Vinod Bharathan is receiving accolades in short filmmaking. One of his films was shot using the mobile phone camera

A scratchy screen, bits of stunning footage, scratchy screen again, snatches of thumping music…then back to a gripping visual. Short-filmmaker Vinod Bharathan's “show reel” on YouTube is an exciting prelude to his films. A search online yields bewitching results. Fleeting emotions, portrayed through elaborate visual drama that will keep you engrossed, even succeed in reviving long-forgotten feelings of anger, pain or fury. One of these films were shot using a mobile phone camera.

Vinod, who hails from Kochi and is settled in Copenhagen, is breaking new ground in short filmmaking. His ‘Limbo', all of three minutes, recently won the ‘best film shot using a mobile device' award at the IndieFone Festival, U.S.A. Another film, shot in Kochi, ‘Karma Code', was nominated at the International Film Festival Ahmedabad 2011 and ‘Show Me Justice' film festival in the U.S. ‘The Suspect', a thriller with some brilliant acting and classy angles, was the official selection at the Google+ Live Online Film Festival.

After his course at the Copenhagen Media School, Vinod started a film production group called FookDat, which makes “zero-budget” films. The cast and the crew work for free and in return the group shares the work as their portfolio and experience in film making. The organisation is not a fixed group of people, but a rotation of talented cast and crew. It has churned out eight short films.

Vinod says he never dreamt of being a filmmaker. A logistics co-ordinator by profession, he used to toy around with the camera making small documentaries of pub-crawls and office parties, which received rave reviews from his friends. From then on, he started taking films seriously. His latest, ‘Karma Currency', was produced partially through crowd funding, a concept by which the public contributes funds for a film.

Excerpts from an interview:

Have mobile phones brought about a new culture of filmmaking?

We are constantly looking for new dimensions of filmmaking, and the latest trend in short films is mobile filmmaking (using a mobile phone to make a film). ‘Limbo' was made entirely on an iPhone. There are several mobile film festivals blossoming and it looks like that it is going to be huge in the next few years. The invention of DSLRs (digital single-lens reflex), too, has made filmmaking more democratic. These inexpensive cameras can emulate the visuals of a traditional 35 mm professional film camera.

Are short films restricted to film festivals? Has technology such as YouTube helped in taking them to a wider audience?

Short films are not restricted to film festivals. The audience for short films are basically people with access to the Internet. It is totally dependent on the filmmaker of the short film to choose his audience, be it at festival or free on the Internet. Filmmakers use festivals to assess their creativity. In the early ages of filmmaking, short films were ‘art' or experimental stuff. With no place to screen or gain monetary rewards, they ended up as Polaroid holiday snapshots, in a personal album. Things changed with the Internet. You can now watch a short film on a computer while at home, in between chores. Sites like YouTube have only propelled the exposure of short films at supersonic speed.

Karma Currency, your most recent work, was produced through crowd-funding. What is crowd-funding?

Crowd funding is a concept that's huge in the Americas; while Europe is still a bit shy to take the plunge. Two of the well-known crowd funding web portals are Kickstarter.com and Indiegogo.com, where one creates a pitch to the project that requires public funding, and tries to sell it to as many contributors as possible. These contributions are not donations, as there are paybacks for contributions (paybacks– posters, flyers, DVDs of the project, sample of the project, t-shirt with logo…etc). For Karma Currency, I used Indiegogo.com and we raised about Rs 2 lakh in two months.

What is the future of short films?

Short films are here to stay. But there is a notable change in the length (time) of short films winning awards. ‘Limbo', for example was just three minutes. I have seen short films of length under a minute win awards. But the standard length is between three and 15 minutes. The number of filmmakers has increased owing to the easy access to cheap recording equipment. The organisers of Sundance film festival claimed that they had no less than 10,000 submissions in the previous years.

What is your inspiration as a filmmaker?

I'm a visual artist too and flirt with photography… I have won awards in photography as well, but hate to call myself a photographer. I indulge in photography because it can be created instantaneously, without a script, without a film unit, without pre-production. Photography is the core form of cinema—24 pictures (frames) per second make a motion picture.

What is your next project? Have you considered doing a full-length movie?

Karma Currency is on the edit desk. I will be writing the script to a full-length film to be filmed this year.