Many people have a calling – whether it’s baking, calligraphy, or four years of medical school, a tangible passion can define a person’s experience for much of their life. For Varun Chharia, this vocation was cinema. As a fourth-year Continuing and Professional Studies student at the University, Chharia ignited his enthusiasm for film production and shows no signs of stopping in his journey.
“I always watched movies on Saturday nights, just a little bit in my room,” Chharia said. “I remember once, I was watching a bunch of video essays, thinking, ‘How did they make this movie?’ I would go to Wikipedia and find all the production information. I was trying to figure out why they were made and why I had a certain feeling.
Even as a child, Chharia felt drawn to both the writing process and the visual enchantment of cinema. His dynamism was reflected in the experimentation of shows and stories with which he had close ties.
“One of my favorite things when I was younger was this show called ‘Static Shock’,” Chharia said. “It was a show about an African-American superhero [who] had static powers. It was cool because it was based on a comic book. I would read the comics and write my own scripts based on the comics, trying to make a movie out of it.
Chharia’s enthusiasm only grew when he entered his life as a college student. By working with many competent teachers, Chharia continued to learn as much as he could about the world of cinema.
In particular, Chharia noted a class with Kevin Everson through the arts department.
“With his type of course, he’s very flexible and he wants you to have the creative freedom to create your own stuff,” Chharia said. “I also did an independent study with Doug Grishom in the theater department… [who] gave me the opportunity to create a short film of 30-40 minutes. I wrote a script in a semester and then [filmed] right after the end of the semester. Getting feedback from him has been very helpful.
The university gave Chharia some of the tools he needed to grow up, but they were just building blocks. Chharia has also worked to perfect her craft outside of the classroom through clubs and interactions with other students.
“I was in Hot Kids Comedy, and this [involved] writing sketches, ”Chharia said. “Writing sketches is very similar to writing for television because you collaborate with people… you throw jokes at each other. The Filmmakers Society at U.Va. was very helpful in learning cinema. Being around other students who want to make films and try to find your own voice… was a great opportunity.
Chharia’s desire to excel and to create has allowed her to find all kinds of rewarding experiences. According to Chharia, LabShorts at the University, workshops at Lighthouse Studios, and even acting classes were other incredible ways to enhance a filmmaker’s approach to their work.
Combined with the knowledge of the university and various hands-on learning opportunities, Chharia was ready for her next step – a feature film.
” I worked on [my own feature film] since May 2020, ”said Chharia. “I was going to do it in LA, but I decided to do it in Charlottesville because Charlottesville is like home. This is something that I have been working on for a long time. I always knew that my fourth year was going to make this feature film.
For Chharia, the feature film is a monumental project to which he devotes most of his time. Tied to its own heritage, Chharia’s feature film will address topics such as mental health within South Asian and American Indian communities, and its primary focus with the film is to be there for those in need. .
“For me it is like trying to help someone, and if it helps that person, I know it was worth it,” Chharia said. “I took, I think, 18 credits in the summer, all on zoom, and 21 in the fall, just to complete in a year so I could focus on this feature.”
Besides her feature film, Chharia has also been incredibly busy this summer directing two short films. One of those projects revolves around an LGBTQ + sci-fi romance, with the main man falling in love with a male robot.
“The reason I was drawn to [the film] was because I was thinking a lot about how we don’t really see, in the sci-fi genre, LGBTQ + [stories]”Chharia said.” We haven’t really talked much about it.
Chharia says her current plans are mainly to have her short films go through editing and send them to film festivals, where they can be reviewed and released to a wider audience. Once completed, the films will be uploaded, most likely to his Vimeo and YouTube, both channels under the Varun Chharia name.
“Our goal is to obtain [the short films] very soon, ”Chharia said.
For Chharia, cinema has a purpose, a motivation and a reason. It can make the audience laugh out loud, help them understand larger social issues, or just move them in any capacity. By advising other budding filmmakers with similar ideals, Chharia encourages determination and a positive mindset.
“Keep moving forward,” Chharia said. “You’re going to have a hard time, you’re going to have conflicts, but it’s part of the business, it’s part of the cinema. You’re going to have challenges, and once you get over them you’ll feel so much better that you haven’t given up.
As for Chharia’s favorite movie, he has a few in mind, but one speaks louder than the other.
“The Dark Knight,” Chharia said. “It’s one of my favorites.”