Harsh realities behind the scenes

Documentary film-making has always been a profession of passion, one that is rarely associated with high revenues or wide reach. But the mass appeal factor is there, owing to the very nature of non-fiction and its possibility of depicting the harsh realities of people and problems. In recent times, the City has seen an increasing number of film clubs, film festivals and movie screenings.

Unfortunately, that trend does not seemed to have helped the film-makers themselves.
For Ajith Samuel, who has explored issues like water, livelihood and human rights in his films, the challenge is to get support in terms of finance, goodwill and logistics.

“The problem of funding has always been around and more often than not, you spend your own money to make a documentary. But socially too, it’s hard to bring out the crux of issues like human rights and environmental degradation because the culprits are ultimately the big guys like corporates or a tree-cutting mafia. People who speak up think twice about the consequences. But to get the tacit knowledge out, you have to be one with the people and earn their trust. After that, the information starts flowing,” he explains.

However, film-maker Amit Mitra opines that in today’s day and age, funding and even the technical skills needed to make a documentary aren’t hard to acquire. “Documentaries are made to make changes in society, not money. If you walk around making a film on
potholes in Bangalore, it won’t be expensive. But if you’re sitting here trying to make a film on Meghalaya, you have to plan in advance. Things are ten times better than they were ten years ago. You don’t have documentaries screened in movie halls like we had earlier
because people don’t want to pay for it. But the Internet allows people to access it much more easily,” shares Amit.

Being a member of the Bangalore Film Society, Ajith notes the pros and cons of this emerging trend. “These days, very few people follow the conventional process of attending film screenings and festivals. It looks like the next generation of film clubs will be more virtual. But the solution lies with us — we shouldn’t expect the same audience and enthusiasm as ten years ago. We have to intelligently build our community, network and move with the times. It’s the same story for single-screen theatres and multiplexes.”

 There are some film clubs like ‘tinyMOUSE’ that are trying to address this gap. “We’ve been holding screenings regularly for the last year. As an attempt to address the funding and distribution problem that independent film-makers face, we get the screenings sponsored, ticket the event and give a part of the revenue to the film-maker,” says Kapil Agrawal, one of the founders.

Shivam Srivastava, his co-founder, adds, “The sad part is that most film-makers don’t know the marketing side because they’re too emotionally attached to their work. We have a subscription model and send a mail to specific interested people we know will return for our events. But film-makers start from scratch with each film. They need to approach the industry differently to keep it sustainable for them.”

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