Archive - November 2015

Filmmakers On Crowdfunding #3: Pawan Kumar on Lucia

Source: Campus Diaries

[Want more inside stories on independent filmmakers and their trysts with crowdfunding? Check out Part I exploring Proposition for a Revolution’s journey & Part II, which follows Anamitra Roy’s experience crowdfunding for his One Rupee Film Project.]

After digging deeper into the history of crowdfunding in film with Shyam Benegal, and exploring director Navneet Prakash’s journey working on his racing documentary ‘Sons of Speed’, we decided to cut to the chase. As we continue exploring the relationship between crowdfunding and films, we go straight to the sources — collecting opinions from filmmakers who have crowdfunded for their films and had their audiovisual dreams see the light of day because of it.

In Part III of this series, we look at the journey of the Kannada thriller film Lucia, by Pawan Kumar, to distil the essence of what it is about independent filmmaking and crowdfunding that make it such a natural fit.

Lucia is a bit of a crowdfunding institution in Kannada cinema, having been the first film to be produced by the audience. Straddling the line between fantasy and reality, the story follows a man suffering from insomnia who is desperate for some sleep. He’s tricked into taking a drug, Lucia, that induce dreams in which all his desires come true. While we weren’t able to contact filmmaker Pawan Kumar for an interview, his blog gives us much insight into the process. 

Funnily enough, it all started with a lot of frustration on Pawan’s part, about being unable to fund his film. After months of chasing producers and sponsors, the director of 2011 film ‘Lifeu Ishtene‘ was at the end of his wits and uploaded an outraged blogpost titled ‘Making Enemies’, that interestingly describes his ‘gut feeling’ about how Lucia could become ‘a cult film for the Kannada industry’. It also expressed his grievances with the difficulty of funding the film, and the audience’s obsession with watching films starring celebrities and ‘big names’.

The response to this blogpost was overwhelming, and this was when the concept of crowdfunding first entered the picture. “Around 10 days after I put up the post, a lady from the UK transferred 200,000 rupees (around $3,200) to my account. Soon, I had around 800,000 to 900,000 rupees in my account. That is when I realized I was on to something,” the filmmaker told Reuters.

“They never looked at me as a guy from the industry who might be trying to loot them in the name of entertainment. They looked at me as a guy next door, who was aspiring to do something new,” Pawan explains in his blogpost“And that is why they supported me unconditionally. So, when I told these people, that I will make an honest attempt to make a feature film in Kannada and to put this film on a global platform, they just supported the vision of the project: to take Kannada cinema to a global audience.”

Filmmaker Pawan Kumar, who wrote and directed Lucia, the first crowdfunded Kannada film. Source: bangalore.citizenmatters.in

Filmmaker Pawan Kumar, who wrote and directed Lucia, the first crowdfunded Kannada film. Source: bangalore.citizenmatters.in

Lucia’s goal was to raise INR 6 million in 100 days, which they ended up meeting in just 27 days. As the film gained popularity, he realised that there were enough people who wanted to watch it on the big screen, which — again — was an expensive process. At this point, Pawan decided to give the audience a chance to become an online distributor by pre-ordering the film — they just have to share the film with someone, from which they would get a commission. The digital distribution experiment was a roaring success, and the film earned INR 10.6 million in ticket sales in the first week alone.

“The film is a genuinely good indie, which doesn’t always happen. It’s an out-of-the-box film that can continue on in screens outside Karnataka,” said Shiladitya Bora, who heads PVR Director’s Rare, the indie arm of the multiplex chain.

Pawan has spoken at length about how the whole team made a conscious effort to never waste money on set, and maintained that his first priority was to give back to his backers, who had invested an admirable amount of trust in him. “The fact that we can today make such stories in Kannada is a success,” he says, dismissing the commercial profits the film ended up making. “Finally, it made many people take pride in saying that the Kannada audience made Lucia, and I am so happy that it will be remembered that way..Forever, Lucia will be known as the first Kannada film produced by the audience, and that’s a title the community has earned for itself. 

“Lets stop treating ourselves as creators and the audience as consumers. A filmmaker and the audience are participating together in the success or the failure of a film. As soon as we give our audience the same importance, there will be magic.. I hope, that in the future there will be many more such examples, where the community gets the due credit it deserves.”

The film went on to premiere at the London Indian Film Festival 2013, where it won ‘Audience Choice Award’ and it has also been remade in Tamil. Pawan Kumar is currently working on his second film C10H14N2, which he is crowdfunding as well.

Filmmakers On Crowdfunding #2: The One Rupee Film Project

onerupee-source-madaboutmoviez

[Want more inside stories on independent filmmakers and their trysts with crowdfunding? Check out Part I exploring Proposition for a Revolution’s journey, and stay tuned for Part III!]

After digging deeper into the history of crowdfunding in film with Shyam Benegal, and exploring director Navneet Prakash’s journey working on his racing documentary ‘Sons of Speed’, we decided to cut to the chase. As we continue exploring the relationship between crowdfunding and films, we go, this time, straight to the sources — collecting opinions from filmmakers who have crowdfunded for their films and thus, had their audiovisual dreams see the light of day because of it.

In Part II of this series, we look at the journey of The One Rupee Project, and speak to filmmaker Anamitra Roy to distil the essence of what it is about independent filmmaking and crowdfunding that make them such a natural fit. Roy’s film tackles something a little more abstract that what the average Indian viewer is used to — it’s a DIY docu-fiction that’s based on the indie film scene in India.

Source: Facebook

Source: Facebook

Describing it as a ‘a self-reflexive mockery of the whole journey, our struggle and the place of indie films in the map of motion picture entertainment in the country’, Anamitra explains that the film’s post-structural composition uses several layers of meanings to tell one story, in a non-linear manner.

Initially, Anamitra explains, the aim was to come up with something that’d make their voices reach a larger audience. “People were interested and talking about indie films as far as I remember, but no one was looking at the margins,” he says.

“Crowdfunding was always there if you look at things a little differently,” he says, when asked about how he decided to turn to the means for gathering funds. “When we were in college we used to raise funds for almost everything; from literary bulletins to hardcore political poster campaigns. Making a crowdfunded film was on our agenda since 2009.”

Hosted on Wishberry and Funduzz, their campaign started accepting contributions in February, 2012, with a blog launched in tandem. “We also had handouts being circulated with the details of the campaign for the contributors,” he explains. They managed to raise 215k offline and 85k online, finally, out of which at least 70k came from people they knew.

“The response was huge,” he recalls. “People gave us money to make something most of them would either find boring or too complicated to be understood. We tried to make an engaging film, not an entertaining one, and we did it.”

“We couldn’t manage gap funding for colour grading, ADR and folly, and sending it out to film festivals, but we did make the film. And that’s enough for us to consider it a success. Only a few people have watched it till date, and it was never released even though many articles online claim otherwise.”

The biggest stumbling block that crowdfunding is facing, in his opinion, is the ‘hypocrisy of the new Indian middle class’. Anamitra shares. “By middle class, I refer to people with a disposable salary. Everyone is a revolutionary on Facebook and Twitter, but when it comes to taking a step (this does not refer to signing a petition on change.org) or building up a community dedicated to a cause, what we are left with are mostly those pseudo-activists who are only out to prove a virtual point.”

As for 3 tips he’d give someone looking to start a crowdfunding campaign, Roy says, “Don’t get lost in the myth of the starving artist or else you’ll end up breaking the bank for real. Don’t believe in the hysteria named people’s art. That’s complete BS and art is a very personal thing. Thirdly, it’s all about the momentum. Be desperate enough to not lose it because this kind of a campaign might take a toll on your life.”

Anamitra isn’t sure he’d crowdfund again, but he knows that if he does, he’ll be outsourcing the whole process to someone else so he can concentrate on other aspects of filmmaking.

Filmmakers On Crowdfunding #1: Proposition for A Revolution

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[Want more inside stories on independent filmmakers and their trysts with crowdfunding? Stay tuned for Parts II (exploring Anamitra Roy’s ‘The One Rupee Film Project‘) & III.]

After digging deeper into the history of crowdfunding in film with Shyam Benegal, and exploring director Navneet Prakash’s journey working on his racing documentary ‘Sons of Speed’, we decided to cut to the chase. As we continue exploring the relationship between crowdfunding and films, we go, this time, straight to the sources — collecting opinions from filmmakers who have crowdfunded for their films and thus, had their audiovisual dreams see the light of day because of it.

In Part I of this series, we look at the journey of the team behind upcoming documentary Proposition for a Revolution by Khushboo Ranka and Vinay Shukla, to distil the essence of what it is about independent filmmaking and crowdfunding that make them such a natural fit.

Proposition for A Revolution chronicles the journey of the Aam Aadmi Party from its genesis, right up till its first Delhi Assembly elections.

“The project started with the two of us going to Delhi in late 2012, to find out what exactly was happening on ground with the AAP,” Khushboo tells us. “The news reports that were coming were largely dissatisfactory, so we decided to make a trip. Once in Delhi, we realised something very unique was unfolding, and we began to document everything on camera, simply because there was nobody else documenting it.

“Slowly, the AAP phenomenon became bigger and the story began to play itself out. We had been filming all along so the project really grew organically from one stage to another.”

Khushboo explains that while the initial funding on the project came out of their own pockets and from Anand Gandhi, their first and strongest backer, many that they showed their material to, loved it — but didn’t necessarily want to put money on it. “We were looking for funding continuously, but most private investors in India found the idea of a political documentary rather dangerous and unsavoury,” she explains. Some very prestigious international documentary grants kept the project afloat for a while, until finally, they turned to crowdfunding as a last resort.

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Creating their own platform, they set up their own website, borrowed a friend’s payment gateway and got the ball rolling. With a dedicated crowdfunding campaign team in place, headed by ‘whizkid’ Zain Memon, they set up all the technical, design and organisational workflows for the campaign, which helped them stay on top of things as they went along.

Their campaign ended up raising over 180% of its intended target, to their genuine surprise. Khushboo highlights an important point, “More than money, there have been so many people who have come forward and offered us their resources, and a chance to collaborate. It’s good to know when your work resonates with people.”

Co-creators of Prop4Rev, Khushboo Ranka and Vinay Shukla. Source: Platform Magazine

Co-creators of Prop4Rev, Khushboo Ranka and Vinay Shukla. Source: Platform Magazine

When asked for three tips they’d give someone looking to start a crowdfunding campaign, Vinay says, “Firstly, get a dedicated team for your campaign. You will probably have to pay them but you’ll need a dedicated team. Secondly, be prepared to adapt. It may just turn out that your campaign gets a lukewarm response and you have to rethink your strategy. And lastly, get an accountant/money person on board when you are planning your campaign. Our accountant helped us understand the financial liabilities attached with our campaign and it’s deliverables which in turn helped us plan better. I know this sounds boring but just do it.”

Khushboo’s take addresses different aspects, “Firstly, identify captive groups and online communities which are likely to identify/empathize with your cause. Secondly, your pitch/trailer is the most important part of your campaign. Aim for clarity and a compelling narrative. Thirdly, engage with your backers. You’ll be surprised with what can come out of such interactions.”

When asked if they’d turn to crowdfunding again in the future, their answer’s a no-brainer, “Definitely.”

Monthly Round-Up: Trending Campaigns On Ketto In October

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October’s ushered in the last quarter of the year and the season of back-to-back festivals. The Ketto family took some time out of the Diwali celebrations to note a couple of campaigns doing exceptionally well the past month — something that deserved its own celebration, if you ask us. Here are the issues that are receiving the attention from backers that they deserve.

Read on for the trending campaigns in October that are a shot in the arm for crowdfunding:

I. Help Khaliza Get a Better Life

21-year-old Khaliza Khatoon (or Gaja Laxmi) was born without eyes and a face. She suffers from neurofibromatosis, which makes her prone to tumours and the excess skin has continued growing as she grew up, reducing her mouth to a slit on the left side of her face. Khaliza can generally be found begging in Kolkata’s GPO area, and as her father works as a part-time fruit vendor and her brothers too bring in a meagre monthly salary, the family isn’t able to foot the medical expenses required for her surgery.

khaliza-roundup

Soul Angels Group’s initiative on Ketto aims at raising funds for her surgery, so she may receive the medical consultations and rehabilitation she needs so that she can go on to live the life of dignity that she deserves. You too can be a part of her journey — here‘s where you can contribute to her campaign.

II.) Help 3 year old Srivardhan survive dengue.

This campaign successfully raised Rs. 4,42,827 and more importantly — was successful in saving little Srivardhan’s life. Things looked bleak for his family when his father Srinivasalu, who works in a hardware store in Nellore, completely exhausted his resources for the medical expenses of his only child. Srivardhan had developed a severe case of dengue shock; his organs started failing and he was also haemorrhaging severely.

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His fight for survival is truly inspiring, for at one point, even after being administered advanced life support, close to 50 units of blood, many sessions of dialysis, and artificial nutrition via a special line, Srivardhan was comatose, and his bone marrow failed. Thanks to the staggering support on his crowdfunding campaign, his father didn’t have to shoulder all of the escalating medical expenses anymore, and Srivardhan is, today, fully recovered and has returned home.

III.) Kadak Badshaahi

Darpana Academy of Performing Arts’ musical production ‘Kadak Badshaahi’ was a roaring success, narrating the stories of nine different historical and fictional characters from nine different times, whose lives intersect in the city of Ahmedabad. The idea is now to create a musical feature film based on the production, with characters including a badshaah from 600 years past who arrives to create his new capital, an NRI from 2015 to begin her new life as a student, Mr. Iyengar from 1929 to pursue a new fortune in the textile mill industry. Together, they explore the 600-year history and search for the soul of a city that blends the best of the ancient and the modern.

The proceeds from the campaign will go towards funding 4 out of the 9 songs for the soundtrack of the film, each of which requires INR 2 lakh  to create — from the composition of the music, time in the recording studio, and days on set, to bring each song’s magic to the screen. Here’s where you can do your bit and support the creative venture.

IV.) Thanks Bhai

This is a festive campaign in its own right, and an initiative to give back to those who often work thanklessly. The Kochi metro is one of the biggest infrastructure projects taken up in recent times that has the potential to change the face of Kerala. The construction workers who are working hard to make it possible, though, are hardly ever recognised and remain more or less faceless entities. This project aims to change that, and to celebrate Diwali with these individuals.

The idea was to gift each of them a sweet-box of Rs 100 each, and to appreciate their effort and contribution to society. Many of these workers aren’t from Kerala and haven’t had a chance to go back home despite the festival; this is an initiative that aims to give back to them. More details on the initiative’s website here.

V.) Join Nana Patekar to Help Farmers 

We recently wrote about Nana Patekar’s initiative to help farmers and in some cases, their bereaved families, in the Marathwada region where farmer suicides are staggeringly high, and we are happy to report that his acts of generosity and social awareness has sparked off another. This campaign aims to help the drought-struck farmers financially, so they don’t surrender to the dire circumstances.

Source: thelogicalindian.com

Source: thelogicalindian.com

The news of farmer suicides in India has been splashed across headlines for years, a compounding plea for help for those who make up the backbone of an agrarian country like ours. Over 11% of suicides in India constitute of those by farmers who depend on an erratic monsoon for their livelihoods, are burdened with debt and who struggle continually to feed their families. Please contribute to the campaign here to help the cause.

Director Navneet Prakash on ‘Sons of Speed’, A Racing Documentary With Freddie Hunt & Mathias Lauda

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[‘Sons of Speed’ promises to be a sports documentary that’ll have you hooked, and the team’s also giving away some pretty sweet rewards for contributing to the campaign. Click here to chip in and be a part of this film’s journey.]

After digging a little deeper into veteran filmmaker Shyam Benegal’s pioneering tryst with crowdfunding with his 1976 film ‘Manthan’, we turn to a more contemporary film in the making that is looking for some support. ‘Sons of Speed’ is a documentary on a less-discussed sport that’s tearing up the tarmac in India — auto racing.

We caught up with Navneet Prakash, writer and director of the film, to tell us a little bit about what working on the film has been like, and why the team turned to crowdfunding for the passion project.

Q. Tell us a little bit about you and your team’s background in filmmaking, and your passion for racing. How did the idea for Sons of Speed came along?

I’ve been working in the field of non-fiction content for about 6 years now, and it’s a medium that I’m very comfortable with. I’ve also followed motorsports for the longest time; I attend rally racing events, and I’m very keen on the sport.

Racing is India is a pretty small circle; I have a producer on the team, Divya Menon, with whom I have a common friend – Jose Pottamkulam Ootta. A motorsports enthusiast himself, Jose has actually been running a team in Kerala calling M&N Racing and participates in rallies.

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All of us would hang out and discuss films and sports, when Jose mentioned that he was getting Freddie Hunt and Mathias Lauda together to race for the championship last year, in 2014. That’s when we decided on creating a simple television film being made for local and national sports channels, about the legendary rivalry between them.

We couldn’t find sponsors for the project, but once we started shooting – I realised that this was not a PR event or a corporate AV, it was a really interesting story that needed to be told. That’s when we decided that we’d make this a proper standalone film.

Q. Tell us a little bit about what each of you were in charge of, and how you came up with the name.

All the creatives have been handled by me, while Divya has worked on the ads, production and logistics aspects. Jose is our go-to guy in case we need to clear up technicalities about the sport. I was thinking of writing a treatment for the film, and ‘Sons of Speed’ just had a great ring to it, and we really believed in it.

The film is about racing, but also about them being sons of legends in the international racing circle.

Q. What is the approach you’ve taken for the documentary, and how do you feel it sets it apart?

Initially, we were very focused on numbers, on who was winning and laptimes and such. When we met Freddie Hunt and Mathias Lauda and started talking, though, the two turned out to be very nice, regular guys who had no airs about them. They were easy to work with and had a great story to tell.

Sons of Speed video from g33k films on Vimeo.

Their fathers being world champions in their own right, Freddie and Mathias were born with a lot of expectations from them, and it was interesting to explore the father-son relationship in this unique way. This also gave the racing documentary a more human angle.

Q. How easy was it to incorporate such personal stories into the film’s narrative, how did you go about that?

We had a broad outline in mind that we were looking to shoot, and as interesting as a racing documentary is — fathers are much more of an icebreaker. (laughs)

There’s a pretty nice line in the documentary that sums it up, ‘No matter where you are on the racetrack, these two will continue to get compared to each other because of the families they come from. This kind of fame is a double-edged sword.’ To be living with so much pressure on you all the time is not easy, and the fact that they’re handling it so well is interesting to observe and document.

Q. How did you chance upon crowdfunding?

Finance was a big challenge — a documentary is a scary word, particularly in India. People expect something slow and boring; there are various kinds of documentaries and you can have a non-fiction role on a very interesting topic, yet it remains a fairly unpopular idea. I was very glad that Kunal found the idea as interesting as I did, and that he agreed to host our campaign on Ketto.

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The easiest thing to do in this process is actually making the film — the backend is very difficult to navigate and because of the funding issues, it’s often tough to mount the project.

I did a crowdfunded project in 2013 called ‘Shweta’s Kranti’, about a girl from Bombay’s red light area, that was also made for Ketto. It really worked, and I think crowdfunding is a great idea — it should be more popular here as it’s so accessible. It gives good films a chance to see the light of day, and to actually reflect the people’s (or the backers’) interests and beliefs.

Q. What have been your favourite moments working on the film so far?

We were lucky to travel to some of the best racetracks in the world, and got a chance to shoot with Nicki Lauda — Mathias’ father and the original racing world champion. He’s a legendary man, who also happens to be extremely down-to-earth. That was a great day of shoot, but I think we had fun every day that we were shooting.

Thanks to crowdfunding, with the right vision and the right people, a dream documentary project like this is actually possible today. Besides funding our campaign, you can help spread the word by sharing our campaign page on Facebook and other social media.

[‘Sons of Speed’ promises to be a sports documentary that’ll have you hooked, and the team’s also giving away some pretty sweet rewards for contributing to the campaign. Click here to chip in and be a part of this film’s journey.]

School of Crowdfunding #1: Why It’s Not All About The Money

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Countless entrepreneurs worldover have already sniffed out the incredible potential of crowdfunding campaigns to fund their projects. One of the easiest ways to gather funds from a like-minded global audience, it’s compounded by the reach the world wide web offers us, giving dream projects an actual chance at materialising.

Over 1000 campaigners have managed to raise a whopping INR 7.5 crore on Ketto.org itself, so it’s safe to say crowdfunding’s no sinking ship. We take a look at some of these benefits that crowdfunding campaigners enjoy:

I) A Chance to Hone Their Vision

First off, let’s address the elephant in the room: crowdfunding is hands-down the easiest way to gather funds, especially compared to looking for angel investors or applying for a loan. Skipping the heavy networking and red tape, crowdfunding gives you a chance to focus on the stuff that really matters.

Entrepreneurs get a chance to learn on the go; they gain not only clarity in their own vision, but also how to best convey the message to their target audience.

For instance, the Team 4ze Racing campaign intends to use its resources for research and development of electricity as an alternate source of energy, as well as the manufacturing of parts for their car for Formula Student Electric events in 2016.

II. Getting the Word Out

Your crowdfunding campaign with the right kind of exposure on social media would make for quite the dream team. Backers can gain access to your entire journey through your crowdfunding page, which creates a sense of transparency and ownership.

Many backers are keen on getting equity at a later stage, so by actively promoting your campaign, you’re building a loyal customer base right off the bat.

Vijayan and his wife, Mohana, enjoying their vacation in Switzerland. Source: The News Minute

Vijayan and his wife, Mohana, enjoying their vacation in Switzerland. Source: The News Minute

Take ‘Invisible Wings‘, for example — a film documenting the story of Vijayan, the owner of a tea stall in Cochin, who travelled all over the world; an extraordinary story about an ordinary person that resonated with various people around the world.

III. Crowdsourcing Ideas

If trial and error is the name of the game, your crowdfunding campaign gives you a chance to figure out what is a hit, and what is a miss. Here’s a public forum created especially for your target audience, where they can share with you what it is about your project that really works, and what needs some more work. It’s a two-way street, after all.

This kind of feedback is invaluable, especially at such an early stage, so that you get to test the market and create a final product that delivers exactly what it has promised.

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Our ‘Spreadfoodlove’ initiative is a classic case of crowdsourcing ideas — food bloggers creating campaigns for the causes they believe in.

IV. Credibility — Making Your Project Legit

Your backers, those offering suggestions in the public forum, potential investors — these are all part of a community you’re building, who are interested in the brand of your project. This means that it’s not just your current endeavour, but many of your future ones, too, that they’re going to be following.

Networking just became so much easier, and that, too, based on the legitimacy of your campaign and its journey.

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We are hoping to affect a change in the life of 21-year-old Khaliza Khatoon (or Gaja Laxmi) life, who suffers from neurofibromatosis, with Soul Angels Group‘s initiative which is raising funds for her surgery.

V. What Is At Stake?

At the heart of it, crowdfunding is really a win-win, when you think about it. Even if your project doesn’t meet its goal in a certain amount of time, you always have the chance to regroup, discuss and then come up with a new way to pitch the idea so it truly resonates with your audience.

There are countless other things that campaigners pick up along the way that far exceed the value of money, and with crowdfunding, an entrepreneur actually stands to gain much more than he does to lose.

[Feature Image Credit: Quickenloans.com]