Firsts director Nayana Shyam: It was challenging to evoke emotions in 60 seconds

Arushi Jain
dice media Firsts director

Web series Firsts is directed by Nayana Shyam.

Firsts is India's first Instagram web series. Its one-minute episodes capture the essence of every first of a relationship - first kiss, first hug, first date to first heartbreak. Starring Rohan Shah and Apoorva Arora, it takes the viewers on a nostalgia ride.

Firsts is directed by 25-year-old Nayana Shyam who has the popular web series Adulting to her credit. She has also helmed and scripted TV commercials for brands like Samsung, Nyka and Lifestyle. She also starred in Filter Copy's viral videos like 'When You Date A Malayali', 'Struggles of Having Long Hair' and 'When You Have A Girl Best Friend' among more.

In this interview, Nayana opens up about shooting one-minute episodes of Instagram web series Firsts.

Excerpts from the conversation:

How did you come up with the idea of Firsts?

The ideation was done a year and a half ago by a couple of people in the company where they wanted to do something on Instagram. We realised people love to watch the journey of other people's life. But somehow we had not tried to bring out how somebody feels when they meet someone for the first time. So, the thought of many firsts and not just the first love. A year and a half later, the writer came in, and we asked him to write various first moments people can experience in their first love, and we built on those later.

Also read | Firsts review: A tender portrayal of school romance

Was it difficult to wrap up an episode in one minute?

I have directed Filter Copy's sketches and web series Adulting too which had short episodes of 4-5 minutes each. There too I had to struggle to shorten the episodes. So, in the beginning, I was wondering how can I bring out the story in one minute. It was challenging to evoke emotions in 60 seconds. But at the same time, it was very exciting for me because I wanted to see how can I mould my way of storytelling and make it work in 60 seconds. I could tell one episode of Firsts in 10 minutes also, but how to make it impactful in one minute was the real challenge. However, I was given such a good base with such a good script that I just worked my way to bring out that one moment that would stay with the viewers.

How different was it from shooting a regular web series?

It was different in the sense of the number of days we shot and the number of locations we were at. We wrapped up the entire show in 5-6 days.

You are associated with short videos which are quite relatable and have got millions of views. Do you believe it is better to make shorter episodes in comparison to the 40-50 minute long episodes?

Earlier, people used to buy movie tickets and give three hours of their life to that. It was a different kind of experience altogether. But the internet has changed audience behaviour. Convenience has become such a big aspect of our lives. We are constantly busy with something, and in between, when we are bored, we are mindlessly scrolling social media. In this mindless scroll, Filter Copy and Dice Media figured ways to make the audience invested in short-form content. We were so pleasantly surprised at the number of people who came back to check the next episode of Firsts and got invested in its characters and story. They never got bored of us.

Was the script of Firsts drawn from real-life incidents?

A lot of episodes had moments from real life. We improvised every moment, and the entire team was quite supportive about it. A lot of moments while shooting were not landing as they were on the script. We changed them based on what some of us have experienced in real life. In the Valentine's Day episode, Rohan made a collage for Apporva, and it was something Rohan did on his first Valentine's Day in real life too.

We read you are making your acting debut in Madhavan's film on Nambi Narayanan. Is it true?

I play a small part in Madhavan's directorial debut Rocketry-The Nambi Effect. It was amazing working with him, and he has done an exceptional job. I kept making notes in my head while he was directing. It was like an unpaid school where I was being paid for learning.