[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 online 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 India 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.”
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.