“It has become a whole lot easier to make a film, but a whole lot tougher to make it matter,” says Swaroop Kanchi of Bengaloored fame, putting in a nutshell what it means today to be an independent film-maker.
An independent film-maker is roughly defined as someone who works outside the mainstream production and distribution networks in an attempt to exercise greater artistic and thematic control over his medium, whether he is making a documentary or a feature film.
Easy but tough
The process of making an indie film (as the trendier tag for independent film goes) is now easier thanks to digital cameras and easily available editing software, which has meant greater freedom from formal and expensive organisation structures. Internet, on the other hand, is a good platform to promote a film. However, getting noticed and making money out of an independent film is still as tough a task as it ever was, say film-makers.
Veteran film-maker Deepa Dhanraj says that even as there are new possibilities with YouTube and Internet providing newer ways of creating a buzz around a film, it does not translate into revenue for the film-maker. “The chances of recovery for a self-funded film are still remote,” says Ms. Dhanraj, who has made several documentaries, especially around issues of women’s empowerment.
K.P. Sasi, who has been making documentaries since the early 1980s, believes that the wherewithal for making an independent film is now definitely more accessible and this is particularly useful for film-makers who are closely associated with people’s movements. “Even so, it is very difficult to raise money for a film. I find that problem even after making 30 documentaries,” says Mr. Sasi. His long-standing project on the religious violence in Kandhamal is stuck midway for this reason.
“As yet there is no real distribution stream for these indie films in India,” says Mr. Kanchi. “I don’t know a single case in India where a film-maker has made any real money through the distributing, streaming films online, as of now the Internet in India still stands for all things free,” he says.
Sushma Veerappa, a young independent film-maker, also raises questions about the viewership for an indie film. She rues the lack of a physical space and platform for watching a film and deliberating on issues around it. “Sometimes I feel that we are talking with the same people over and over again,” she says.