Abhay Kumar, a 29-year old boy from Chandigarh, along with his like-minded friend Archana decided to make a hybrid documentary Placebo-The Film. Both successfully shot the film, got some impressive promos done. But lack of funds always haunted the duo despite the film’s promos and trailers being appreciated globally. ‘We shared our project with Wishberry - a crowd-funding site, and collected about Rs 3 lakh. People really liked the project and came forward to help us financially,’ said Abhay who is all set to get the post-production work done in Finland soon. Placebo is not the only example of fund-raising, hundreds of such creative projects are seeking public help through social networking sites. The young makers of the much talked-about documentary Proposition for a Revolution Vinay Shukla and Khushbu Ranka (Member of the national award winner Ship of Theseus) have launched their own site to raise funds online. The film is based on Aam Aadmi Party’s emergence from an anti-corruption campaign.
Going where the money is
After visiting these sites and watching some of the trailers shared online, one can have an idea about how vast is the talent and how rich is the content of these short films. A host of independent filmmakers are seeking funds for their production or primarily post-production work of their creative projects. ‘It’s the toughest job to be engaged in production work and finding producers or financers simultaneously. Films take a lot of money, no matter how low budget the film is,’ says Abhay who has already got Mami award for short film making and National award for his short film Just that sort of a day.
Nisha Pahuja, director-producer of the critically acclaimed film The World Before Her also believes that making a film is comparatively an easy task. ‘But post-production work and taking it to general audience is the toughest and an expensive affair. Though I got full support in North America, being an independent filmmaker, it gets tough here in India,’ he says. Nisha had also launched a crowd-funding campaign on American giant Kickstarter where it collected $ 50,000, which was much above its goal.
One more feature film that used the platform is Pushpendra Singh’s debut feature Lajwanti (The Honour Keeper), based on the story written by late Rajasthani author Vijaydan Detha, was a much-talked about film in Berlin International Film Festival. ‘The primary funding support came from family and friends. When the shooting began, I had around Rs 5 lakh. That was how it all started. I funded the rest of the film through my savings. I have gone for open crowd-funding of the project through the platform Catapooolt.com which has been very helpful to me,’ said the filmmaker in his one of the interviews last year.
How easy is to get money online?
It’s an unfamiliar way of funding films in India. While the West has adopted it so nicely that Nisha’s The World Before Her set a new precedent with getting $ 57,290. A total of 382 people mainly from North America funded the film. ‘India looks unfamiliar with the way money is taken online. There may be several reasons as using online transfers are not fully trusted here in India and cases of online frauds are also quite rampant.
That may be the reason why we hardly got 10 per cent of the total money from Indian viewers,’ said Nisha who is all set to release the film in India on 6 June. The film shifts between the worlds of the Miss India pageant and a Hindu fundamentalist camp for girls with a powerful, controversial and intimate story about what it means to be a woman in contemporary India.
Sohum Shah, one of the lead characters and producer of Ship of Theseus, also adds, ‘Indians feel little reluctant in giving money online just because our mental conditioning is not of that sort. But by the time when such transactions will win their confidence, more cinema lovers will come and fund creative projects.’ Though, the businessman-turned-actor-producer Shah has not used this platform to get funds for any of his films, still he calls it ‘an amazing way of engaging society with films. People can feel that they are a part of the project and cherish it for the whole life,’ Shah is the lead character in another much-awaited and supposedly a different film Tumbbad, which will come out in next 7-8 months.
Does association of big names help?
Director-producer Kiran Rao gets special credit in Ship of Theseus, Anurag Kashyap is presenting Nisha Pahuja’s The World Before Her and Abhay Kumar’s Placebo has already got support from Anurag. But do such associations help the filmmakers? ‘Yeah in one way it does. People start trusting the project and at the same time process for the release of the film gets easier. But sometimes it backfires as people assume that the film belongs to the stars endorsing it and he or she is rich. So why to give money to them,’ says Abhay. Gajendra Singh Bhati, an avid blogger and a passionate cinema writer puts it this way, ‘Documentary makers in India have to compete with the mainstream cinema. When we see giants like Shah Rukh Khan and Ajay Devvgun fighting for the screen booking for their films (during Chennai Express and Son of Sardar’s release last year), where do these indie filmmakers stand. They undergo a tough grinding with no financial help available in India. And if big names lend their support, it adds to their own brand value only. Only National School of Drama (NSD) gives some meager grant to few films, but what about the others. Scores of documentaries only remain in hard drives due to the lack of funds here in our country.’ Gajendra runs filamcinema.blogspot.com and extensively writes on the struggle of such Indie filmmakers.