BY THE DIRECTOR
Before deciding to write this blog, I felt extremely dissuaded about going through the whole ordeal. I mean, who would want to read about what; and I am pretty okay with the label, a ‘nobody’ has to say? This world does not have any dearth of inspiration and it sure as hell is not going to look for some from this threadbare end of the www where I ramble on. But I write not with the hopes to be read. I write because, should it be read, I better have something written down! Now that I have successfully set an ambiguous tone for the content you’re about to read, let me summarise it for you. This is the story of how I, a nobody (my democratic government’s election booth confirms) who has no background of filmmaking except watching films and hanging out with some really smart film enthusiasts and filmmaker friends, have raised funds for a film, shot it and now going to do a preview release of it. And by extension, this is to tell you that it is possible, SO YOU CAN DO IT TOO!
Having done writing jobs for a perpetually dissatisfied boss, myself – with my obnoxiously self-critical hat – I have attempted to make this as succinct as possible. If I can say so myself, about me now – my first film was 9 minutes long and this one is 26. It has got to be something; I hear folks say it could have each been made into an hour-long film. So here goes, succinct.
Write honestly and believe in your work.
There will be a variety of reasons for you to not type that first word down or for the pen tip to go dry now and then. Go on and write the damn thing down. And if it passes through your own critical judgment – which I am sure is so phenomenally unforgiving and brutal that you’re always back to square one – and over to someone else, YOU choose what you make of it. The important thing is to care about whose criticisms matter and whose absolutely don’t. Stand by one treasured criticism from a neutral source, if it helps – even if it means ignoring popular idea or the fad. Trust your instinct, introspect – but don’t succumb to popular culture without giving it a thought. More so if that deviates you from YOUR story! Listen to yourself and believe in your story. See if it moves people, the world could use one less story floating around in the video streaming universe with no purpose.
And you can take a vacation. Yes, I mean it! You know that there are multiple departments that come together to make a film irrespective of its duration. And it is crucial that you pick a fine leader for the respective department. Pick a compact size depending upon the scale of the film. You do not want a lot of people too. Let the department heads decide how much of an assistance they require and let them fetch it for themselves. There needs to be an unsaid chemistry and ownership about the team. Cohesive and coherent. The story is what buys you that kind of luxury. If you have written the screenplay and it made you laugh, cry and / or tear it apart – your team should experience it too! The feeling holds its sanctity for actors too! And when you’ve landed your dream team, you will just know it – till then keep looking but DO NOT COMPROMISE. Not only have you wasted a script on a wrong team, by engaging them, you’ve delayed various dream teams coming together elsewhere too!
Pre Production! Pre Production! Pre Production!
You know what Lincoln said, right? About how if you had 9 hours to chop a tree, you’d rather spend the first six sharpening your axe! It couldn’t be more pertinent for filmmaking vis-à-vis pre-production. Though it was a short film, no stone was left unturned. We went through extensive storyboarding sessions, shot division planning, shooting order and reading with the actors. The screenplay itself went through various changes/drafts, for brevity and for enhancing the overall film experience. After finalizing the actors, rehearse rehearse rehearse!!! I unfortunately could not have that luxury, but it sure was a learning. After such thorough planning also, things can go wrong on the day of the shoot, filmmaking will never cease to surprise you. But lesser the damage the better, don’t you think?
Plan your campaign
Make it simple comprehensive and pleasant. It is amazing how much stuff is available for FREE on the Internet if only you patiently look for it. This is my campaign <here> and funnily, it appears to some folks that I may have spent a lot of bucks making it – the truth is I spent zilch. The website is free. Google apps are free. What’s not free is the time invested by my lovely friends helping me sharpen it relentlessly. I also happen to be ‘nothing’ without them.
1) You don’t do the talking yet just create a curiosity first!
I was pretty sure that nobody wants to watch me yap about how amazing my story is – and how people should trust me and give me all the money so I can make this film – and how I am so different from million other filmmakers who are also (maybe) crowd-funding their films. Maybe you should try to avoid it too.
I went and spoke to a lot of people from a diverse setting, got them interested and made THEM do the talking. For an independent website campaign (one that’s not out of kickstarter or indiegogo, not to mention its own challenges) where the entire marketing vests in your shoulder, I managed to get about 16.73% of funds from people who are NOT friend or family! Maybe we won’t have, if I was the only one talking!
2) Put out a reasonable budget
It’s remarkable how money from other people can make you so accountable and with every penny coming in, it just skyrockets further. BUDGETING IS REAL. It helps, and it goes a long way in disciplining ourselves. Plan and put out an earnest budget. Just because you are asking people does not mean you can ask away, that’s the last thing you want to do! Should there be any shortcoming, due to a plethora of reasons within and without your control, you do not want to displease your contributors and wind up as a bad sample on the Internet – it’s a merciless place. So be realistic, breakdown your requirement into parts, be extremely brutally transparent – that’s much better than asking an unrealistically exorbitant amount that could put some contributors off – “Oh they want 5 lakhs? What is my 500 going to do anything? Let me not bother!” – you DO NOT want that. Do not underestimate the power of contributors helping out with small amounts – they WILL SAVE you – all the more reason to be honest. And believe me, being open; you don’t have to have a pretentious social media persona and invest time worrying about actual things for the film.
3) Communication is key
I sometimes test the customer support of a company by scrutinising how well they communicate with me. Now, I am not talking about quality – though that is important too – I am talking of timing, being prompt etc. Because we were an incredibly small team, we all multi tasked. If not for my 3g connection and a smartphone, work would have ended when I step out of my home WIFI. I was hell bent upon being prompt in my emails or social media and website updates because the thought of the number of times I had dissed a company purely because they lacked that prompt response, my stomach turned at the possibility of being one myself.
Keep giving the contributors something – it would be appalling if your communication ends after you have raised the money. That’s when your true test of communication begins. The endeavor to share the news of your project shaping up to the people who are enabling it is really something. Experience it!
4) Let go of your ego – it is excess baggage
ASK EVERYONE. Do not be shy. You can choose to be egoistic or a filmmaker. Ego has no space when you’re on a flight that’s crowd-funded. Forget old grudges, (don’t make fresh ones) shed your inhibition, and invest time wisely. Know when to stop asking, know when to persist. Do not overdo it when it hits you that you’re running in circles. Thanks to social media, it is a lot simpler now. When people are not interested, they won’t respond – do not judge anyone. Please! When you think, you can ask more personally, one last time, ask with all due sensitivities because we are talking about money here and it is not to just give away. Politely thank people who turn it down, thank them for their time. Subliminally, it adds to the overall experience your project has had on them. You may grow closer to some friends; you didn’t think would help – not because they are not your friends anymore, but life just gets busy. Appreciate and value those relationships. In my small attempt, I think I have never felt more humble in my entire life when the response was so overwhelming. So chuck that excess baggage, enjoy the nerve-wracking experience!
5) Origin of crowd funding and dealing with innocent condescension
Crowd funding is NOT new! If anything, it is outdated. Not attempting to take away the power of it, but a little bit of search online will reveal the global origin of crowd funding. In India, crowd funding is as ancient as some of the ancient art forms itself. Funds get collected for the next performance during the current street play – wells have been dug– schools have been built. The power of the crowd is remarkable.
Lately, due to the advent of social media, we see and hear a lot of modern day art forms and gadgets getting built purely on the money generated by interested contributors. So a lot of people have vague to lot of information about crowd funding and they will try to shove the popular one down your throat. //Examples: Have you tried kickstarter? You should totally meet Pawan Kumar and ask him for help. There are various payment options like PayPal for crowd funding. You should get a producer, contact //
Now, you and I know how difficult it is to manoeuvre conversations such as this, but believe me THEY MEAN WELL. Try to explain if you have the time and if it’s important else, just say thank you and move on. Those who wish to pay will pay anyway!
6) Offer perks as gratitude
Make something out of the lovely contributions you have got to make your film. Make the contributors feel like a star – they have earned it! Get creative with the perks and keep your word!
7) Make them feel like they own the project
And by golly they do! They paid for it for crying out loud! You better make the contributors the centre of your project – of course apart from the film itself.
8) Add humour to the whole process
In retrospect, nothing is good, bad or worse – it is all an experience! Add a bit of humor in the process, and you have nothing to lose! Oh I am not saying I was laughing when things didn’t go my way. I of all people (and my crew will nod in approval) wasn’t laughing at all during crisis – but I am saying I didn’t win any trophies by not finding a joke out of it either! Read on, we had our share of crisis management!
Be patient – crisis is inevitable – we had our share
Despite methodic and relentless planning we had our share of crisis. Of course we managed to resolve them somehow, evidently now that the film is ready!
- The actor who was supposed to act in the film first, had to quit. This was about 4 days before shooting. We then had Sathya onboard
- Two of the locations we were supposed to shoot in, suddenly seemed difficult. This was 3 days before shooting
- We did not have a vehicle based on our initial plan – this was to transport camera equipment through the 5 days of shooting and it is out of question to not have the camera come to location on time. This was one day before the shooting
- We had to get sound equipment from a different city because we could not hire them in Bangalore! Obvious shoot up in the budget. This was two days before the shooting
- After day 1, we LOST ALL FOOTAGE that was shot on that day! This must be the worst thing that can happen to anyone. Some issue that the DIT wasn’t able to resolve as he broke the card or something. When something like this happens to you, you stop trying to figure out what, why and how – it’s just plain bad luck! Now, MOST IMPORTANT LESSON was this. When we did the shooting order, we placed fewer shots on first and the last day, thanks to this idea of our DOP, we didn’t have a lot to reshoot. But we did reshoot nonetheless. We broke the shots down and fit them in the remaining 4 days somehow. Yay!
Seal it with style! Package the whole experience. Shout out – tell the world what you have done because nobody else will– thank people – give away perks as promised – give away perks that the contributors will love to flaunt! Use social media wisely.
Wear that feather on your glorious hat now
After you have made your contributors and the rest of the world watch your film, be prepared and patient to listen to what they have to say. It’s very important. They may like it, they may not like it at all – but that doesn’t matter. If they liked it, stay grounded. And if they didn’t, do not argue or try to defend yourself – that will come across as rude and thankless of the money that you so desperately needed from the very same person when you started out. Take it in good stride – remember to filter the criticisms as usual, and do not take anything personally!
Now clearly I am not trying to call myself an expert or am I calling this the perfect way to go about it. There are so many things that I wished I’d done differently, planned more and worked harder – but as they say, “revolutions are something you see only in retrospect”. There are so many more things that I want to share, but I guess this will be a good start for those who are in the grey, afraid to take the plunge and dismissing this to be a case of sour grapes – IT IS POSSIBLE, it tastes yummy and what’s more – it has made me a ‘somebody’ and I am not giving it away!
PS. If you are a woman too, just push all challenges (from the word go) and crisis level to a perpetual code RED – that will help you plan better! And because I am an eternal optimist, here’s a testimony of reassurance – “Whatever women do, they must do twice as well to be thought half as good as men. Luckily, this is not difficult.” – Dr. Charlotte Elizabeth Whitton