Reaching The Critical Masses
Despite the obviously “cool” images “indie” conjures up—of the black and white, rebellious, unfiltered cigarette-and-guitar kind—it isn’t easy being an indie-anything in the land of the Khans. Filmmaker Sridhar Rangayan figured as much, while helping organise the third edition of Kashish in Mumbai, one of India’s most popular queer film festivals.
The LGBT festival takes place in the home-ground of the Salmans and Shah Rukhs and doesn’t even demand a ticket from viewers. To raise funds for it, Rangayan and his team resorted to old fashioned crowd-funding. They pooled in Rs1 lakh from contributors.
“While the amount was not very huge, the enthusiasm shown by the LGBT community was amazing,” said Rangayan, who is now in the process of filming Breaking Free, a documentary on the LGBT movement in India, with crowd-funded resources. “It showed a community spirit in supporting a community initiative.” This time he has sought professional help from two crowd-funding consultancies—Wishberry in India and Indiegogo in the US.
On the other hand, Srinivas Sunderrajan, bassist with the Mumbai-based metal group Scribe, had completed filming most of Greater Elephant, which he describes as a “wicked assembly of those who still haven’t found what they’re looking for: a purpose” when he approached Wishberry. Sunderrajan’s team was looking to crowd-fund the theatrical release of the film, which would cost them close to Rs6 lakh. Greater Elephant, after a sustained campaign designed by Wishberry, releases in Pune on Friday, October 19 at E-Square Talkies.
Wishberry, which most indie artists seem to be turning to, was founded by Anshulika Dubey and Priyanka Agarwal. It started off as a gifting ideas business in 2008. After some fundraising work, the duo decided to extend their technology and website to help fund the creative projects of indie artists in the fields of music, films, theatre, etcetera.
“It is a neglected sector and hence an untapped opportunity,” says Dubey. “Plus we were following the western crowd-funding web platforms such as Kickstarter.com, Crowdrise and Indiegogo and we felt this could be easily replicated in India, a country which is inundated with so much indie talent and (has) less funding resources. Another case study we followed was Onir raising around Rs1 crore for his national award winning film I AM. That really was a benchmark case and showed us an underlying opportunity in opening crowd-funding for indie artists.”
At present Wishberry is at the helm of funding 12 creative projects by independent artists in India like Mumbai Cha Raja by Manjit Singh, which was screened in the Toronto Film Festival alongside biggies like Gangs of Wasseypur. While the funding process doesn’t take off immediately, Wishberry helps to identify prospective investors specific to each project and helps bringing the projects to their notice. “Rs1,000 is something that any average middle class youth spends on an evening out,” says Dubey. “If you help strike a chord with them, say if they pay that much, you can raise Rs1 lakh by reaching out to 100 people—an amount which covers costs of a lot of aspects of an independent venture.”
Aggressive use of social media and campaigning forms the basis of crowd-funding. “If artists can give back exclusive and cool rewards in return for such contributions, people can be encouraged to give,” says Dubey. “For example, many movie campaigns are giving back autographed CDs, invites to film sets, paid previews for a few, selected contributors and premieres, producer credits in the movie and music campaigns are also giving back exclusive and personal performances.”
YoLaunch, which plans to make a debut in the crowd-funding sector by October 15 this year, will work on “fan engagement, pre-marketing publicity , market research, public feedback along with other bigger objectives like finding co-producers, mentors, financiers consultants, etcetera”.
“Financiers, publishers, producers, VC (venture capital) and angel firms along with consultants and mentors can find artists, movie makers and other talented people with their works on our portal,” says Meenu Yadav of YoLaunch. ”They can also get associated with projects and contribute a big sum of money and also get associated with these budding people.”
“Cinema that we make usually runs on faith and trust—and money ‘connects’ us to the real world. Hence, my team’s faith in crowd-funding somehow connected with the contributor’s mind and we managed to raise what we did in such short time. Contributors are usually friends and well-wishers (known and mostly unknown) who have either been subjected to emails by the team to contribute or have stumbled upon the site themselves via social media,” says Sunderrajan, pointing out the networks that crowd-funding consultants usually turn to.
Mumbai also witnessed a crowd-funded gig, Control ALT Delete, which featured talented alternative Indian bands and artists who hadn’t been heard before. Rishu Singh of Ennuidotbomb.com had helped compile an album of these artists, Stupidities, which was released at this gig. Nikhil Udupa, marketing head of NH7.in says, “Control ALT Delete was essentially started as a ‘Sidestand’ property. Sidestand is run by Himanshu Vaswani. It started out more than two years ago as a thought where people could come to gigs and they paid what they wanted to enter. Contributions have ranged from 50 paise to 500 bucks. Pretty much the earliest form of crowdsoucing anyone was involved in. This year is the third edition and the idea was to make it larger. It’s a larger venue, more bands and bigger promise.” Control Alt Delete featured ten bands this time.
While crowd-funding essentially doesn’t interfere with creative processes or demand censorship, it does place a lot of responsibility on the director of the project. “It places a responsibility on the filmmaker to deliver a product that meets up to expectations of the supporters,” says Rangayan. “I definitely feel that onus on me now to make the film stand up to the promise.”
While it’s not a cakewalk, crowd-funding is probably the answer to all those evenings young artists have whiled away over beer, dreaming up projects that went nowhere because no studio would fund them.
This story by Piyasree Dasgupta was originally published on Firstpost.com.Tags: Film, Greater Elephant, Kashish, Music, Sridhar Rangayan, Srinivas Sunderrajan, Wishberry