Can anyone finance a film? Yes, if they respond to the social funding strategies that Indian filmmakers are beginning to adopt.
Take Mantra, an independent film shot in 25 days, with a budget cobbled together and a cast that took no payment. Director Nicholas Kharkongor managed to put together an unpaid ensemble including Kalki Koechlin, Rajat Kapoor, Shiv Pandit, Adil Hussain, Rohan Joshi and Lushin Dubey thanks to his long association with some of them from his days in the theatre.
But what next? "Taking it one step at a time," explains Kharkongor. "We were only worried about shooting the film, not about post-production and we thought we’re worry about it only when we got to that stage."
Well, that stage is here. The filmmaker recently launched a crowd-funding campaign on Wishberry.in to raise funds for the post-production phase for his film. Mantra needs Rs 20 lakh for this. Half the target has been achieved, with the money coming in from various contributors across the country and from NRIs keen on sharing co-producer credits.
Could this be the way forward for directors not willing to have big studios dilute their vision? Actor Rajat Kapoor says, “The good thing today is that more independent films are being made. The bad news, of course, is that not enough of that is happening. The envelope is not being pushed hard enough. Producers are still afraid.”
Yes, there's a downside to the strategy. If the target can't be achieved, the money remains with the contributors. Still, recent trends show this isn't likely. Soumitra Ranade has managed to collect Rs 15 lakh for his remake of the cult classic Albert Pinto Ko Gussa Kyon Aata Hai on the same crowd-funding platform. Director Ravi Iyer managed to get Rs 9 lakh, versus a target of Rs 8 lakhs for his Web series Hankaar.
Wishberry and Catapooolt, another Indian crowd-funding startup founded by Satish Kataria, believe the possibilities are immense. Kataria says, “India produces more than 250 Indie films and more than 150 documentaries on an average per year – and owing to the highly-skewed theatrical and exhibition infrastructure in India, most of these products fail to see the light of the day. I guess that crowd-funding will definitely prove to be a huge boon for these talented and aspiring film-makers: and if done in the right way, can usher a new cinematic revolution in the country.”
Wishberry, for instance, has opened its doors not just to Hindi and English films, but also to regional cinema. Anamitra Roy and his wife Sriparna Dey started The One Rupee Film Project at a film festival in Orissa for their multi-lingual film Aashmani Jawaharat, for which they went to more than one crowd-funding site to raise money.
They even shot a quirky promo for dummies explaining why you should help small, independent films. It ends with a classic quip where someone laughs at the idea of "digital" funding. There have also been Kannada, Tamil, Marathi and even Bhojpuri filmmakers who have sought funding online through social networking platforms in the past and have collectively raised money running into crores.
Khargongor explains the changing model of the traditional producer. "I am not tech-savvy, yet when I met the crowd-funding team at Wishberry, I was convinced about the platform. I am not stuck with the idea that my film should be released only in theatres. It’s not a ‘family and friends film’ and we are open to releasing it on a digital platform also because that’s where everyone is, and that is where we have found support for our film. It will be a great way to give back to those who believe in us and want to hear new stories, good stories, stories about a changing India."