Rs 250 to Rs 500 for a project, “but it was never about the money. I wanted to grow, learn and build myself up,” he states. 

To follow his dreams, Sanen did not allow anything to come on his way. Filming tools and gears are expensive so he built his own camera stabilizer with help from his dad using PVC pipe and attaching it with an emergency light on top. “All those experiences prepared me and boosted my confidence and fuelled my passion even more,” he says with gratefulness. 

Today, Sanen runs his own private company with four employees, working on around 40-50 projects a year.

Turning points of possibilities 

Sanen always wanted “to be independent, stand on his own feet and to be able to help those around him.” His career took a deep root when he realized all these were possible even without being a government employee. “I was able to do that through something I loved. It was the biggest turning point,” he shares.

A major turning point for Sanen was the first wedding gig through the recommendation of Lichan Humtsoe, CEO, Ete Coffee. Back then Lichan was a wedding photographer. 

“He believed in me to be able to do it. Filming weddings has opened up a lot of opportunities for San Production and we would not be where we are without it,” Sanen acknowledges.

For anyone pursuing a career outside the government sector, especially in Nagaland, always comes with the hurdle of support from parents and families. 

Sanen’s story also has the same narrative. “It was not easy for my parents because they wanted the best for me in terms of job security. I cannot blame them for not being able to put faith in what I was doing because initially, I was also not sure of it myself,” he expresses, “but now they are my strongest supporters and I could not ask for more.”

On this note, Sanen says that there are lot of opportunities and scope outside the government sector. “We need to get out of our comfort space and take a little risk.”

Do what you love; Love what you do

Finding the passion and fulfillment in any job keeps one going. Sanen has also tap into this source of inspiration as he shares, “Waking up every single day and doing what I love to do the most - that has always been the most satisfying thing for me. I count my blessings every day!”

He also admits that the reality is not always beautiful. “There are tough days. There are days I want to give up. There are sleepless nights, stress and lot of worrying is involved but no job or profession is easy, money does not come easy.”

“It starts with hard work, dedication, believing in yourself and also sacrifice but at the end, all that labour of love, risk and sacrifice adds to the satisfaction of what I do,” he sums up. 

Talking about the productions, Sanen says there are many elements involved in the creative process. “There are things I have no control over. In certain projects, I represent a single piece that makes up the larger picture.”

However, he says that irrespective of the arrangements, he always tries to give his best to guarantee the quality. “I am a perfectionist by nature. I take the time needed to ensure that the final product has all the ingredients needed to make it a quality one.” 

To find influence and inspiration for his productions, Sanen randomly watches videos and creative works. He believes that trying to recreate some other’s amazing works is also very inspiring as one learn and begin to understand how much work has been put in to achieve something that looks very simple.

“It is hard to put a marker on what influences me. Sometimes it is as silly as taking a short walk,” he adds. 

‘Respect every profession’

As an entrepreneur, Sanen says one should ‘respect every profession and respect every individual for what they do!’ He adds, “We are destined to be different. As long as you are happy and find purpose in what you do, I feel that is the most important thing.”

“Discipline, honesty, handwork, curiosity to learn new things and striving for perfection are something I really value,” he states. 

With no professional mentor, Sanen says it has not been easy to make certain decisions. “I wish there was someone to help because at times it gets hard and some decisions can come with a heavy price.” However, he is thankful for his faithful friends. “I share my dreams and visions for my productions and they have always been the best source of honesty for me.” 

Challenges along the way

“Challenges have always been part of the journey,” says Sanen and with experience and many, often, hard lessons learned along the way, things have become smoother over the years.

Finding the right people has been one of his biggest challenges. “It is tough finding faithful and reliable people. This is made even more challenging in my line of work where there is no fixed work timings, the hours can be long and involves a lot of travelling. It has been a difficult process but I am really grateful for the ones I am working with right now,” he said.

The other challenge has been keeping tabs on various other elements that need to work in tandem to make things work. This includes taking care of health, charging 20 to 25 batteries, safely copying and saving the files, preparing for travel and other such things. “This becomes more difficult when shooting four continuous projects in a week,” he admits. 

Growing above uncertainties 

Addressing on uncertainties, Sanen notes right now, there are so many new production teams coming up, theoretically a new one every month. Each one with fresh new ideas! “The main uncertainty is the journey to retain our own unique identity in this sea of videos and video makers.”

Also, when the market is small like ours and there are too many players, Sanen feels “it becomes a struggle to maintain the sense of being playful and explorative, which are keys to creativity. It is definitely a journey of uncertainty but I am learning and growing.” 

Despite all these, Sanen believes that the best way we can all grow is as a community and therefore, it is critical to find ways to work, learn and grow together.

Opening about disappointing experience with clients, Sanen says there are times when they get zero respect from people. 

“There were incidents, when I went to meet some clients on the appointed time but they would make us wait for hours or some would even not acknowledge our presence when we arrive for such appointments,” he shares, “This experiences have made me more emphatic to people and situations.” 

Working for the YouTube channel Rec.urrent, has been one of the most rewarding experiences for sanen. “I love how we are able to create something beautiful out of conceptualizing and video making, and how this now serves as a medium for the songs and artists to connect with people,” he said. 

Sanen also finds joy in capturing “people’s special moments and occasions” and becoming the medium of preserving, reliving and celebrating “memories.”

“It is the impact my videos have on people’s lives - be it the joy it brings, connections it makes, feelings it spurs, or change it can rally. This is what makes me feel proud of what I do as a film maker,” he affirms. 

Scope of video production in Nagaland 

“Looking back in the last ten years, the change and progress we have made is amazing,” Sanen states while sharing his impression of the video production industry in Nagaland.

“The level of production quality we have achieved even with the little available resources, I think, it is going in the right direction. It is opening up opportunities for our youths who want to get in the creative field,” he said. 

Sanen is optimistic of the vast scope of video production in Nagaland. “We are just at the start. In few years time, video production will become huge and I believe it will happen soon.”

He believes that there will be a time when our videographers and cinematographers will work for big companies, or even start producing big budget films. “It is like a dream right now, but if others can do it why can’t we?” he pauses with anticipation. 

And along this line, Sanen dreams for San Production to make it into the big wide world. “I want it to be an international company.”

‘Work on your dreams’

“Nothing comes easy in life. I am still growing. The amount of hard-work and sacrifices I had to make to achieve the goals that brought me to where I am right now were immense. God and my mum are witnesses to it,” he testifies. 

As word of guidance for someone wanting to follow in his footsteps, Sanen said, “If you are someone like me who is passionate about what you do, looking for something different in life and wanting to make a living by doing what you love, please don’t just sit and dream big! Start working from now, built your skill, and go around meeting new people. It is always going be tough at the start, but at the end, it will be all worth it.”

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