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Deepa Keshvala, dir. Hector: Ray BLK

Work / Film

Meet London’s most hyped DOP: Deepa Keshvala

Rivalling It’s Raining Men for campest song ever, the lyrics of Eurythmics and Aretha Franklin’s Sisters Are Doin’ It For Themselves acknowledge the age-old expression that “behind every great man, there had to be a great woman”. Clearly, the expression is outdated, but that same sentiment lives on in other incarnations. Still reading?

Take film directors and their technical brains: directors of photography. While directors dominate as films’ creative visionaries, directors of photography are the people who make sure films look good. Working with directors, camera crews, production and lighting teams and, well, just about everyone else, DOPs play a crucial role in the production of any film.

And, despite the role’s typical lack of visibility – from the outside at least – we keep hearing about one nascent DOP who seems to have the back of every promising new director: meet Deepa Keshvala.

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Deepa Keshvala, dir. Raine Allen-Miller: Salute

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Deepa Keshvala, dir. Bafic: Nike Roundel

As it turns out, we’ve written much about London-based Deepa’s work, albeit indirectly. Among those is a charmingly awkward film about a local village orchestra, and a brilliantly buoyant music video which celebrates real British values. She’s also been behind Rejjie Snow’s jaw-clenching Pinkbeetle and Ray BLK’s fuck you ode to her drug-dealing, wasteman boyfriend.

We spoke to Deepa to find out a little more about her job and the projects she’s been working on lately.

First off can you tell us about what you do day-to-day?

If I’m not shooting, I’m looking at treatments and meeting directors to talk about projects, or grading something that I’ve recently shot. Some of the directors I work with ask for edit notes, so that can keep me pretty busy. If I’m shooting I’ll be prepping for it – boring things like writing up kit lists and sorting out cameras – as well as fun things like talking to the director about how best to approach the shoot.

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Deepa Keshvala, dir. Sophie Pittman: Village Orchestra

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Deepa Keshvala, dir. Hector: Rajai

How did you first start working in film?

I started as an intern at Somesuch just over four years ago, then worked on Daniel Wolfe’s feature Catch Me Daddy as a trainee to Robbie Ryan. I did a couple of years as a camera trainee until Daniel asked me to shoot some second unit for him, which led to a good period of second unit DOP work. I made the leap to DOP just over a year ago – a lot of great people (Daniel, Robbie, Denna and most of Somesuch, and Jason at ETC) have championed and supported me, which I’ll be forever grateful for.

Would you say that, as a woman, you are atypical in your role?

There does seem to be a shortage of female DOPs in music videos and commercials, but there are a lot of female DOPs smashing it in the narrative world. I think the industry is in such an amazing place at the moment and there are so many opportunities for female DOPs to do their thing across the board. I think we’re gonna be alright.

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Deepa Keshvala, dir. Sophie Pittman: Village Orchestra

What have you been up to across the last 12 months?

Mostly music videos and documentary. I’ve been really lucky to have built a good relationship with some great young directors and made music videos for some really talented emerging artists, which has been one of my favourite things about work this year.

I really loved the (very) short film I shot for Bafic’s Nike x Roundel campaign. The shoe was a nod to the garage era and London underground culture, and the way Bafic went about the film was wicked. Actually, the way he goes about everything is pretty great. Bafic’s interested in rigs and motion, so we always end up making these weird fiddly contraptions to get unusual movement for him to play with in post. That film feels like a lot of my favourite things rolled into one.

Finally, have you plotted much for 2017 yet?

Not being poor would be great! I’ve got an exotic away job in January, a music video with Hector [Dockrill] and hopefully some short narrative bits. Next year I really want to shoot a good mix of music videos and shorts. 

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Deepa Keshvala, dir. Dear Mr Quistgaard: Boiler Room x Ballantines