CINEMA Magazine

Will crowdfunding work?

Still from 'The World Before Her'. 14-year-old Chinmayee poses with a rifle at the Durga Camp Graduation Ceremony.  

“I had complete strangers contribute money to help me make my film,” says Prathamesh Krisang, a filmmaker based in Pune, who is working on One last question, a film based on a true story about four friends who are inspired to join a militant outfit in Assam in 1998. Krisang, who is awestruck by the manner in which crowdfunding works, partially crowdfunded his film to help finance the last few days of the film’s shoot and post-production.

In Indian cinema’s recent history, crowdfunding seems to have gained an audience among many filmmakers who are choosing to finance their films, be it partially or entirely, by raising money from the viewing public. Like Krisang’s film, one of the latest films to do this is Nisha Pahuja’s The World Before Her, which saw a wide release in theatres across the country recently. Pahuja’s film was partially crowdfunded to pay for the distribution of the film in India.

“What is incredible about crowdfunding is the fact that so many different people come together to support an idea. That, in itself, is a wonderful and powerful feeling,” says Pahuja.

However, both Krisang and Pahuja are quick to warn that while crowdfunding is a fantastic means to fund one’s films, it is not something that they can fall back on or even go back to after they have tried it once. “Filmmakers should not depend on it. When you do it once, you reach out to your immediate circle and ask your friends to contribute. So, once you’ve exhausted it the first time around, it is weird to go back to them again. Also, there are so many worthy films, ideas and causes that you have to compete with. It has to be a one-time thing. It is difficult to sustain it otherwise,” she explains.

“It is like asking for a lot of favours. I would say consider it if you have no other option. Also, some of the platforms that help in the crowdfunding process have a clause wherein if you do not raise your target, you get no money at all,” says Krisang.

To add to this, this year, the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) has come out with guidelines to regulate crowdfunding which have dampened the spirits of some filmmakers who were keen on trying crowdfunding again. For instance, Pawan Kumar, a Kannada filmmaker, who made Lucia last year — a film that was funded by 110 investors who were people that logged on to Facebook and learnt about Kumar’s film — says: “SEBI has released some new guidelines that has clauses that regulate who can put money and in what and how. Basically, crowdfunding appears as any other investment model. If the guidelines are relaxed, then I can consider crowdfunding again,” he explains.

However, Kumar is clear that Lucia would not have worked the way it did had it been funded through any other method. “ Lucia worked because it was crowdfunded. What crowdfunding allows is a good start and allows people to do a couple of projects. But it does take up a lot of time away from the project you are choosing to fund because you have to constantly interact with the crowd and make sure they know they are putting their money in the right project,” added Kumar.

Most filmmakers who have tried crowdfunding, therefore, feel that it only works for small-scale projects or where there is a need to finance a part of the project. “It would never work for mainstream Hindi cinema, for example,” says Anirban Dhar, who also tried crowdfunding for his film I AM in 2010. “It works for experiments and such. It is actually a difficult process to go through. The tax laws in the country are such that it becomes impractical to fund feature films through this model. You end up coming under SEBI. Cinema is not an art in India, you see. You cannot take donations and you cannot raise too much money,” he says and adds, “I’m personally not going through crowdfunding again.”

Amid all these constraints, a filmmaker like Surbhi Dewan who is currently co-producing a Indo-Pak documentary by the name Partition Stories feels that crowdfunding frees the filmmaker from unwanted interference from producers and gives her complete narrative control and independence. “We are very protective about our film. What crowdfunding gave us is complete creative control of the film. It also created a core audience for our film which is crucial for documentaries like ours,” she argues.

The last argument in favour of crowdfunding is again one about removing the intermediary. Vinay Shukla and Khushboo Ranka who are working on Proposition for Revolution, a film about the Aam Aadmi Party that is being supported and part-produced by Anand Gandhi of the Ship of Theseus fame, talk about how crowdfunding negates the distance between the artist and his or her audience. “In a market-driven equation, our choices are mediated by agents other than us. Experts determine what the ‘audience wants’. It is in their benefit to engineer a homogenous audience, a majority who will consume exactly what is being manufactured. Crowd-funding reverses this dynamic. It creates pockets of intimacy and directness, between the artist and audience,” they say.

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Printable version | Dec 7, 2021 12:23:55 AM |

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