To what extent can we do great things without sacrificing part of our identity? That is the question that Rishi Chhapolia (CC ’22) attempts to answer in his new short film Faust’s Facade, which was produced, written, and directed almost entirely by Columbia students.
The film, which premieres this Friday at 9 pm on YouTube and Vimeo, follows the story of a young actor, Nick (played by Joel Meyers, CC ’21), in his attempt to win a lead movie role by acting the part in real life. The gambit, while allowing Nick to play a convincing portrayal of the character, Faust, might go too far when his method acting attracts the ire of his co-actor, Colin (played by Harris Solomon, CC ’22), and director, Nicole (performed by Maya T. Weed, CC ’22).
Rishi, who based Faust’s Facade on Christopher Marlowe’s 1592 play Doctor Faustus, wanted to capture the play’s portrayal of “thwarted ambition,” which Rishi says stood out to him when he read Marlowe’s work in high school.
“I think it’s a very universal feeling,” Rishi says, “where you really want something, and you do everything you can to get it, but you don’t, and you begin to question how much of yourself you have left behind along the way.”
This may be true, but fortunately, Rishi’s ambition has not been thwarted where Faust’s Facade is concerned. He says that making the film was possible because of support from family, friends, and the Columbia community.
His family has always encouraged his love of filmmaking, and a close friend and fellow filmmaker, Michael Deng (CC ’22), convinced Rishi—initially planning to make a much shorter film—to produce one that was longer and more serious.
Finally, Columbia’s film and theater community enabled Rishi to put the film together. Rishi says that his work with the CU Players, one of Columbia’s theater troupes, “taught [him] how to collaborate with actors and crew members” in addition to “introducing” him to “Columbia’s talented community of actors.”
Rishi also states that the cast of Faust’s Facade “had an enormous influence on the film’s vision, script, and story.” Each of the actors, Rishi says, is “just fantastic,” and they all immersed themselves in the film’s story, bringing their own inventiveness to their roles.
During early rehearsals, Rishi says, the actors each suggested script changes to reflect their perspectives on the characters better. Operating on a tight film schedule, they wound up helping him revise the entire script one day before shooting.
Rishi also points out that the actors and crew displayed a “remarkable ability to work under pressure.” The team only had two days for filming, which Rishi notes imparted on the film a fitting (albeit unplanned) “sense of urgency,” but which also meant that filming had to be done in about 20 hours over one “hot summer weekend.”
The most rewarding part of working on Faust’s Facade, Rishi explains, was seeing the film come together during both production and postproduction. He loved “seeing the script come to life, the actors adding their own interpretations to characters, and the cameramen lending additional layers to the movie by filming from unconventional angles.” He also loved watching the final product come together during the editing process, which he compared to “finally solving a complex puzzle.”
As for future plans, Rishi says that he will soon direct a music video for Columbia musician Max Patel (CC ’23). He would also like to use Faust’s Facade as an entrée into the New York film scene, where he hopes to work on others’ films before pursuing his own projects.
“I didn’t study film at Columbia,” Rishi says. “I studied Philosophy—so I would like to get practical experience and meet filmmakers in the City after graduating.”
Although Rishi has no concrete plans for films of his own, he does have a dream project: filming a horror Batman movie.
“If Nick takes ambition to its limits,” Rishi explains, “then Batman takes selflessness to its limits. Both characters have a tragic streak about them.”
For now, Columbia students will have the opportunity to watch an exciting film written and produced by their peers. Readers looking for more information can visit the Faust’s Facade Instagram page, IMDb page, and website at the attached links.
Nick via Rishi Chhapolia
Actors and Director via Rishi Chhapolia
Method Actor via Rishi Chhapolia
Method Man via Rishi Chhapolia