A majority of indie film-makers get bogged down not by the creative aspects of their films, but by the practical challenges: navigating through the logistics and gathering funds to produce a feature film.
This spurred a trend of indie film-makers turning to crowd-funding to finance their ventures. But a not-for-profit organisation in Kerala, called Filmocracy Foundation, has upended this model in an attempt to democratise this non-mainstream art form. It crowdsourced money to purchase expensive production equipment—camera, lights, dolly tracks, batteries, reflectors and shoulder rigs — which it now gives to indie film-makers for almost next to nothing.
It all started six months ago, when a group of technicians and directors who were familiar with the capital intensive nature of films decided to help ease the way for film-makers who didn’t have the luxury of big budgets. The Foundation selects submitted scripts and has so far enabled four feature films in Malayalam. “Filmocracy has now expanded to Tamil and Kannada films too,” says Baburaj V K, one of the members of the Foundation.
The camera that it provides is a Sony A7S-2, the latest in the market. So what’s the catch? If, and only if, a film generates revenue, the film-maker should share 5% of the earnings towards upgrading equipment.
Don Palathara, a film student from Sydney who made the Malayalam black comedy Savam (Corpse) in 2015 was unable to fund his next feature Vith (Seed). After trying crowd funding, he approached Filmocracy and his script was selected. “I got my production equipment, mainly cameras, from the Foundation, and shot the film in 13 days,” he said.
Will cut costs
Filmocracy Foundation works like a film equipment renting agency, but does not charge cash-strapped film-makers market rates. Kannada film world’s Pawan Kumar of Lucia fame said that a mid-level production would require no less than ₹40,000 a day to hire the production equipment, which can now be saved under the Filmocracy model, resulting in a 30% reduction in costs.
Chennai-based film-maker Vijay Jayapal (his film Revelations was screened at the International Film Festival of Kerala in 2016) says there is very little space for non-mainstream productions in the Tamil arena.
The Foundation also provides a production team, but charges for this service. Arun Karthick who wrote and directed the Tamil film Sivapuranam (The Strange Case of Shiva) in 2015, which was selected for the International Film Festival Rotterdam, agrees that Filmocracy can provide the much required support system.
Mr. Karthick makes films based out of Coimbatore. What excites him about the Foundation’s goal to support non-mainstream ventures is not the equipment but the production crew support. “Technicians in Chennai are more attuned to commercial film making, and are unable to gel well with indie productions. It would be great if the production crew of Filmocracy is experienced in handling indie projects,” he said.