A new generation of filmmakers are trendsetters on YouTube with thousands of followers, and their films being viewed by a worldwide audience

Have camera, will shoot, and upload! A young group of wannabe filmmakers have flooded YouTube with short films that range from slick and funny to sick and flippant. Varying from one-minute micro films to 23-minute short flicks, the movies cover different themes and narrative styles. The guys (it is mostly still guys!) who call the shots have fallen back on technology to challenge traditional media and distribution networks. They all share the same dream: to go viral.

Film buffs M.C. Jithin, Appu Bhattathiri, Ritwik Baiju, Nevin Fradian, Basil Joseph, Vishnu Raghav and many more like them see the platform as a place to test their skills in narrating a story and to understand what clicks with viewers. There are no dos and don’ts in the making and the filmmakers wear many caps – as actor, director, scriptwriter…It is also the place to catch the eye of film directors and technicians who also cruise through cyberspace to net talented youngsters. Jithin, Alex Pulickal, and Basil had people like cameraman Jomon T. John, and filmmakers Vineeth Sreenivasan and Abrid Shine calling them up with opportunities to work in mainstream cinema. YouTube gives these youngsters the password to log into filmdom and broadcast online for free and try their luck.

Jithin is a pioneer of sorts in this lot. One of the first to tap the possibilities of YouTube in Kerala, his work Mallu is a trendsetter. A former student of St. Joseph College of Communication, Changanassery, Jithin inspired his friends Ritwik and Alex, among many others, to put their works online. Most of their crisp films, akin to visual haikus, show the advantage of being trained in the medium and have a social message deftly woven in.

“My aim was to make a film that had something more than comedy,” says Jithin.

On the other end of the spectrum is Shaeey, a kind of landmark film for independent filmmakers with a penchant for slapstick humour. Moving away from social messages, Nevin, the maker of Shaeey, focussed on a young guy in search of romance and his adventures thereon. It unleashed a whirlwind of movies themed on male bonding and friendship. “Shaeey is about teenagers being pushed into career choices made by their parents. Instead of making it very serious, I added a dash of humour too,” he says.

Then there are many others who shoot at sight with a camera and upload films for a lark without a proper script or any kind of technical knowhow. For them, it is the adrenalin rush of seeing themselves as actors, film directors and technicians. Humour, suspense, romance, nostalgia, thriller…there are films to suit every taste. Technical and cinematic standards might not quite please the fussy cineaste but this feisty lot is not afraid to experiment and exhibit their works.

A film buff rues that many of these filmmakers presume that all they need to make a film is a camera and some actors. “They have no clue about the rules of composition or narration. The less said about a script, the better,” he says.

Film buff and blogger Appu Bhattathiri, a name that features in many of the credits as editor, says: “ It is a learning experience for me as I have learnt what are the shots I must avoid.”

Ritwik, who has assisted Shyamaprasad and Alagappan, uploaded his well-narrated and scripted college project Chillappol Chilar on YouTube to assess the kind of response he would get. “I had done a serious short film Rope, which won many awards in its category. I wanted to see if I could make a feel-good film like Chillappol…, which was based on a real incident. By broadcasting it online, I would get an honest feedback and ensure my work was seen by my peers,” he says. He has just finished shooting Pakalukalude Rani, and plans to upload that on YouTube.

For upcoming actor and aspiring director Vishnu Raghav, who recently premiered his short film For Hire on the website, his goal too was to get his work to be seen and judged by a wide audience.

Basil, meanwhile, admits that he was a green horn when he made his short film Priyamvada Katharayano?. “The Tamil film industry has seen many youngsters get an opening in tinsel world after making a mark as short filmmakers on YouTube. When we did the film, there were not too many such films in Malayalam. Most of the films were on serious issues and had a social message. Shaeey had a light theme. Inspired by that, we did Priyamavada…,” he says. He agrees that Thundu Padam, his second film, featuring actor Aju Varghese is much better than Priyamvada...

Appu feels that there is a lack of homework and seriousness among some of the filmmakers who rush to release their works. “I had people telling me how they made a film in two weeks or less. Now that is not something to boast about. Ultimately your work has to be good.”

However, the fact is that Priyamvada… did result in Basil getting a chance to assist Vineeth in his latest film, Thira. “No matter how many short films you shoot and how many likes and views you get, a real film set is a different experience altogether,” ettanThirainsists Basil.

Seeing is believing. And these petite films do have a captive audience who eagerly wait for the latest uploads. However, only time will tell whether these films will open the door to tinsel town or earn its makers a coveted director’s cap.

Fact File

Jithin’s film Mallu, uploaded in December 2011, was one of the first of its kind in Malayalam on YouTube. It has garnered more than two lakh views. He has uploaded six films. Coin, Seconds and Water are some of his works.

Shaeey is a kind of landmark film for independent filmmakers with a penchant for slapstick humour. Uploaded in June 30, 2012, it has garnered more than seven lakh views and is still counting.

The filmmakers are male and the films, male-centric. The protagonist is usually a man or a group of guys. Many of these films are biased against women and have a misogynistic streak. Not many women seem to be making films or uploading.

Engane Undu Kadha, which is less than two minutes long, is a dig at many of the filmmakers on YouTube and neatly sums up their attitude