With many youngsters taking to short films, the day is not far when this genre of filmmaking proves commercially viable

Vivek's Apartment- Day

Vivek is waiting at the dining table for his mother Geetha. Today, he will break his silence. He looks up from the white sheet in his hand on hearing his mother's voice; she is talking to the maid. Then, he hears footsteps.

She comes to the table wiping her forehead with the end of her pallu. She sits down next to him. Her eyes search his face.

Geetha: Tell me Vivek, what did you want to talk about?

He passes across the table the print-out with details of a film school in the city.

Geetha: You want to become a movie director?

(She looks wary of his decision.)

Vivek: I'm going to be an independent filmmaker, mom.

Entering the celebrated world of mainstream cinema continues to be the dream of every individual with a script in hand. But that dream is now entering a metamorphic phase, with other genres of filmmaking gaining precedence.

Short films and documentaries seem to be the trigger young filmmakers need today. They learn to express themselves in a condensed format, while, at the same time, keep the audience hooked without throwing in a song or actions sequence just because tradition demands it,

Another genre that is roping in a lot of talent is the corporate video, which takes a business audience through what a company has to offer.

K. Hariharan, Director, L.V. Prasad Film and TV Academy believes there will be a growing market for short films. “In future, the audience may want to buy a pack of 25 short films instead of a regular feature film,” he says.

Television channels will also begin looking for alternative content such as short films and docu-dramas. Once these programmes gain popularity, viewers will eventually tune into such content on a regular basis, he opines.

Film festivals, both at the local and international level, have always eagerly received short films and documentaries. They not only give the films informed appreciation, but also prize monies that make shooting worthwhile.

But, the most common reason why aspiring directors choose to make short films is that it keeps them productively occupied till that big break comes their way.

“The best way to learn filmmaking and enter mainstream cinema is to work on short films,” says Balaji Mohan, one of the winners of ‘Naalaya Iyakunar' (Season I) on Kalaignar TV. The show provided young directors such as him, with a couple of short films behind their back, a platform to showcase their talent.

Though he has written, directed and edited many short films, Balaji is not fully convinced there is space to go commercial in the current scenario. He acknowledges the existence of a huge group of people on social networking sites such as YouTube and Facebook that admires short films, but claims there isn't an online portal in India that can fetch him remuneration for his work on a revenue-sharing basis.

Balaji is currently working on the script for his feature film — a longer version of his “Kaadhalil Sodhapuvadhu Eppadi”, which won adulation from all when it was screened in ‘Naalaya Iyakunar'.

V. Rohin, whose “Nanba” won the Council General Prize at the 20th International Court Metrage Film Festival in France, agrees that there is more risk involved in this field than others. But, he believes that short films and documentaries that make it to international film festivals can be marketed here. “And, if your film wins at an international film festival, the prize money offered is quite handsome, an added bonus,” he adds.

So how much does it cost to make a short film? A 10-minute digital film will cost less than Rs. 30,000. The same could cost around Rs. two lakh if made on film.

The issue of funding

“Funding is the biggest problem. Unlike feature films, there aren't producers willing to fund short films,” points out Abhilasha, a gold-medal direction student, who assists director A.R. Murugadoss.

But, a stint in short filmmaking can be useful in putting together a show-reel that can work as a portfolio for an entry into mainstream cinema, she feels.

With industry experts and professionals giving mixed reactions on the viability of taking up short films as a career, what could tilt the scales in its favour?

The creation of a platform where these films can be made available for viewers, while generating some money in the process, is the way forward, says R.S. Prasanna, an independent filmmaker.

Though interestingly-made corporate videos are his forte, the tagline of his production house, Eklavya Productions, reads: ‘Movie making in all shapes and sizes'.

Prasanna also conducts the ‘Just Shoot' workshop in partnership with Evam Entertainment and L.V. Prasad Film and TV Academy for those interested in filmmaking.

He uses his friend, Balaji Mohan's short film “Kaadhalil”, currently available on YouTube, to explain his theory that is trying to put into practice.

“The film has already crossed 80,000 views on YouTube. Imagine the amount of money that can be generated if each of those 80,000 people decided to “donate” a small amount if they liked Balaji's work.”

Prasanna is in the process of evolving an online portal based on the revenue-sharing model where viewers can donate small amounts of money using their credit cards. If successful, this portal could mark the genesis of a time when short films will become as lucrative as their Big Brother on the silver screen.