They are a group of young directors who take hours to break into a smile in front of a camera (“We're so used to being behind it,” comes the excuse), Ask them about their upcoming films and online trends and they plunge into a serious conversation. Balaji, Karthik, Nalan and Ramya, somewhere in their 20s, are everywhere, with their short films going viral on YouTube, so much so they've also begun to have their own facebook fan pages. But, as it is with everything else, it took a while to make it here.

Balaji Mohan, who says he was a good student “by mistake”, dropped out of an engineering course to pursue his dream. “I think the biggest mistake my parents made was to get me a handycam,” he laughs, adding, “I sent my first film, ‘Velicham' (in which I acted), to some festivals and won. From then on, things fell in place.”

Karthik Subbaraj, an ex-software engineer, quit his job to star in a reality show. Nalan Kumarasamy left his family business to make short films, while Ramya Ananthi is a student who decided to try her hand at direction.

While the three boys met each other on “Naalaiya Iyakunar”, Ramya's film, “Kaanal Neer” was made as part of a college project. “I had just made the film for a project and had no intention of spreading it around. I only put it on YouTube so that my friends could see it. I didn't expect it to gain so many views,” she says.

Not easy getting actors

But how difficult is it to get actors for their films? Very, they all say, unless you are lucky. “I have a friend, who became popular through my films,” says Nalan, whose friend Karnan played the lead character in almost all his films, “You either need to have a friend like that, in which case you're just lucky, or you have to shell out money for good actors,” he says. Balaji differs. “Initially, it's your friends who act in your movies. But I have had veterans such as Renuka act too. You just have to convince them it's a good script and they'll come forward,” he says.

But has YouTube really helped them in their endeavour? To an extent, they say. “But you don't make much money out of it,” admits Karthik, “There are some sites that pay, but access to them is quite limited. And a very small chunk of the population uses the Internet. So, a director goes on YouTube only for better reach,” he adds. “YouTube is where you go initially to make contacts,” says Ramya, “The word spreads and people know who you are. Maybe, after that, it becomes easier to approach people whether it is for acting or otherwise.”

The four also insist that other options must come up to encourage short films to go beyond the Internet. “As of now, everyone watches short films only on the Net. There's nowhere else they can go,” argues Karthik, who Nalan seconds, “It's just become like a stereotype that you can watch movies only at theatres. They don't screen short films. That trend is yet to start here,” he says. Ramya says home videos could be another option. “There are some movies that go straight to home videos. They could be another option too. At least that way, the director gets his credit,” she says.

Balaji thinks community shows would go a long way in promoting good short films provided the director himself takes steps to make that happen. “One of us could just rent a theatre for three hours and screen about four movies. People like to watch good short films and there are just no avenues to, apart from online. If you can just do this and send out personal invites on facebook, I'm sure a lot more people will turn up to watch.”

But they all agree that short filmmaking isn't profitable as a full-time career, yet. “Short films are good, especially since independent films are making waves now, more than before. We've started a small production company to promote such films. But it can't be a career yet. It's a struggle till you make a feature film and start earning money,” says Karthik. “Short films can only be sent for festivals but don't earn income otherwise,” inserts Nalan. “People take you as a director only when you make commercial films. Usually, if you've made a film, you've arrived,” Balaji sighs.

Ramya Ananthi

Age 21

Most popular film

Kaanal Neer

YouTube hits 2,02,685

Karthik Subbaraj

Age 27

Most popular films Kaatchi Pizhai, Last Train

YouTube hits 1,01,013

Nalan Kumarasamy

Age 29

Most popular films

Nenjukku Needi, Nadanthathu Enna Na

YouTube hits over 2 lakh

Balaji Mohan

Age 23

Most popular films Kadhalil Sodhapuvadhu Yeppadi, Mittaai Veedu

YouTube hits over 4 lakh

Keywords: YouTubefilmmakers